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17th Sunday in Ordinary Time: Year C

1st Reading:  Genesis 18:20-32
2nd Reading: Colossians 2:12-14
Gospel:  Luke 11:1-13

I have always found the first reading of today very fascinating.  How can Abraham talk like that with God?  Where did Abraham get the courage to talk to God in such a manner?  Abraham was showing too much familiarity with God.  He was talking to God like a person who is bargaining before making a purchase.  Where is the respect? For the Jewish people God is  totally other and demanded full respect.  When you talk to God you were expected to do it in a certain manner which demonstrated the omnipotence of God and here we have Abraham talking to God as if he had the right to tell God what needs to be done.

However this is true prayer.  Prayer can never be boring when it is honest.  On the other hand prayer does not make any sense if it is not coming from a heart that has the confidence and the courage to treat God as a friend.  Many years ago St.Teresa of Avila understood this very well.  In her book about her life she writes, “For mental prayer in my opinion is nothing else than an intimate sharing between friends:  it means taking time frequently to be alone with Him who we know loves us”.  In other words St.Teresa was saying that payer is a sharing which is intimate between two people who are lovers.

No wonder she says that prayer involves intimacy and when you are intimate you open your heart and when you open your heart you become honest.  You do not play games but share with the other person exactly what resides in your heart and mind.
To me this is vital to understand because many of us would still find it very difficult to share with our God during those times when we are surrounded by negativity and problems.  Many still find it impossible to believe that you can talk to God even whilst you are full of anger and full of disappointment in a manner which clearly expressed what you are experiencing at that moment.  Many still believe that you can only say nice and good things to God and that it is very unbecoming to get angry with Him or to say it as it is.

However, the Bible is full of people who have related to God precisely in this manner.  It is enough to mention Moses.  He had a big job to guide Hebrew people from Egypt to the land which God assigned to them.  There were thousands of people on the march and when the first difficulties started to arise many started to complain against Moses.  They pointed their fingers at him and accused him of making them leave Egypt where even though they were treated very shamefully as slaves yet they felt that they had less problems to contend with.  At first Moses tried with patience to listen to the cries and to the complaints of the people and he tried to smooth things over as much as he could.  However, at one stage he became so disappointed and angry with his fellow Hebrews and with God that he prayed in this manner.  “Why do you treat your servant so badly?  In what respect have I failed to win your favor, for you to lay the burden of all those people on me?  Was it I who conceived all these people, was I their Father for you to say to me, carry them into your arms like a father – father carrying an unweaned child to the country which I swore to give their fathers? Where am I to find meat to give to all these people pestering me with their tears and saying, ‘Give us meat to eat!’  I cannot carry all these people on my own, the weight is too much for me.  If this is how you mean to treat me, please kill me outright! If only I could win your favor and be spared the sight of my misery.” (Numbers 11:10-15)  When we finish reading these particular verses of Scripture we proclaim “This is the Word of the Lord”.

I congratulate Moses for being able to pray like this.  As for St.Teresa, God became for Moses a friend and you are expected to talk to your friend without any inhibitions and without trying to hide the reality, or sugar the situation so that it would not look so bad.
Honesty in prayer is always immeasurably helped by nurturing a true image of our God.  As we have already seen St.Teresa of Avila calls God an intimate friend.  In the Gospel of today Jesus describes to us very clearly the nature of our God.  In the teaching of the “Our Father”, he calls God “Abba”.  This is a very intimate term which point to the fact that you can have fun with this God, you can relate in a personal and intimate manner with him and therefore you can establish a close and honest rapport with him.

Sometimes I wonder how many of us relate to God as and “Abba”.  I suspect that many of us still have a very wrong impression about our God.  Some have the idea of God as being more like a judge or a policeman.  Others picture God as an old man with whom you can never draw close.  Others again think that you have to maintain your distance from God because as a figure of authority he does not exude feelings of intimacy of welcome.  There is a certain aloofness involved and a certain distance to be maintained.  It is no wonder that with such ideas being part of the make up of some people, they would never come to an understanding that God is interested and cares for them and that He desires to be with us and assist us especially in these moments of great need.

I am sure that at this very moment you who are reading these words have got situations in your life which are making your hearts heavy and distressed.  Just stop for a moment and talk to God from your heart about what you are going through just like a friend talking to another friend.  Do not be afraid.  God has got broad shoulders and he never holds any grudges.  Only remember this.  God wants to be with you.  God wants to talk to you. It is up to you to respond to this constant invitation.

God Bless

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