17th Sunday in Ordinary Time (C) 07-29-07 Scripture Readings First Genesis 18:20-32 Second Colossians 2:12-14 Gospel Luke 11:1-13 Prepared by: Fr.

Peter John Cameron, O.P. 1. Subject Matter

The whole point of mercy is the way it “pushes the limits” of justice: Pope John Paul II: “It becomes more evident that love is transformed into mercy when it is necessary to go beyond the precise norm of justice—precise and often too narrow” (Pope John Paul II, Dives in Misericordia #5). In asking Jesus to teach them to pray, the disciples recognize the inalienable link between prayer and Christ’s/their/our intimacy with the Father. The focus of the parable about importunity is the certainty of the petitioner that his request will be granted, which is childlike.

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2. Exegetical Notes

On the dialogue between Abraham and God: “…God is willing to investigate further before punishing. Abraham’s dialogue accents the importance God places on mercy alongside the unequivocal insistence on justice and right behavior” (Lawrence Boadt, C.S.P.). “He brought you to life…having forgiven us all our transgressions” – St. Thomas Aquinas: “The quality of mercy consists in bringing a thing out of non-being into being.” “…he will…give him whatever he needs because of his persistence” (anaideia): “Anaideia (the only time it is used in the New Testament) is effrontery or impudence that shrinks from no means of achieving its goals…. If the Lord praises this boldness, it is because he has just instructed his disciples to pray to the heavenly Father and ask that his name be sanctified…. Believers…would be hesitant to hail the holy God in an impetuous fashion, with too little concern for propriety. In truth, a child knows nothing of this timidity, but ‘pours out her heart’ (1 Sam 1:15) before her Father, and the tradition of Israel validates this importunity. It is a form of parrhesia” (Ceslaus Spicq, O.P.). “The parable is not concerned with the importunity of the petitioner, but with the certainty that the petition will be granted” (Joachim Jeremias).

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3. References to the Catechism of the Catholic Church

239: By calling God "Father", the language of faith indicates two main things: that God is the first origin of everything and transcendent authority; and that he is at the same time goodness and loving care for all his children. 240: Jesus revealed that God is Father in an unheard-of sense: He is Father not only in being Creator; he is eternally Father in relation to his only Son, who is eternally Son only in relation to his Father. 2781: It is the glory of God that we should recognize him as "Father." 2783 The Lord's Prayer reveals us to ourselves at the same time that it reveals the Father to us. 2789: When we pray to the Father, we adore and glorify him together with the Son and the Holy Spirit. 2800: Praying to our Father should develop in us the will to become like him and foster in us a humble and trusting heart. 2842: It is impossible to keep the Lord's commandment [to pray Our Father] by imitating the divine model from outside; there has to be a vital participation, coming from the depths of the heart, in the holiness and the mercy and the love of our God. Only the Spirit by whom we live can make "ours" the same mind that was in Christ Jesus.

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4. Patristic Commentary and Other Authorities

St. Bede the Venerable: “The Lord graciously promises that the Father will give the Spirit to those who ask him in order to show that those who of themselves are evil can become good by receiving the grace of the Spirit.” St. Augustine: “He delays to give, wishing that you should the more earnestly desire what is delayed, lest by being given at once it should grow common.” St. Basil: “Perhaps he delays purposely, to redouble your earnestness and coming to him, and that you may know what the gift of God is, and may anxiously guard what is given.” St. Augustine: “The friend coming from his journey is understood as the desire of man, which ought to obey reason…. When man is converted to God, that desire also is reclaimed from custom…. It is effected by prayer that he who desires should receive understanding from God.” St. Augustine: “God would not so encourage us to ask were he not willing to give. Let human slothfulness blush; God is more willing to give than we to receive.” St. Basil: “We must first desire good works, and the kingdom of heaven; and then having desired, ask in faith and patience, bringing into our prayers whatever is good for us, convicted of no offense by our conscience.”

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Pope John Paul II: “The fundamental structure of justice always enters into the sphere of mercy. Mercy, however, has the power to confer on justice a new content” (Dives in Misericoria #14).

5. Examples from the Saints and Other Exemplars
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Simeon praying in the temple, awaiting the appearance of the Messiah. St. Monica, who prayed for over twenty years for the conversion of her son, Augustine.

6. Quotations from Pope Benedict XVI

“The fact that Luke places the Our Father in the context of Jesus’ own praying is significant. Jesus thereby involves us in his own prayer; he leads us into the interior dialogue of triune love; he draws our human hardships deep into God’s heart.” “The words of the Our Father are signposts to interior prayer, they provide a basic direction for our being, and they aim to configure us to the image of the Son. The meaning of the Our Father…aims to form our being, to train us in the inner attitude of Jesus.” “To recognize and accept God’s Fatherhood always means accepting that we are set in relation to one another: man is entitled to call God ‘Father.’…No one can build a bridge to the Infinite by his own strength…. Even the awareness that religion must rest on a higher authority than that of one’s own reason, and that it needs a community as a ‘carrier.’… Jesus’ task was to renew the People of God by deepening its relationship to God and by opening it up for all mankind…. Jesus has made it possible for people to participate in his most intimate and personal act of being, i.e., his dialogue with the Father. That is the deepest layer of meaning of that process in which he taught his disciples to say ‘Our Father.’” “Just the word Father, through which we put ourselves in the relationship of children to God, is inexhaustible. But the word our is no less a part of it. Not in saying ‘I’, but in saying ‘we’ am I included in this filial relationship. And thus the structure of this prayer holds riches that the explanations and interpretations of all the centuries have only gradually revealed. What is true of the Word of God is also true of the Our Father: it has a fixed shape—it is always the same—and yet it is inexhaustible and is ever new. It always leads us farther on.”

7. Other Considerations

I have never been to the Grand Canyon but I suppose that the first thing a visitor may ask after gaping at some particularly breathtaking section of it is: How far does this go? When we experience something beautiful, we want to know the fullness of it—how far it reaches. So when we discover that the Grand Canyon is 277 miles long and in places up to 18 miles wide, our awe before this wonder of nature only increases. The same is true of the beauty of mercy. When God offers it to the sinful cities after the petitioning of Abraham, Abraham immediately presses to know the full extent of divine mercy—just how far it goes. If mercy is real, if God makes it available to us, then we want absolutely as much of it as we dare ask. And so Abraham daringly asks. And God must be delighted in the confidence, the certainty, and the trust that Abraham demonstrates before the mystery of his mercy. In fact, there

would be something wrong if Abraham did not ask for the full extent of God’s mercy. The whole point of mercy is its lavishness, its exorbitance. For divine mercy is best known in knowing its utter boundlessness. The disciples know that they are beholding something exceptional as they watch Jesus pray…and they know that they want it for themselves—that they are meant for it; it is their destiny. They beg to learn how to beg. And Jesus gives them and us more than we could ever bargain for: the privilege to call his Father our Father. Recommended Resources POPE BENEDICT XVI. Jesus of Nazareth. New York: Doubleday, 2007. pp. 128-168 Catechism of the Catholic Church nos. 2759-2865 CAMERON, O.P., PETER JOHN. To Praise, To Bless, To Preach: Cycle C. Huntington: Our Sunday Visitor, 2000. pp. 101-102 ST. TERESA Prayer

AVILA, The Way of Perfection – the section in which she analyzes the Lord’s

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