Thoughts on the Readings for the 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time (C) 2016

For this Sunday’s readings, click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser.  https://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/072416.cfm

Our Gospel this Sunday comes in three sections.  In the first section, Jesus’ disciples ask him to teach them how to pray.  In response, Jesus taught them the Our Father.   In the second section Jesus tells the parable about a person who wakes up their neighbor at midnight to ask him to loan him three loaves of bread because an unexpected visitor had arrived at their home.  Jesus concludes the parable by saying:  “If he does not get up to give the visitor the loaves because of their friendship, he will get up to give him whatever he needs because of his persistence.”   The third section of the Gospel begins with what seems like an outrageous promise.  “And I tell you, ask and you will receive; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.”   The Gospel concludes with Jesus’ words:  “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?”   

What are we to make of this Gospel?   Well, I think there are three important things this Gospel tells us.   1. God is so close to us that we can call on God as “Father.”  (Incidentally, this word is not meant to convey gender, but intimacy of relationship.)   2.  Notice that Jesus does not say “ask and you will receive exactly what you asked for.”  Rather he merely says “ask and you will receive.” We need to be  open to how God responds to our prayers.  3.  While God will not always give us what we want, God will always give us what we need.   

In our first reading this Sunday Abraham seems to be negotiating with God over the fate of Sodom and Gomorrah.  Eventually God tells Abraham that if there are at least ten innocent people in Sodom and Gomorrah, God will not destroy the city.   While this story seems to be saying that we can “negotiate” with God, I think its real message is how very patient God is with us in our sinfulness.   

Our second reading this Sunday is again taken from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Colossians.   In the section we read today Paul reminds us of God’s loving forgiveness.   “And even when you were dead in transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, he brought you to life along with him, having forgiven us all our transgressions.”  

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

  1. Have you ever prayed for something only to discover that your prayers were answered in a way you hadn’t expected?  
  2. Being persistent in prayer is important, not because it sometimes takes us a while to get God’s attention, or to change God’s mind, but rather because sometimes it takes us a while to recognize how God is responding or has responded to our prayer.   When has your persistence in prayer been helpful for you? 
  3. Has your prayer ever helped you to experience God’s forgiveness?   
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