Thoughts on the Readings for the 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time (C) 2019

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser.    

This weekend we celebrate the 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time.  The Gospel for this Sunday comes in three parts.  In the first section, the disciples ask Jesus to teach them how to pray just as John taught his disciples.   Jesus responded by giving them the Our Father.   In the second section, Jesus tells the story of a man whose friend comes to him at midnight to ask for three loaves of bread.  The story closes with the words:  “………he will get up to give him whatever he needs because of his persistence.”   The third section of our Gospel contains the familiar words “……….ask and you will receive, seek and you will find, knock and the door will be opened to you.”     

Our First reading for this weekend shares a theme with the Gospel.  In it, Abraham intervenes with God over the fate of Sodom.   He asks asking God not to destroy Sodom if God found 50 innocent people.  After God agrees, Abraham persists:  how about five less than fifty, then forty, then thirty, then twenty.  Finally Abraham says: “What if there are at least ten (innocent people) there?”   God responds that:  “For the sake of those ten, I will not destroy it.”   

Our Gospel and our first reading both deal with the complex and sometimes difficult issue of petitionary prayer.   On the surface, they seem to suggest that if we just keep badgering God, eventually God will respond to our prayer.   On a deeper level, though, I think these readings invite us to be persistent in prayer in order that we can come to know how and where God is responding to our prayer.   I say this because Jesus does not say:  “Ask and you will receive exactly what you are asking for.”  Nor does he say: “Seek and you will find exactly what you are seeking.”   I am more and more convinced that by being persistent in prayer, we come to understand that God has responded to our prayer, but perhaps in a way we had not anticipated or initially recognized.   

Our second reading this weekend is taken from the Letter of St. Paul to the Colossians.   In it Paul proclaims the power of Christ’s cross.   Christ has obliterated any “bond against us with its legal claims……………..nailing it to the cross.”  

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

  1. Have you ever felt that your prayers of petition have gone unanswered?
  2. Have you ever seen your prayers of petition answered in a way you hadn’t expected?
  3. What would you say to someone who is struggling with prayers that seemingly go unanswered? 

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