Gospel for Sunday, July 24 Luke 11: 1-13
XVII Sunday C
1One day Jesus was in a place praying and when he had finished one of the disciples said to him: “Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples”. 2And he said to them: “When you pray, say: Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come; 3give us our daily bread every day, 4and forgive us our sins, because we also forgive all our debtors, and do not lead us into temptation.” 5Then he added: “If one of you has a friend and goes to him at midnight and says: Friend, lend me three loaves of bread, 6because a friend has come to me from a journey and I have nothing to put before him; 7and if he replies from inside: Don’t bother me, the door is already closed and my children are in bed with me, I can’t get up to give them to you; 8I tell you that even if he doesn’t get up to give them to him out of friendship, he will get up to give them as many as he needs at least because of his insistence. 9Well I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you, seek and you will find, knock and it will be opened to you. 10For he who asks receives, he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. 11Which father among you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks him for a fish, will he give him a snake instead of the fish? 12Or if he asks for an egg, will he give him a scorpion? 13If you therefore, who are evil, know how to give good things to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”
Luke 11: 1-13
Dear Sisters and Brothers of the Misericordie, I am Carlo Miglietta, doctor, biblical scholar, layman, husband, father and grandfather (www.buonabibbiaatutti.it).
Also today I share with you a short meditation thought on the Gospel, with special reference to the theme of mercy.
The disciples had asked Jesus: “Lord, teach us to pray!” (Lk 11.1): and Jesus teaches them a “model prayer”, the “Our Father” (Mt 6.9-13; Lk 11.1-4).
If the invocations of the first part of the “Our Father” are above all praise for God’s plan of love, as well as a hope that all men will accept it in their lives and respond in love to God’s offer of love , the second part is made up of actual requests.
The prayer of question
But in light of the revelation of God in Christ, what meaning does the prayer of petition have, if God is a good Father who provides for everyone with a plan of infinite mercy? In fact, Jesus tells us: “When praying, then, do not waste words like the pagans, who believe they are heard by words. Therefore do not be like them, for your Father knows what things you need even before you ask him” (Mt 6:7-8). On the other hand, Jesus himself exhorts us: “Ask and it will be given to you, seek and you will find, knock and it will be opened to you. For he who asks receives, he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened” (Lk 11,9-10); and therefore he tells the parable of the importunate friend, who obtains the fulfillment of the other, already in bed with the children, not “out of friendship, … but because of his insistence” (Lk 11,5-8). Jesus invites us to “pray always, without getting tired” (Lk 18.1), and specifically tells the parable of the dishonest judge who gives audience to the widow only because she won’t stop bothering him (Lk 18.2-8).
But then how can we reconcile the invitation not to waste words, because the Father already knows everything, with the invitation to pray incessantly? And then: does God need to be “tired” by our prayers to answer us? And will he grant us only because of our stubbornness and not out of love? Indeed, is he “dishonest” (Lk 18.6), who only listens to those who stress him and not out of justice? How then does God answer our prayers? Does he therefore count their quantity, if not even the “recommendations” of this or that Saint who is more “powerful” than the others? Do relationships with the Almighty also follow the perverse logic of human relationships, often based only on petulance or even bribes and bribes?
A dialogue with Dad
This is already a wonderful fact: God is the one who listens to me, he is the Friend I can confide in, he is the good Dad to whom I can turn in every circumstance, certain of being understood. Our God is not the one who is silent, but he is the one who became the Word for us, the incarnate Word (Jn 1.14), with whom I can have dialogue. I can submit to him all my problems, all my anxieties, all my anguish, certain that they will be included in his love.
Do we demand our highest good?
But why doesn’t God sometimes answer us? One of the answers that Scripture gives us is that often what we ask for is not the greatest good for us. Often God’s far-sighted logic is different from ours (Is 55.8-9; Wis 3.1-8; 4.7-17). Only God knows what is the supreme good for us. And our prayer does not change his opinion, despite some anthropomorphisms of the Old Testament, as on the occasion of the episode in which Abraham seems to want to divert God from the intention of destroying Sodom (Gen 18,18-32), or when Moses does God withdraw from the intention of suppressing the idolatrous people (Ex 32, 9-14): “I am the Lord, I do not change” (Mal 3,6). Furthermore, if God changed his mind about our prayer, or he would have thought something not good for us before our prayer
plead, or he would have decided something that is not the greatest good for us after our invocation: and this is impossible, because Love can only want the greatest good for the beloved.
We are therefore often not heard because we do not ask God for “the goods that are convenient for us” (Rom 8.26; Jas 4.2-6). Faith is precisely believing in his Love, that his will is nothing other than the greatest good for us: “He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all, how will he not give us everything together with him ?” (Rom 8:32).
Asking for the “miracle”?
But even if God has prepared greater goods for us, this is often not enough to comfort us in the face of failure to obtain certain sacrosanct requests regarding health, life and honest prosperity.
God does not cheat by saying that our creaturely finitude is a good: he knows that it is an evil, and for this reason he places himself next to us who suffer by sending his own Son to us who, by becoming incarnate, dying and resurrecting, overcomes illness for us and death and makes us participants in divine life. This is the “will of God” (Jn 6.38-40.42; 10.17-18; 19.30; Mt 26.39; Heb 10.5-7 …), his creational plan for us. The believer can also ask God for the “miracle”, his extraordinary intervention on the free course of nature and history: but he must believe that the true “miracle” that God always works for everyone is the gift of the Son who makes us resurrect with he.
Praying is asking: “Not my will, but yours be done” (Lk 22,42)
The believer’s true prayer is therefore to be incorporated into the mystery of Christ the Savior, that is, to adhere to God’s plan. Praying is therefore asking God to accept his “will” (Mt 6.10). Praying is therefore asking God for conversion, acceptance of his plan for us, obedience to his Word.
Praying is asking for the Holy Spirit
This is why when faced with the passage from Matthew: “Who among you will give a stone to his son who asks him for bread? Or if he asks for a fish will he give a snake? If you therefore, who are evil, know how to give good things to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him” (Mt 7,9-11), Luke, who makes his Gospel a small treatise on prayer, changes, in its parallel text, “good things” to “the Holy Spirit”: “your heavenly Father will give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him” (Lk 11,11-13); the true prayer of petition is to ask for the Holy Spirit to transform us according to God’s plan! In prayer I don’t ask God to change his plans, I ask that God change me according to his plans! True prayer, which God always answers (1 Jn 5,14-15), is therefore always a request of the Holy Spirit to mold us, transform us according to God’s plan, realizing in us “God’s plans” (Rm 8, 26-27).
Happy Mercy to all!
Anyone who would like to read a more complete exegesis of the text, or some insights, please ask me at email@example.com.