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Homily (Reflection) for the Seventeenth Sunday of the Year, (C) (24th July, 2016) on the Gospel

Gen 18:20-32;
Ps 137:1-3.6-8 (R.v.3);
Col 2:12-14;
Lk 11:1-13.

The daughter of Karl Marx once confessed to a friend that she had never been brought up in any religion and had never been religious, “But,” she said, “the other day I came across a beautiful prayer which I very much wish could be true.” “And what was that prayer?” she was asked. Slowly the daughter of Karl Marx began repeating in German, “Our Father, who art in heaven....[1]

Topic: God, our Father.

Today’s gospel can be divided into two parts, The Lord’s Prayer (Lk 11:1-4), and the teaching on perseverance in prayer (Lk 11:5-13). This version of the Lord’s Prayer is shorter than the one in Matthew’s gospel, cf. Matt 6:9-13. Our reflection will be based mainly on the first part.

William Barclay noted that “It was the regular custom for a Rabbi to teach his disciples a simple prayer which they might habitually use.” John the Baptist followed this tradition and Jesus’ disciples came to Him in today’s gospel with the request, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.” Barclay also outlined a number of lessons in this prayer. They include addressing God as Father. God, His glory, and the reverence due to Him come first in this prayer. It also covers all life; present need, past sin, and future trials.[2]

Addressing God as a Father is foreign in some religions like Islam.[3] In Judaism, it is somehow vague. Although God is addressed as Father in the Old Testament (cf. Deut 32:6; Mal 1:6. 2:10), it later turned out to be one of the capital sins of Jesus Christ, cf. Jn 5:18.

To be a child of God is a privilege. Hence Saint John writes, “See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are” (1Jn 3:1a). Again, it is wrong to see being a child of God as a means of getting everything one wants from Him; when, where, and how he/she wants them. It is much more than that. Saint Paul writes,

When we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’ It is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ – if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him (Rom 8:15b-17).

Being a child of God means that one is God’s business. He cares for all His children much more than any earthly father/mother could do, cf. Matt 7:11; Is 49:15. The Psalmist rightly noted, “Truly no man can ransom himself, or give to God the price of his life, for the ransom of his life is costly, and can never suffice” (Ps 49:7-8). God did that by offering His only Son, cf. 1Jn 4:9; Rom 5:6; 1Tim 2:6; Matt 20:28; Mk 10:45.

Karl Marx’s daughter could only wish that it is true that God is our Father based on her background. It is disheartening that we do not behave differently often. One does not need to be told that a labourer ought to be paid after doing his/her work. But it will be certainly bizarre for a son or a daughter to bargain with his/her dad or mum before doing any house chores or to demand for payment after doing them.

If we juxtapose this with what many do today, it makes nonsense of our claim that we are children of God. It is very difficult for Christians to pray if they do not have anything to ask of God or to do any good work without expecting its immediate reward. If we are really sons and daughters of God, everything that is God’s is ours, cf. Lk 15:31. We only need to prove that we are what we claim to be. Our Heavenly Father queries, “A son honours his father, and a servant his master. If then I am a father, where is my honour? And if I am a master, where is my fear?” (Mal 1:6).

Whoever is a child of God should live as one. We are certain that God will give us all He has promised, cf. 1Cor 2:9; Jas 1:12. 2:5. On my part, I do not remember ever bargaining with God before He created me and blessed me with many good things that I cannot even finish counting. What about you? Live like a son/daughter which is a guarantee of being an heir of God. Do not reduce yourself to a hired servant. God has given us much more than that.

Bible Reading: Matt 7:7-11; Lk 18:9-14; Rom 8:1-30; 1The 5:15-22.

Thought for today: God is our Father.

Let us pray: Lord, help us to understand correctly what it means to be your children – Amen.

You are free to share this reflection with others if you consider it worthy.

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[1] Fuller, G. (2010). Stories for all seasons. Bangalore: St Pauls, p. 134.
[2] Barclay, W. (2006). The daily study bible: The gospel of Luke. Bangalore: Theological Publications in India, pp. 143-144.
[3] Sagayanathan, A. (2009). Launching pad: Stories for Sunday homilies – A, B & C. Bangalore: Asian Trading Corporation, p. 317.

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