Gospel and Homily Notes by Archbishop Joseph Harris, C.S. Sp
Gospel: Luke 11:1-13
He 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.”
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 indebted to us. And do not bring us to the time of trial
And 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; for a friend of mine has arrived, and I have nothing to set before him
And 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
I 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
“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.
For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened
Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for F115 a fish, will give a snake instead of a fish? Or if the child asks for an egg, will give a scorpion?
If 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.
Some time ago I was in bed reading when a bug entered my room. Of course it flew directly to the bedside lamp. To get the bug out of my room I had to switch off my bedside lamp, and switch on the very bright light in the adjoining room. Of course the bug immediately went after the bright lights. Bugs persistently seek brighter lights even though some brighter lights may singe them.
Today the Gospel passage offered for our meditation, speaks to us about one of the aspects of prayer, i.e. persistence, the ability to spend a long time in pursuit of what one desires even though there may be danger involved.
In the Gospel passage, Jesus, in response to a request from one of the disciples to teach them to pray, gives the disciples the “Our Father” and then teaches the disciples what it means to be persistent through the example of a host who runs out of and then seeks bread from a friend who is in bed and asleep with his family. The host is persistent and deals with the refusal and rejection until he obtains what he desires. The very interesting part of this little story is that the host was not seeking something for himself. He was seeking food for a friend who had arrived late at night. Later on in his teaching Jesus tells his disciples that just as they will not give a son who asks for a fish a snake, so the Father will give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him . Disciples of Jesus of Jesus must therefore pray with persistence for the need of others, and they must pray with persistence for the Holy Spirit for themselves.
This is in fact the pattern of prayer of all our heroes in the faith, the saints. The saints all concerned themselves and prayed insistently for the needs of those they worked for and with. They credited the presence of the Holy Spirit in their lives for the decisions that they made. In other words, their decision to work with and for others, whoever those others might have been, flowed out of their prayer and from the presence of the Holy Spirit in their lives. This is in fact, the authentic tradition of intercessory prayer.
Of course all of us have needs, and some of them very urgent needs but if we focus persistently on our own needs, we forget the many others who have needs as great as or even greater than our own. When this happens we lose the virtue of compassion.
Com –passion means to suffer with. When we think persistently only of our own needs, as great and as urgent as they may be, we suffer by ourselves. We lose the solidarity and the sense of communion that must animate all human beings. It is to this sense of solidarity and communion that we are called each time we pray the “Our Father”. This was the prayer of Jesus, who lived solidarity with human beings especially those who suffered.
The witness of Mons. Romero in El Salvador, of Mother Teresa in Calcutta, of Maximillian Kolbe is that of persons who thought not of themselves but of those in their midst with the greatest need. It is a witness of solidarity and communion with those in the greatest need. They prayed persistently for those for whom they worked. They prayed persistently for the Holy Spirit for themselves. It is the Holy Spirit who gave them the strength to live that witness of solidarity and communion.
The gospel passage questions us then. Is our prayer, prayer that leads to solidarity and communion, as was the prayer of Mons. Romero and Mother Teresa and Maximillian Kolbe? They are witnesses to the solidarity and communion to which true prayer leads.
As we thank God for these witness, we also ask him to save us from prayer which leads to isolation and to gift us with prayer that opens us to others and to their needs, to solidarity and communion.
All powerful and ever-loving God, your Son Jesus Christ, taught his disciples to pray. He taught them a prayer which flowed from his heart, the Our Father. He could have said, “My Father” but he chose instead to say “Our Father” in this way sharing YOU with us, and making himself one with all humanity. He entered into solidarity with all human beings and became compassionate with all of us. We, his brothers and sisters, also call you “our Father”. Help us to follow Jesus’ example and through and because of our prayer help us to live solidarity with all human beings that we encounter. Develop in us the virtue of compassion.