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Homily for the 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C)
(On Lk 11:1-13)
Fr. Joseph Pham Quoc Van, O.P.
(July 28, 2013)
My dear brothers and sisters,
Today's gospel contains a very important thing in Christian life, it is prayer. The Gospel of Luke is often described as 'the Gospel of Prayer,' because in his Gospel St. Luke presents Jesus always praying to the Father at all important moments of his life. Today's Gospel Reading also begins with Jesus praying. What a wonderful scene Luke paints for us today! The disciples watch Jesus at prayer. They see how much prayer means to him. Impressed, one of them comes forward and says to him, "Lord, teach us to pray..."
In response, Jesus does more than he is asked, for he teaches them WHAT to pray for, HOW to pray and WHAT RESULTS they can expect from their prayer. He begins by sharing the Lord's Prayer with them. Then Jesus completes his lesson on prayer by telling two parables. The first urges us to persist in prayer. The second reminds us that we do not always pray for the right things. God knows best how our prayers should be answered.
Lord, teach us to pray. Every Christian who prays wants to pray better. They can’t help but want this. If prayer is desire for God they want to desire more. If prayer is a reaching out they want to reach further. If prayer is opening to God they want to open wider. If prayer is union with God they want closer union. Lord, teach us to pray: this is the plea of every disciple.
The Lord’s best answer to this question is: Say this when you pray: ‘Father, may your name be held holy, your kingdom come... .’
Two wonderful things are going on here. Firstly we praying in the words Jesus himself has given us to pray and secondly, we discover that we are praying with him.
We are praying together, side by side – prayer partners – if you like. But more than that, Jesus allows us, through the prayer he has given us, to join him in his prayer, and we discover that we are praying through him, with him, in him. Our prayer becomes his prayer.
To pray as Christians is to put ourselves in the situation where we see God as father and speak to Him as His children. When children speak to their parents, there is hardly a right or wrong way. They simply focus on one thing, to put into words and body language what they feel in the heart.
Children trust their parents to always do what is in the children’s best interest. “Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for a fish, will give a snake instead of a fish? Or if the child asks for an egg, will give a scorpion?” Children, like the friend at midnight, refuse to take no for an answer. Say no to them and tomorrow they are sure to come back with the very same request. Jesus teaches us, as God’s children, to show the same spirit of perseverance in prayer.
My dear brothers and sisters, to summarise the rest of the Gospel reading today we might say that Jesus teaches us to pray also with persistence and with hope. Our prayers will be answered. That is his promise. Ask and it will be given to you. Seek and you will find. Knock and the door will be opened to you.