Sunday Sermon for July 24, 2022, the Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C
Readings: Gen 18:20-32; Col 2:12-14; Lk 11:1-13
In the Gospel reading today we are presented with St. Luke’s version of the Lord’s Prayer (we normally pray the version from St. Matthew’s Gospel). Regardless of which version we consider, the critical issue for each of us is whether or not we truly believe what we pray. It is so easy with vocal prayers, once memorized, to just say the words without really thinking about what, or to Whom, we are praying.
We begin by addressing God as our Father. Do you see Him that way? Do you have a relationship with Him that is appropriate for a son or a daughter? Everything that follows in the prayer is dependent upon this point. Our baptism has brought us into this relationship which, as St. Paul tells us in the second reading, is based now on our faith in the power of God Who raised Jesus from the dead.
The second point in St. Luke’s version of the Lord’s Prayer prays for God’s Kingdom to come. Do we really want this? His Kingdom is one of justice, charity, and peace. His Kingdom will be holy. While this sounds great to most of us, we must realize that we live in a very selfish and immoral society, so the Kingdom of God will be nearly a 180-degree change from that with which we are accustomed. It means God, not self or money, will be most important and seeking His holy will will be the norm for those in His Kingdom. Is this really what we want?
Our Lord then instructs us to ask God to provide our daily bread. We live in a society where we do not really need to trust in God to provide for us (so we think) because we have grocery stores, refrigerators, and freezers that are usually stocked with food. However, we are being warned that shortages are on the horizon. Our faith in God may be put to the test in a very severe manner. This brings us back to the first point, again, to trust in the power and the love of God our Father, expressed most perfectly in the Eucharist.
We then pray for the forgiveness of our sins and proclaim that we forgive everyone who is in debt to us. In both the first and second readings today we hear about God’s mercy. In the first reading, Abraham intercedes with the Lord about the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. God says that even if only ten innocent people live there, He will spare the place for the sake of those ten people. We know none of us can claim innocence, but if we are trying to live a good life and getting to confession so our soul remains pure, the grace of God can restore our innocence.
St. Paul tells us the Lord has forgiven our sins in baptism and obliterated the bond against us by nailing it to the Cross. However, just as we see in the case of Sodom and Gomorrah, where there is no repentance, there can be no reconciliation. What Jesus did on the Cross is objectively true for every person in the world, but we must individually open our hearts to receive the graces He won for us on the Cross. Part of that openness of heart requires that we forgive others if we want God to forgive us. He is absolutely willing to forgive us, but He asks that we show to others the same mercy He shows to us.
Once again, if we are going to call God our Father, then we must live as sons and daughters of our Heavenly Father. We need to be holy because He is holy. This holiness will conform us to God Who is merciful, just, and charitable. When we have achieved true holiness and act according to the virtue that flows from that holiness, we will be at peace. This peace will be interior and we will be at peace with God, with self, and with others, even those we might now think of as our enemies.
This is the power of God that is already at work in each of us. This is the flame God has ignited in our hearts and He wants that light burning brightly. Unfortunately, many of us put a bushel basket over that light because we want to fit in with the world. This is the most challenging part of really wanting the Kingdom of God to come. The Kingdom of God must reign in our hearts first before it can be seen in society. This means choosing to make the changes necessary to let the Lord’s light shine brightly through us.
Pray the Lord’s Prayer carefully and pay attention to each petition. We have prayed it often, now we must choose to live it.
Fr. Altier’s column appears regularly in The Wanderer, a national Catholic weekly published in St. Paul, Minn. For information about subscribing to The Wanderer, please visit www.thewandererpress.com.