17th Sunday in Ordinary Time

KNOWING WHAT TO ASK FOR

By Fr. Chris Valka, C.S.B.

In our readings this week, we begin with a rather remarkable exchange between Abraham and God. God has grown weary of the sinfulness of the people of Sodom and sets out to find out what kind of punishment they shall endure. Abraham greets God and intercedes for Sodom, begging God not to sweep away the innocent with the guilty. Abraham bargains with God asking if God would relent if 50 innocent people were found. And if 50, would God relent for 45; and if 45, what about 40; and so on. . .

Abraham knows he is pushing his luck since with every bargain, he begs God not be angry for asking for a little more mercy.

In the Gospel, too, we hear Jesus stress the importance of persistence when we ask. “Ask and you shall receive; knock and the door will be opened.”

Most of us have had the experience of asking a stranger for help or asking a friend. Strangers don’t respond the same way friends do; and it is so much easier to ask for help from someone you know versus someone you don’t. Thus, the message is simple: our prayers to God are aided by our relationship with God.

However, it is not that God’s response is changed by our actions, or that God has favourites; rather, that when we know God and God’s ways, we know what to ask. Basilian Father Edmund McCorkell said it best, “The secret to getting what you desire, is to desire the right things.”

This week’s readings contain an invitation for us to learn who God is and God’s ways a little better, so that when we ask for help, we know what to ask for. Good relationships always do that for us because others see in us what we often do not see in ourselves. Others often have a better since of what we need; whereas we often have difficulty seeing past what we want.

May we have the courage to let ourselves be truly known by God; to live in relationship with God before we make our requests known. May we take adequate stock of what we already have, and how well we use what we have before we ask for something more or something new.

Sunday’s Readings:

Genesis 18.20-32

Colossians 2.12-14

Luke 11.1-13