17th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Genesis 18: 20-32; Colossians 2: 12-14; Luke 11: 1-13
Last month, I mentioned Aslan in a homily. Some people were taken aback that I should present such a ferocious image of God. At the risk of repeating myself, God is not a household pet. He cannot be caged or domesticated. He is the God of glory and majesty and He loves us. We read in the Gospel of John: “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that everyone who believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him” (Jn. 3: 16-17). It takes strength of will and self-mastery to forgive. Only a God of power and might can take our deformed nature and reshape it in the grandeur He intended from the beginning of time. It takes great love to recreate us in His image and likeness without destroying us. It takes child-like trust to place ourselves in the powerful hands of the Potter Who desires to shape us into vessels capable of containing His Spirit. The purpose of the image is not to frighten us but to remind us that we are the objects of God’s undying and ferocious love.
It is with this ferocious lover that Abraham is haggling. Remember that. Knowing that we are loved we can take to risk of making demands of the One who loves us. Abraham is imposing upon one who accepted his hospitality. Abraham is haggling with one who allowed him to wash his feet. Abraham is seeking clarity from one who accompanied him on his journey. That is not a bad context for heartfelt prayer. The story of Abraham mirrors ours in many ways. God comes into our lives, uninvited. He is willing to accept whatever we are willing to offer in the way of hospitality. Then He takes us with Him as moves on. The ferocious and infinite love of God allows us to connect with members of the Blessed Trinity, to grow is love of all whom He loves and to pour ourselves out in serve of those He sends our way.
Having grown up in an old ethnic neighborhood, it is easier to image the passage we just heard from the gospel of Saint Luke. When I was growing up, someone was always running to a neighbor to get a cup of sugar. There was always someone ready to offer a helping hand when you were in need and you never imagined being sent away empty-handed. No doubt, this is what Jesus had in mind when he told his parable. “Imagine going to a friend at midnight because a surprise visitor has come from out of town and your cupboard is bare. Hospitality demands that the visitor has to be fed. Breaking bread with a guest is a sign of sharing life. As Jesus is telling the story, you can almost hear the pounding on the door and the grumbling from inside the house. Yet Jesus keeps building the dramatic tension. This request goes beyond self-respect, it goes to the heart honor and community identity. Anyone who could was expected to help. Being refused in a time of need would be unthinkable.
On one side of the door is pounding and loud cries for help. On the other, growls of protest and threats of reprisal. The parable seems to be a long drawn out question: Would you expect a friend to refuse you in your time of need? Of course, the answer is NO! And so the pounding and begging gets louder and louder, until the door opens. As to a trusted friend, we turn to the Lion of Israel in our times of need. Because He has a ferocious love for us, we can be confident that God will give us whatever we need. Through the parable, Jesus is encouraging us to express our trust in God’s ferocious love. Like the neighbor in need, we should not get discouraged or give up. We need to remember Jesus’ words: “Ask and you will receive, seek and you will find, knock and the door will be opened to you” (Lk 11:9).