Reflection for the Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Have you ever tried to bargain with God? I think it’s safe to say that, in one way or another, each of us has. “God, if you let her get better, I will…” “Please, God, if you let me pass this test, I swear I’ll…” “If you’ll just let this be over, I promise to…” And it’s understandable that we might try to do this. After all, while we believe in a loving God who is all-knowing and all-powerful, we can’t always understand or accept everything that happens in life. Bargaining gives us a sense of control.
But, this Sunday’s Gospel—with its parable of the persistent neighbor and collection of sayings—highlights two truths about God that should help us overcome our tendency toward control as we try to strike these sorts of deals: God is giving and forgiving.
In the parable, a person has a special need late one night when a guest arrives unexpectedly. In a 1st-century equivalent of borrowing a cup of sugar, the host goes to his sleeping neighbor, asking that the neighbor provide some bread for the road-weary guest. Jesus observes that if the neighbor does not get up “to give him the loaves because of their friendship, he will get up to give him whatever he needs because of his persistence.” The point of the parable is that God’s response to our prayers for help and pleas for mercy are like those of a generous and caring friend.
What follows in this Gospel passage reinforces the message of the parable: God is ready and waiting to open the door when we knock, to give us what we ask, to reveal himself when we seek, just like a loving parent providing for the needs of their children.
This passage invites us to reflect on the fact that God only wants the good for us and to provide what we truly need. We don’t have to beg or badger God. God is always waiting for us to voice our needs and hopes. God is always waiting to bless us.
The challenge here, however, is that we are being asked to be vulnerable and to trust. Jesus wants us to risk letting go of our sense of control and place ourselves in the position of asking—just like the host who knocks on his neighbor’s door, not necessarily knowing what kind of response he will receive but full of hope.
Letting go of our desire to control or understand what’s going on means that we have to trust in the One whom be believe wants only the best for us. This also means trusting that God’s grace is always at work, regardless of how dire or disappointing a situation might seem.
This Gospel reading is also a reminder that because we have received so many blessings—including the gift of mercy—we are called to share with others what we have abundantly received. And in these dark days of division, violence, partisan rhetoric, and fear, our vulnerability and trust in prayer—as well as our generosity in service and charity—is needed more than ever.
How does this Sunday’s Gospel help inspire your prayer? What are the things that you have been hesitant to bring to prayer?
How have you experienced the blessings of God’s generosity in your own life?
What blessings have you received from Our Father that you can pass to others?
Words of Wisdom: “You see that the man who woke his friend at midnight demanding three loaves of bread and, persisting in his intention to receive, finds that this requests are not denied. What are those three loaves if not the nourishment of the heavenly mysteries? If you love the Lord your God, you will be able to deserve this not only for yourselves but also for others.”—Saint Ambrose of Milan
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