Pray to the MAX!
24 July 2022, 17th Sunday in the Ordinary Time
Lk 11: 1-13
I think we can sense if a person is prayerful. Men and women who are consecrated and those who are ordained are approached by many people to pray for them. Even among yourselves, you go to people and ask for prayers from them if they are religious/active in the Church, if they are kind and if they possess good qualities. In other words, we can sense people who have a deep and close relationship with God. Having felt their intimacy with God, we are attracted to them.
In the Gospel, one of the disciples witnessed Jesus praying to His Father. In the midst of very busy scheduled that’s loaded with much works, He spent quality time being with the Father. And so this disciple, in behalf of the rest, asked, “Lord, teach us how to pray.” But Jesus never taught them a method in prayer. He showed to them His heart to the MAX: merciful, accepting and extraordinarily generous.
Because God in Jesus is so merciful, we can ask forgiveness. Notice that Luke’s version of the Our Father is very short and the prayer of contrition is mentioned in the words, “And forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us” (v. 4). In asking for forgiveness from God, we also express our willingness to forgive those who hurt us. Many of us do not have peace of mind and heart because we always tell ourselves, “I cannot forgive because I am hurting.” Those who love much hurt us the most. We are only looking at ourselves. But today Jesus is inviting us to forgive not because we are capable but because we have sinned and are also forgiven.
God’s heart is so big. He is accepting. A person who is patient is described as having a big heart. Why? He/She does a lot of stretching. In the Gospel, Jesus tells a parable about a person who cannot say no to a friend who shamelessly bothers him and his family at midnight by asking from him three loaves of bread. St Teresa of Avila describes prayer as a heart-to-heart conversation between friends. If there is deep and intimate friendship, the person in need can shamelessly be confident and daring in approaching his friend to grant his/her needs. In the 1st Reading, Abraham is shameless before God in interceding for the people of Sodom and Gomorrah. Even if conversion would be impossible for them, Abraham was confident, daring and shameless in asking God to forgive such people because he had a trustful looking to God as both friend and father. God’s heart is accepting that all, sinners and saints, strong and faint, are welcome to come inside.
Maybe, many among us find it hard to open our hearts to others who are struggling in their faith, those who do not share our faith and our values, those who are condemned by the society. There’s a story of a man. He was known for being a good model almost in everything. When he died, he was expecting to go to heaven. And this expectation was met. Heaven was his reward for his goodness. But going around heaven, he was surprised. He approached St Peter and asked, “Why is our neighbor who is a known criminal here?” St Peter answered, “Before he died, just like you, he made a very confession. All his sins were forgiven by Jesus.” The man could not accept it and told St Peter, “All my life I have been trying hard to be good. Just for one confession, that famous criminal is here in this heavenly company. That’s unfair!” What we consider to be unfair is simply limiting God’s big heart. God’s love and mercy are for all. If we think like Jesus, love like Jesus and live like Jesus, our limited minds and closed hearts will gradually be transformed after His.
Last point. God is extraordinarily generous. If we trust in his generosity, our prayers will be answered in His time. Many years ago, I was taught that there are three ways that God would answer our prayers: (1) Yes, (2) No and (3) Yes, but not yet. But the Gospel reading of today tells us that if we trust in God’s extraordinary generosity, we can be persistent in asking from Him things that are good and for the good of others as well. When my mother was seriously ill and her condition was irreversible, with all the medical interventions, I stormed heaven with prayers. But my mother died. I asked God, “Lord, are you listening to my prayer?” At that moment, I was reminded that prayer, as a relationship, is already established. But as to how God would bring into fulfillment, I needed more depth and maturity. And so, I asked God, “Lord, how are you going to answer my prayer? Game over na ba?” Last week, I met a man who shared the pain of loss: the death of his son. But one thought that he shared with me struck me most. He said, “I was praying for the physical healing of my son. But my son died. Later, I realized that God answered my prayer. I was asking for a physical healing. But there’s more than what I was asking for. When I began to accept the death of my son, I discovered that God answered my prayer. God is healing us spiritually as a family.”
I pondered upon his sharing and like a friend, I told the Lord, “It’s not game over, Lord. And yes! You want what is best for us: spiritual healing for us as a family. And for my mother, she is one with You in heaven. What more can I ask for?” God can never be outdone in His generosity. We ask for prosperity. God grants us industry. We ask for satisfaction. God wants for us fulfillment. We ask for security. God want us to be embrace generosity. We ask for good grades. God gives us rational faculties to achieve our best. We ask God to deliver us from all problems. God empowers us with His Spirit to endure suffering. We ask for updated communication gadgets. God is giving us the power to establish relationships. We ask God to be free from problems. God walks with us towards salvation.
If God’s heart is open to the MAX, let us approach and pray to God to the MAX! Amen!
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