BY: Fr. Jude Chijioke



Readings: Genesis 18.20-21.23-32; Colossians 2: 12-14; Luke 11: 1-13

“Jesus was praying in a certain place, and one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray just as John taught his disciples.” He said to them, “When you pray, say: Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread and forgive us our sins for we ourselves forgive everyone in debt to us, and do not subject us to the final test.”

“suppose one of you has a friend to whom he goes at midnight and say, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread, for a friend of mine has arrived at my house from a journey and I have nothing to offer him….,’ I tell you, if he does not get up to give the visitor the loaves because of their friendship, he will get up to give him whatever he needs because of his persistence.
What father among you would hand his son a snake when he asks for a fish? Or hand him a scorpion when he asks for an egg? If you then, who are wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him?” (Lk 11).

The liturgy of the word today is dedicated to prayer. In our first reading we see a wonderful dialogue between God and Abraham who begs for the salvation of Sodom and Gomorrah in a crescendo of daring: the narration is, in fact, psychologically and stylistically ordered on the progressive declining of the number of the just who could appease the divine justice and on the growing enthusiasm of Abraham. In six stages, the just requests go from 50 to 10, while each time the patriarch signals the daring of his mediation: “I who dare to speak, dust and ashes.”

But the result will be bitter and not so much for a stiffening of the justice of God who, indeed, is ready to give in to Abraham’s pleadings, but rather for the radical misery of humanity, sinful in its totality, there is not a single just one who can justify the irruption of the divine mercy. God himself, to accept Abraham’s proposal, must send humanity the just one, “Jesus Christ” (1 Jn 2: 1). It will be he, as Paul writes in his first letter to the Thessalonians (1, 10), that will “free us from the wrath of the future”.

In our gospel reading, Luke offers us an intense “catechism on prayer” Unlike Matthew, who has the Sermon on the Mount as a context, Luke introduces a request made by a disciple as a background. He invites Jesus to teach a distinctive prayer for the group of the disciples, just as the Baptist and other Jewish teachers had done, who had given their followers a kind of distinctive spiritual marks. Jesus accepts this request and teaches the Abba’s prayer.

In fact, unlike Matthew who uses the more traditional form “Our Father”, Luke has only an initial “Father”, which is certainly the translation of the original Aramaic used by Jesus, “Abba “, “Dear Father.” In this word of great intimacy, Jesus boldly chose a familiar and immediate term to address God. Hence, Abraham’s audacity is surpassed by the audacity of Jesus, the Son, who invites those who follow him to close-up the distance between God and man, to replace the image of an imperial and impassive God with the face of a Father who “teaches us to walk holding each other by the hand.
There is, however, another element to be discovered within the “Father” according to the Lucanian version: It includes, only four invocations, the very original ones of Jesus. “Your Kingdom Come” and “Forgive Us Our Sins” are the summits of the two parts of the prayer: the first is linked to the “You” of God, it is an expression of praise and adoration; the second is linked to the “Us”, that is, to our daily human existence. The fusion between these two directions and between these two personal pronouns creates the true meaning of the christian prayer, dialogue between God the Father and the human person. The expectation and commitment for the Kingdom, that is, for the great project of salvation and love willed by God in Christ, must unite and nourish the historical craving and commitment for “daily bread”; love for God must be combined with love that forgives sinful brothers and sisters.

The “Father” is accompanied by a lively images Jesus himself creates. The first is that of the intrusive neighbor who clings to the door in the night, knocking insistently to get what he needs. And this is a transparent lesson on constancy, fidelity, and perseverance in prayer. Prayer is, in fact, a bit of struggling with the mystery: Paul invites the Christians of Rome to “fight with him in prayers” (15:30), as Jacob did with the mysterious divine being along the foaming banks of the river Jabbok in a dark night.
The other scene is entrusted to that dialogue of all things (fish, snake, egg, scorpion) between a father and his son. From it emerges the total trust that the person praying must have in the confrontations of God the Father. God is not an indifferent or dangerous stranger; with him you can behave with audacity, freedom, and serenity with which you turn to a loved one, abandoning fears, conventions, and hesitations. St Teresa of Avila would see prayer as a conversation between friends, with him whom we know loves us.

Fr. Jude Chijioke

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