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Sunday Scripture: How do we think of God?

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Wednesday, July 21, 2010

By Father Timothy Schehr

Seventeenth Sunday of Ordinary Time: Genesis 18:20-32; Colossians 2:12-14; Luke 11:1-13

How do we think of God? One may think of God as a conductor, making beautiful music out of the stuff of creation. A child may think of God as an umbrella, shielding him or her from the rain.
In the Gospel for this Sunday Jesus teaches His disciples to think of God as a loving Father with good gifts for His children.

As the Gospel begins the disciples ask Jesus to teach them to pray. They seem to be a little jealous of John’s disciples, who were given a special prayer. We do not have the Baptist’s prayer, though something about being washed clean seems likely. But we do have the Lord’s Prayer. It is brief but complete; not a word is superfluous.

The prayer begins by addressing God as a Father whose name should be held in highest esteem. Holding God’s name in esteem is the key to everything that follows in the prayer. Next comes a sincere desire for God’s kingdom to prevail. Where God reigns, all is good and beneficial for us. There are plenty of other kingdoms in this world, but history has shown they do not always good or beneficial.
The next portion asks God to give us what we need each day. This petition stands in the center of the prayer. And the rest of the Gospel for this Sunday expands on it.
As we near the end of the prayer we ask for God to forgive our sins, and we affirm our own readiness to forgive others. In a final plea we ask to be spared the final test, knowing our own weaknesses in the face of temptation. We are not as strong as the Lord who was subject to the final test and was utterly victorious against it.

Let’s get back to the center of the prayer, asking for our daily bread. The rest of the Gospel concentrates on this important request. It accents the need for complete trust in God each day. The Israelites had the manna in the desert. God gave them what they needed each day. They could not save any of it for the next day. That would not be a sign of trust in God, and only trust in God would get them to the Promised Land.

The Lord wants us to trusts in God, too. We ask God to give us each day the resources we need to advance along the journey of faith that leads to eternal life.

Jesus wants His disciples to know God is more than ready to give us this daily bread. All the resources of heaven are at our disposal to make this journey successfully. Even a good friend, in the Lord’s example, may be reluctant to help out all the time. But God is not like that. So do not hesitate to ask God. Ask, seek and knock on that door! God is waiting to give us the Holy Spirit.

We may find some comfort in the fact that even Abraham, our father in faith, struggled to arrive at total trust in God. In the first reading he worries that God will sweep away the innocent along with the guilty in Sodom and Gomorrah. Abraham is thinking, of course, of his nephew, Lot, and his family. They live in Sodom. Will God just sweep them away when judgment comes?

Abraham negotiates with God the way he might have negotiated with a partner in trade. He starts with a high number and works down to a smaller one. Apparently Abraham was satisfied that he worked God down to sparing the place if 10 innocents could be found within it. But, in fact, there were fewer than 10. Yet God spared them … Lot, his wife and their two daughters. God was more gracious than Abraham ever imagined.

Paul reminds the Colossians just how gracious God is too. He explains that even when they were spiritually dead, Jesus brought them to life.

Father Schehr is a faculty member at the Athenaeum of Ohio.

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