24 Jul 22, 17th of the Year
There will be those thinking that any preacher has several gifts given him in the readings for today – and so it is but each preacher needs a mighty gift of discernment to expound the readings in a practical and “no nonsense” kind of way.
The Old Testament takes us back to the eighteenth chapter of Genesis which reveals both the anger of God with the wayward people of Sodom and Gomorrah and the genuine mercy of Abraham the Father of the nation as he beseeches God to be merciful: `
Are you really going to destroy the just man with the sinner ? Perhaps there are fifty just men in the town. Will you really overwhelm them?, Will you not spare the place for the fifty just men in it ? Do not think of doing such a thing: to kill the just man with the sinner , treating just and sinner alike! Do not think of it! Will the judge of the whole earth not administer justice ?` The Lord replied, `If at Sodom I find fifty just men in the town, I will spare the whole place because of them.`
Abraham, consumed with pity for the wayward Israelites continues to petition the Lord for forty, then thirty, then twenty then ten just persons. The Lord, in his mercy, relents and promises Abraham, `I will not destroy it for the sake of the ten.` The story reveals both the compassion and care of Abraham, the Father of many nations, and the ongoing Mercy of the God of All Creation.
When we turn to the passage from St. Luke`s Gospel chapter 11 verses 1 to 11 we find Luke telling us that the disciples, seeing Jesus praying in a certain place, when he had finished one of the disciples makes the request, `Lord, teach us to pray just as John taught his disciples. Clearly they had witnessed something about the way in which Jesus prayed – perhaps his withdrawal from them to a quiet place or places where he might listen to what His Heavenly Father had to say, where he might withdraw and be still – quieting the hustle and bustle of a busy life The Lord` response to them is instant with the response to them, `Say this when you pray:
“Father, may your name be held holy. Your kingdom come; give us each day our daily bread, and forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive each one who is in debt to us. And do not put us to the test.”
Jesus taught them a simple version of the most famous Christian prayer, the OUR FATHER, also known as THE LORD`S PRAYER. We need to remember too that St. Luke WAS NOT one of the initial disciples but that the prayer pre-dates all of the Gospels and would have been handed down to the first Christians by word of mouth, learned by rote and handed down within families and schools of followers.
We find the Lord teaching the prayer in Matthew 6, in the Sermon on the Mount at verses 7 to 15 including a prefix and a suffix:
“When you are praying, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father who knows what you need before you ask him.
“Pray in this way: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And do not bring us to the time of trial, but rescue us from the evil one.
For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; but if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”
Notice that there is no Ascription of Praise: `For thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory etc.`
This is much later and NOT scriptural.
We need to remember that Luke`s shorter version, probably closer to Our Lord`s original would have probably been gleaned from Mary the Mother of the Lord. On the other hand Matthew was among the first chosen of the disciples after Peter and Andrew and James and John and would have heard the Sermon on the Mount at first hand. Even so the prayer would have been handed down by word of mouth well before either gospel was committed to writing.
To return to today`s Gospel reading from St. Luke we find we must pray that God`s Name be recognised as HOLY and that His rule over all will be established. This is followed by petitions for our needs to be met – our daily bread embracing both our physical and spiritual needs, our need of forgiveness and for deliverance and note how Luke uses the rather theological word SINS rather than DEBTS which Matthew uses – perhaps because of his origins as a tax collector.
Having taught this simple version of the Lord`s Prayer Jesus goes on to reassure his disciples that God answers prayer. He tells that lovely parable of the persistent neighbour asking a friend for bread in the middle of the night. After much persistence, and n the hope of a bit of peace for the rest of the night, the man rises from his bed and gives the man all he needs. The example being that if a neighbour responds after a persistent request, even with a mixed motive, how much more will the Heavenly Father meet the needs of those who ask!
The parable and the concluding teaching should not lead us to think of prayer as just a series of requests presented to God . Rather as Jesus teaches in his model prayer, true prayer consists in recognising God`s holiness and his rule over all things.
We are assembled here, not as a bunch of individuals but, as the Jesuit Fr. Thomas O`Loughlin puts it, ` as distinct members of a single body. This is something that we recall in a special way today when we read a story about the first disciples asking to be taught how to pray together. We are the people who can call God our Father, who gather now to thank Him and praise His Name, who gather to ask Him for our daily needs, and who ask Him to forgive us as we forgive others. We need to pause now and recall our need of forgiveness for ourselves, and Jesus`s call to us to forgive others and to accept the forgiveness of others.