07.24.2022 Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time


Gavin Turk

Reflection on the Sculpture

This is a painted and patinated bronze door by British Contemporary Artist, Gavin Turk. It is removed from any room, house or building. With its paint seemingly peeling away, it appears to have been left to the elements of nature for some years. The fact it is made from bronze, gives it a permanent quality though, so the door cannot be destroyed by rain or adverse weather. It appears to be fragile with its paint flaking away, but as it is made from bronze, it is solid and permanent. Jesus in today’s reading says “knock, and the door will be opened to you”. He knew the symbolism that doors hold. Doors open and close, depending on which side you look at the door. A door is both an entrance and an exit, but doors are first and foremost an entrance. Doors usually lead to the inside of something; they symbolise the transition and passageway from one place to another. Jesus uses the image of the door in exactly this way. He showed us that when we ask Him to open our souls to Him, He will show what lies ahead. Doors in that sense hold an element of mystery, separating two distinct areas, keeping things apart. We know the space we are in, but not yet the space that lies ahead behind the door. The mysterious beyond is hidden from sight by the closed door, and some sort of action must be taken by us, before the other side becomes visible and available to us. So it is a matter of choice, a decision whether we want to walk through that door; the choice to stay or to go; of one stepping into a new world. Jesus uses the image of the door in context of his Disciples asking Him how to pray. He tells us not to put a ‘do not disturb’ sign on our door handle, but to persist in prayer. We have to keep knocking on the door, asking, searching so that God can open that door, in His own time. Therefore this door is loaded with hope of a new life, new opportunities, new horizons, leaving the 'now' behind to a better ‘next’.

Lectio

Luke 11:1-13

1“Once Jesus was praying in a certain place, and after he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples’. 2He said to them, ‘When you pray, say: Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. 3Give us each day our daily bread. 4And forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us. And do not bring us to the time of trial’. 5And he said to them, ‘Suppose one of you has a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; 6for a friend of mine has arrived, and I have nothing to set before him’. 7And he answers from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door has already been locked, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything’. 8I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, at least because of his persistence he will get up and give him whatever he needs. 9‘So I say to you, Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. 10For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. 11Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for a fish, will give a snake instead of a fish? 12Or if the child asks for an egg, will give a scorpion? 13If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!’”.

Meditatio

Context This passage starts with Jesus at prayer[1]. Luke makes frequent reference to Jesus’ prayers[2]. In a previous Chapter, Luke revealed the content of one of Jesus’ prayers[3]. Here he tells us only that Jesus was praying. In the second part of this first verse[4]. Jesus gives them a set prayer, which also serves as a model for impromptu prayer. He also teaches them about the One to whom they pray, portraying God as a loving Father whom they can trust. Luke uses this prayer to introduce a section on prayer that also includes a parable and a promise[5]. When you pray, say: Our Father in Heaven It was the regular custom for a Rabbi to teach his disciples a simple prayer which they might habitually use. John had done that for his disciples, and now Jesus’ disciples came asking him the do the same for them. This is Luke’s version of the Lord’s Prayer. It is shorter than Matthew’s, but it will teach us all we need to know about how to pray and what to pray for. Father It all begins by calling God, Father. That was the characteristic Christian address to God[6]. The very first word tells us that in prayer we are not coming to someone out of whom gifts have to be unwillingly extracted, but to a Father who delights to supply his children’s needs. In Hebrew the name means much more than merely the name by which a person is called. The name means the whole character of the person as it is revealed and known to us. Psalm 9:10 says, “Those who know your name put their trust in you”. Jesus teaches us to pray that God’s name be kept holy, that it be honoured and unblemished. It means that those who know the whole character and mind and heart of God will gladly put that trust in him. We must note particularly the order of the Lord’s Prayer. Before anything is asked for ourselves, God and his glory, and the reverence due to him come first. Only when we give God his place will other things take their proper place. This prayer has five petitions. The first two (v. 2) have to do with God. The last three (vv. 3-4) have to do with the fulfilment of our needs. Each of those three is plural (“give us—forgive us—Bring us“), emphasizing the Community of Faith of which we are part rather than our individual needs. The prayer covers all life It covers present needs: It tells us to pray for our daily bread; but it is bread for the day for which we pray. This goes back to the old story of the manna in the wilderness[7]. Only enough for the needs of the day might be gathered. We are not to worry about the unknown future, but to live a day at a time. It covers past sin. When we pray we cannot do other than pray for forgiveness, for even the best of us is a sinner coming before the purity of God. Jesus expects us to reflect the forgiving nature of God. How can the world learn of God’s forgiveness unless we manifest forgiveness in our lives? Jesus links the giving and receiving of forgiveness; if we expect God to forgive us, we must forgive one another. It covers future trials. Temptation means any testing situation. It includes far more than the mere seduction to sin: It covers every situation which is a challenge to and a test of a persons’ humanity and integrity and fidelity. We cannot escape it, but we can meet it with God. We need the protection of God from the evil that would destroy us. When we read any newspaper, we see the pervasive reality of evil: Drugs enslave young people; Sexual appetites lead to violence against women and children; Greed leaves victims in its wake. It is quite appropriate for us to pray for deliverance from evil for our loved ones, our community, our nation, our world, and ourselves. The Lord’s Prayer has two great uses in our private prayers: If we use it at the beginning of our devotions it awakens all kinds of holy desires which lead us on into the right pathways of prayers; If we use it at the end of our devotions it sums up all we ought to pray for in the presence of God. Ask and you will receive Travellers often journeyed late in the evening to avoid the heat of the midday sun. In the story of Jesus just such a traveller had arrived towards midnight at his friend’s house. In the Middle East hospitality is a sacred duty; it was not enough to set before a visitor a bare sufficiency; the guest had to be confronted with an ample abundance. In the villages bread was baked at home. Only enough for the needs of the day are baked because if it was kept and became stale, no one would wish to eat it. The late arrival of the traveller confronted the householder with an embarrassing situation because his larder was empty, and he could not fulfil the sacred obligations of hospitality. Late as it was, he went out to borrow from a friend. The friend’s door was shut. In this part of the world no one would knock on a shut door unless the need was imperative. In the morning the door was opened and remained open all day. For there was little privacy: but if the door was shut, that was a definite sign that the householder did not wish to be disturbed. But the seeking householder was not deterred. He knocked and kept on knocking. A Palestinian household The poorer Palestinian house consisted of one room with only one little window. The floor was simply of beaten earth covered with dried reeds and rushes. The room was divided into two parts, not by a partition but by a low platform. Two thirds of it were on ground level. The other third was slightly raised. On the raised part the charcoal stove burned all night, and round it the whole family slept, not on raised beds but on sleeping mats. Families were large and they slept close together for warmth. For one to rise was inevitable to disturb the whole family. Further, in the villages it was the custom to bring the livestock, the hens and the cocks and the goats, into the house at night. Is there any wonder that the man who was in bed did not want to rise? But the determined borrower knocked on with shameless persistence until at last the householder, knowing that by this time the whole family was disturbed anyway, arose and gave him what he needed. Conclusion If a churlish and unwilling householder can in the end be coerced by a friend’s shameless persistence into giving him what he needs, how much more will God who is a loving Father supply all his children’s needs? This does not absolve us from intensity in prayer. After all, we can guarantee the reality and sincerity of our desire only by the passion with which we pray. But it does not mean that we are wringing gifts from an unwilling God, but going to One who knows our needs better than we know them ourselves and whose Heart towards us is the Heart of generous love. If we do not receive what we pray for, it is not because God grudgingly refuses to give it, but because God has some better thing for us. There is no such thing as unanswered prayer. The answer given may not be the answer we desired or expected; but even when it is a refusal, it is the answer of the love and the wisdom of God. If earthly parents respond favourably to requests of their children , we can depend on the heavenly Father to respond even more favourably – snake … fish … egg … scorpion. “how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” Matthew in his Gospel has Jesus promising good things to those who ask[8]. Luke on the other hand has Jesus promising the Holy Spirit. Of course, the person who asks for bread might prefer bread to the gift of the Spirit. Our understanding of our needs is often shallow. The God who created us knows our frame and provides what is needed. That includes both the Spirit and our daily bread. Oratio


