July 28, 2019 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time Fr Andy Upah

Jul 30, 2019

 Reading 1 GN 18:20-32 

Responsorial Psalm PS 138:1-2, 2-3, 6-7, 7-8

R.(3a) Lord, on the day I called for help, you answered me. 

Reading 2 COL 2:12-14

Alleluia ROM 8:15BC

  1. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel LK 11:1-13

Homily for Nativity on the Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

This week with these reading I have been thinking about what I pray for, so I’d like you to think about what you pray for. Have you ever prayed to win the lottery?  Have you ever prayed for a new car?  Have you ever prayed that your team would win the game?  What does it do to our faith if we don’t actually receive those things?

 So, true story from this earlier this week.  In full disclosure, I am a huge sports fan, but I rarely pray for my team to win because I figure that God is probably getting hit from both sides, both sets of fans, and I figure in reality He has more pressing concerns.

But, anyway, I was at the Wahlert baseball game the other night at Maquoketa and they hadn’t scored a run through four innings despite having the bases loaded twice and having a leadoff triple even.  So then, down one to zero in the 5th inning, we had runners on 2nd and 3rd with our big first baseman up to the plate and I did something I rarely do, I prayed for a hit.

 I mean, I was sitting there in my clerics, I am Wahlert’s chaplain after all, so for the first and only time that game, I began to pray, “Hail Mary, full of Grace, the Lord is with you.  Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus…” and then smack, Jackson Freese drilled a single into the left field gap, and both runners scored. 

Seriously, I don’t think I had even finished my prayer yet, but I was amazed with how quickly God had answered my prayer.  But then I felt bad I hadn’t prayed earlier in the game, I mean it would have put a lot of parents at ease a lot sooner...  Wahlert went on to score 8 runs that inning, and I didn’t need to make another prayer after that. 

But did my prayer really make the difference?  Honestly I don’t know… Yes, the timing was perfect, but we’ll never know for sure, and so, I believe that my questioning of myself in that situation goes to show that we pray for the wrong things quite often, and then if we get what we want or we don’t, we give the credit or place the blame in the wrong place. 

Listen to what Jesus says when his disciples ask Him to teach them, “He said to them, "When you pray, say: Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread and forgive us our sins for we ourselves forgive everyone in debt to us, and do not subject us to the final test."” 

Nothing in there about the lottery, a new car, or a baseball victory.  The only material thing that Jesus mentions is “daily bread” which can be interpreted literally as our daily food needs, but also it can be interpreted figuratively as the needs we have to survive, but additionally this use of daily bread can also be interpreted spiritually as the Eucharist. 

Then Jesus begins to tell them about our Heavenly Father in comparison to our human relationships.  Jesus talks about answering requests based on their friendship and also based on their persistence.  Friendship and Persistence are both important parts of our prayer too, and we saw a good example of that with Abraham in the first reading. 

Then Jesus says, “And I tell you, ask and you will receive; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” And from there Jesus compares an earthly father’s love and gift giving ability to our heavenly father’s love and gift giving ability and says, “If you then, who are wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him?”

I was really struck by that last line, “how much more will the Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him?” Give the Holy Spirit? I want my team to win the game today, how is the Holy Spirit going to help that!?! 

See, there is a risk, when we ask for material or earthly things and we don’t receive them, we think that God our heavenly Father doesn’t really care about us, that He isn’t listening, that He doesn’t see our needs and answer our requests like Jesus promises us in today’s gospel. 

But we can’t stop reading or listening after that line, “ask and you will receive;” see, we have to continue to the end of the paragraph, “the Father in heaven [will] give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him.” 

The Holy Spirit is a great gift. The Holy Spirit guides us through this life if we let Him.   

The Holy Spirit might not help us to win the game, but it will console us if we lose and help us to realize there are things more important than baseball games in this life and in the life to come. 

The Holy Spirit will show us why we don’t need to win the lottery or have a new car to be happy, rather the Spirit will help us to have gratitude for what we do have.   

If we expect God the Father to answer all of our earthly demands like a “magic genie in the sky” then we are sadly mistaken, and my sense is that some people have even stopped believing in God because they neglected to read the whole paragraph and they expect God to function like a genie for our every desire. 

In a place and time where we have so much, the great United States of America, our focus should be on thanking God for all that He has given us, especially the freedom to come to church and receive the eucharist.  A spirit of gratitude goes a long way.Yes, if we have needs or concerns, someone who is ill, or someone we have wronged, or that has wronged us, we should ask for God's healing, strength or forgiveness...  We should ask for spiritual needs above all and God will give us the Holy Spirit to guide us through those difficult situations. 

God is a good Father who loves us very much and he gives us the best of gifts, what we truly need, whether we realize it or not, giving us the Holy Spirit to guide us and console us, the Spirit is a wonderfully powerful gift. 

But the most important gift that He gave us is His son Jesus for the forgiveness of our sins, and allowing us to receive his body and blood, every day if we wish, so that we can become like Him as disciples and spend eternity with the Father in heaven. 

That is the most important thing, that “His kingdom would come,” and that is why it is near the beginning of the Our Father.  

 

Jesus gave us the Our Father, a powerful prayer indeed, one that we should pray multiple times daily, taking the time to reflect on it deeply, striving to live it completely, and as we do, it will help us to pray for the right things, the most important things. Amen.