Sunday, July 28
Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Luke 11: 1-13
Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he had finished,
one of his disciples said to him,
“Lord, teach us to pray just as John taught his disciples.”
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.”
And he said to them, “Suppose one of you has a friend
to whom he goes at midnight and says,
‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread,
for a friend of mine has arrived at my house from a journey
and I have nothing to offer him,’
and he says in reply from within,
‘Do not bother me; the door has already been locked
and my children and I are already in bed.
I cannot get up to give you anything.’
I tell you,
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.
“And I tell you, ask and you will receive;
seek and you will find;
knock and the door will be opened to you.
For everyone who asks, receives;
and the one who seeks, finds;
and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.
What father among you would hand his son a snake
when he asks for a fish?
Or hand him a scorpion when he asks for an egg?
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?”
The passage chosen for today’s liturgy seems rather straightforward. “Teach us how to pray,” was the request of the early disciples but is not the desire to know how to pray stirring in our heart, too? The passage contains my favorite prayer. It is a prayer known and offered by so many through the centuries. Sometimes, this can be comforting, but, at times, it can be so familiar that I pray it as if I were a “robo-caller.” The underlying truths and constant challenge of the prayer can be lost. When I began to pray and reflect with the passage for today, I felt a certain pushing and pulling from the Holy Spirit. How do I dare to say, “Our Father?”
The world is living in times of struggle and what seems like impenetrable impasse. Living in these times and trying to hold the tensions of what we believe, or want to believe, or hope that we believe, or actually living what we believe, calls forth a hope and courage that has lived deep within us from all eternity. Could really daring to pray the Our Father be the grace that will unlock that hope and courage?
How do we dare to pray as Jesus taught us, Our Father? How do we look at each other, especially those who are poor, marginalized or discounted, and see with the eyes of Jesus? How do we enter the lives and hearts, the hopes and fears, the joys and sorrows, the anxieties and questions of this world and dare to say, Our Father?
Over the past few weeks I tried to pray the Our Father not from where I stand, but by standing in the shoes of others.
I prayed Our Father as the young mother with one child and pregnant with twins who was also grieving the death of her young husband.
I prayed the Our Father as the families who lost their homes and material possessions in the recent swath of destructive tornadoes and floods.
I prayed the Our Father as the person who is financially secure, healthy and happy and filled with great joy.
I prayed the Our Father as a child who searched for his “daily bread” in dumpsters.
I prayed the Our Father as one of the thousands of people who are being held in detention camps on or near our borders.
I prayed the Our Father as a border guard and member of border patrol groups.
I prayed the Our Father as a man on death row for murder. I prayed as the brother of the man he killed.
I prayed the Our Father as the young couple who stared in awe and wonder at the miracle of their newborn baby girl.
I prayed the Our Father as the man whose political and religious views are polar opposites of mine and the man whose religious and political views are so like mine.
I prayed the Our Father as a woman from a different faith tradition than mine and as a young adult who professes no faith tradition.
I prayed the Our Father as a member of the community of St. Brigid of Kildare.
I prayed Our Father as a Dominican Sister of Peace.
Each time my prayer was so different, so difficult at times (sometimes impossible) and so easy at other times. Praying in the shoes of another stretched the boundaries of my heart, opened my eyes, and challenged my attitudes and professed beliefs. It gave me new understandings of what it means to dare to say, “Our Father.”
The situations and questions in our world today are so complex and often seem totally overwhelming. In times such as these, how do we dare to say, “Our Father?” How do we do our part in helping Jesus’ deepest desire, ”that all may be one,” be realized in our time and in our place?
Earlier this month New York City hosted a ticker tape parade to welcome back the USA Soccer Team. During the parade Megan Rapine offered these words: “This is my charge to everyone. We have to be better,” she said, “we have to love more, hate less. We gotta listen more and talk less. We gotta know that this is everybody’s responsibility. It is our responsibility to make this world a better place.” When we dare to say “Our Father” we are acknowledging that responsibility.
Our responsibilities to the world, that is so deeply and wondrously loved by God, are vast and complex but not hopeless. In times such as these, how do face those responsibilities and be guided by the wisdom that comes from daring to say, “Our Father?”
Philip Simmons, who at the age of 35 was diagnosed with ALS, wrote a very powerful book entitled Learning to Fall: The Blessings of an Imperfect Life. In his book, he notes our responsibilities “seem to begin here, in the simple and arduous act of seeing the world and responding—renewing our promise to it.” So important to him, in facing his life, is mindful living that he wonders if we could summarize all of scripture into two words: “Pay attention!” Did Jesus summarize it by teaching us how to pray by choosing two words, “Our Father?” Do we, in turn, dare to pray as Jesus prayed and dare to say, “Our Father?”
-Sister Teresa Tuite