- The Abbey of the Genesee - https://www.geneseeabbey.org -

July 28, 2019

Fr. John Denburger, OCSO

17th Sunday of Ordinary Time
Genesis 18: 20 – 32; Ps 138; Colossians 2: 12 – 14: Luke 11: 1 – 13

In the reading from Genesis we heard a marvelous account of a conversation between a man, Abraham and his God – actually a bargaining session. With a very polite deference – yet, strong and insistent – Abraham questions God and reminds God about his decision: “Far be it from you to do such a thing, to make the innocent die with the guilty so that the innocent and the guilty would be treated alike! Should not the judge of the world act with justice?” And the Judge of the world, like a reprimanded child, agrees!

Like all Sacred Scripture, there is more to this story than meets the eye or is heard in the ear. The passage tells us something about how God deals with us. Nowhere in this bargaining does God become impatient with Abraham. Nowhere does God tell him, “Get on with it, you are driving me crazy with your arithmetic!” Nowhere does God thunder at him: “Who are you to tell me what to do?” “Be still and know that I AM GOD!”

With a supreme, infinite patience our God listens and in His listening the Almighty One reveals His divine humility, His divine, total attention, His love. Hopefully, after all this, Abraham reflected on this unusual exchange and came to see and know his God with greater wonder, greater admiration and of course, greater love.

In this account from Genesis there is a lesson on prayer as well as in the Gospel where Jesus clearly teaches a prayer and some aspects of true prayer. For us, the Lord’s Prayer, the Our Father is THE prayer that spells out our relationship as son/daughter, a relationship of dependence, our Baptismal relationship in which we are always receivers. Then Jesus goes on in the parable to underline for us the necessity of perseverance, of steadfastness in prayer – to pray with the determination of “the friend seeking bread at midnight”.

He adds: To pray is to ask, seek and to find – and with a passion Jesus begins with “I tell you…you will receive…you will find…the door will be opened to you.” The Lord does not deceive, does not make empty promises – “I tell you” – He states with emphasis. But note He does not promise that we will receive what we actually want – He gives but according to His wisdom and it calls for trust on our part – trust is not easy and it is no small thing and it is always a grace.

However the very last line of the Gospel is clearly a promise that God fulfills – “…how much more will the Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?” It is through the Holy Spirit that we come to know God in our hearts, to know God as “my God…my Lord” – to grow beyond childish concepts, ideas and we also come to know ourselves in truth without deceptions, rationalizations, excuses.

As I was preparing this homily a song came to my mind, you might say “out of the blue”– when one is in the homily business, amazing things do happen. The song “First time ever I saw your face” made famous by Roberta Flack in 1972. So I went to the ever popular Google – you can find anything on Google – it was actually a love song composed by a man to his dearly loved wife – the first stanza goes:

The first time ever I saw your face
I thought the sun rose in your eyes
And the moon and the stars with this gift you gave
To the dark and endless skies.

Now you might be wondering “What has this song to do with the readings today?” Good question! It seems to me that in that conversation between Abraham and God this man saw something of the face of God, he perceived something of the person of God. And so for us, it is through prayer –being present to God, lifting up our minds, our hearts to Him that all the while He is gracing us to see His face, to know something of His mystery – the very thing that draws us here today in celebrating the Holy Eucharist, in receiving Him in Holy Communion, in preparing for Eternal LIfe. In Psalm 27 we pray: “Of You my heart has spoken: Seek His face. It is Your face, O Lord, that I seek, hide not Your face.” (27: 8)

Jesus taught, “WHEN you pray…” He never said, IF you pray…because to call oneself a Christian, a Catholic there has to be prayer in one’s life. So the question arises: “Is there a ‘when’ in my life?” When we stand before God in judgment, would it not be a terrible tragedy if our Lord were to say to you, to me: “There were no or very few ‘whens’ in your life? How come? Did you not desire to see My face or to know Me?” “Was I a stranger to you?”

Through prayer – steadfast, trusting, persevering, daily – may this be true of us and our God:

The first time ever I saw your face
I thought the sun rose in your eyes
And the moon and the stars with this gift you gave
To the dark and endless skies.