Behold, I stand at the door and knock, says the Lord. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door to me, I will enter his house and dine with him,

and he with me”. Revelation 3:20


I will give thanks to you, O LORD, with all my heart, for you have heard the words of my mouth; in the presence of the angels I will sing your praise; I will worship at your holy temple and give thanks to your name. Because of your kindness and your truth; for you have made great above all things your name and our promise. When I called you answered me; you built up strength within me”.

Psalm 138:1-3.


Contemplatio

I realise that my prayer may have not always been answered in the ways I have expected. I pray that I may see and appreciate where God has heard and answered me.


Asking for something for ourselves does not come readily to many of us. It can be easier to ask for a favour for someone else. We know God is the giver of every good gift and will give us what is for our good. We pray for the faith to believe and the perseverance to continue to ask in the spirit of this Gospel reading.


Prayer demands practice and perseverance, courage and confidence. “Ask”, “seek” and “knock”. We may ask for the wrong thing, but we will receive what we need, rather than what we want. This trust should be at the root of all prayer.


I look back to times when I asked and was given, sought and found, knocked and it was opened to me. I also bring to mind when I was not given, when I did not find, and when the door stayed shut. In all simplicity I ask the Lord for faith and trust, for freedom at looking at my relationship with him.


If I am a parent, I can understand very well what Jesus says at the end of this passage. I too ask to be given the Holy Spirit by my loving Father.


'The Father will give the Holy Spirit'. Do I thank the Father for his gifts? Do I thank him for this gift? For Luke, the Holy Spirit is the Supreme Gift of God to believers; the source of all ‘good things’. How frequently do I pray for a greater outpouring of the Holy Spirit in my heart and in my life?

I pray for childlike trust in God and his love for me. I pray for the ability to trust him when my prayers are not answered, and ask for his Holy Spirit.


We may feel we have been knocking at the door of God for years in prayer for ourselves or for someone else. What does it mean that we always receive? Prayer is always heard by God, not always answered as we might wish. We can ask ourselves what we receive by knocking at the door of God or by asking for years. We receive something of God's love and Holy Spirit every time we pray.


God wants what is truly best for us all. Can I remember experiences when I got what I asked for, and when I did not? What was it that I was asking for?

 

[1] V. 1 “It happened, that when he finished praying in a certain place” [2] Luke 3: 21; 6: 12; Luke 9: 18, 28; Luke 10: 21-22; Luke 22: 32, 41-42; Luke 23: 34, 46 [3]Luke 10: 21-22: “At that same hour Jesus rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said, ‘I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father; and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, or who the Father is except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him’”. [4] “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John also taught his disciples”. [5] Luke 11: 5-8; Luke 11: 9-13 [6]Galatians 4: 6: “And because you are children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’” Romans 8: 15: “For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, “Abba! Father!” 1 Peter 1: 17: “If you invoke as Father the one who judges all people impartially according to their deeds, live in reverent fear during the time of your exile”. [7] Exodus 16: 11-21: “… Let no one leave any of it over until morning …” [8] Matthew 7: 11: “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask him!”

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