17th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C
July 28, 2013
I’m always astonished at this story of how Abraham barters with God. Normally when we barter is to find a mid-range price. We might all be familiar with bartering with buying a car. There is a price on the window but we ask ourselves is that the best price. We counteroffer with a lower price and we go back and forth with the seller until a mutually agreeable price is reached.
Abraham asks God to save the city if there are just fifty innocent people live there. God accepts the terms. The bartering should be done with but it isn’t.
Abraham then proceeds to negotiate a ‘lower price,’ forty-five, forty, and eventually done to just ten. To me it is remarkable how bold Abraham was in doing this but what is more remarkable is that with each step Abraham makes in the offer, God goes along.
Why should God be willing to negotiate with Abraham? God is the almighty and would have had every right to make an offer to Abraham, take it or leave it.
But God doesn’t.
God is not giving up to let Abraham get his way. God isn’t bartering. He is doing what he would have always done save the innocent but do we “barter” in our prayers?
God doesn’t want to destroy Sodom. God does not want to destroy any innocent people. God wants to save each and every one of us.
That’s why God sends Jesus to save us.
It is Jesus who teaches us the Lord’s Prayer.
Prayer is part of who we are. It defines us. The disciples of Jesus knew this when they asked Jesus to teach them to pray. Each religion has prayers particular to it. As Christians, it is the “Lord’s Prayer” that identifies us as such just like the Rosary identifies us as Catholics.
The very first line of the Lord’s Prayer identifies who we are. Jesus tells us to call God “Father.” Our God is not some distant god is far removed from our lives. Back to the story of Abraham, it is God who comes to Abraham to tell him about Sodom and Gomorrah.
God invests in himself in our lives. God gives us his all in sending his only Son to redeem us. God wants to be in relationship with him. This is what it means to be Christian.
Then we pray “hallowed be thy name.” God is great and we are called to help others know how great God is “hallowing his name.”
We also pray not to get our way but that God’s kingdom come, for God’s will to be done, knowing God knows better than us.
We pray for our daily bread knowing we can’t do everything on our own. We need strength from God.
We pray for forgiveness, knowing we have screwed up at times and are in need of God’s forgiveness.
Praying isn’t always as easy as it seems and we don’t always get what we what. Jesus tells us to ask and we shall receive. Why don’t we get what we ask for?
Jesus speaks of the father who doesn’t give his son and scorpion when he asks for an egg, or a snake when he asks for a fish. We might think of course not but what does this have to do with anything about prayer?
The scorpion Jesus speaks of could curl itself up in a little ball. As such, it actually looked like an egg. A person would see the “egg” and seek it as something good, only to find out it was a poisonous scorpion. Likewise, there was a snake that looked like a fish.
Sometimes in prayer we can ask for something we think is very good only to find out it is deadly. God isn’t going to give us something that will kill us.
Other times, we really do ask for something good but may not get it. Sometimes we don’t get it because of human choices made by others (free will) and at other times we have no idea.
We need to trust God. It isn’t always easier. It takes courage to pray the Lord’s Prayer and meant it. That’s why when we say the Lord’s Prayer at Mass, I introduce it with the words “At the Savior’s command, and formed by divine teaching, we dare to say…”
We pray this way because Jesus taught this pray but it still takes courage to pray that God’s will and not our own be done.