The Our Father precedes God’s invitation to ask, seek, knock … success comes as we help others and ourselves
I remember a story about a man begging God every night that he might win the million-dollar lottery. After six days God spoke: “would you help me out a bit and buy a lottery ticket?”
Too often in life, we are quick to blame God for everything bad that happens in life, and rarely say thank you for everything good that happens. Equally, we often talk to God only when we want something (=self-interest). Now, I ask you, “is that really a relationship of love and mutual respect?” Or is it simply using someone? Like a selfish teenager constantly coming to mum or dad for money, but rarely wants to spend time with them or help around the house?
The Readings today reveal Abraham to be in a healthy relationship with God, not just because he is talking to God like a friend, but because Abraham knows God cares about everyone. So the requests made by Abraham reflect God’s love for the world, not just himself.
As Abraham negotiates with God over a few good people, Abraham shows his heart is similar to God’s heart. Furthermore, by being concerned about others, Abraham shows that his well-being is connected to the well-being of the wider community.
With this understanding, we can better understand the Gospel. It has three parts:
1) Jesus teaches the disciples how to pray: (reveals God’s love for everyone);
2) Helping each other even when we don’t feel like it (teaching about sacrifice, forgiveness);
3) The value of persistence in prayer (to purify our intentions and open our hearts to others).
You might wonder how the Our Father reveals God’s love for everyone? “Your Kingdom Come” means we commit to building Heaven on earth, as above. This helps us understand the heart of God. And, by extension, opens our hearts to the needs of others, not just ourselves.
A young man getting ready to graduate from college, had admired a beautiful sports car in a shop, and knowing that his father could well afford it, he told him that was all he wanted. As Graduation Day approached the young man waited for signs that his father had purchased the car for him. Finally, on graduation day, his father called him to his office, told him how proud he was and how much he loved him. He then handed him a beautifully wrapped gift box.
Curious, but somewhat disappointed the young man opened the box and found a lovely leather bound Bible with his name embossed on it in gold. He was angry so he raised his voice to his father and said, “With all of your money you give me a Bible rather than the sports car I wanted.” He then stormed out of the house leaving the Bible behind.
Many years passed and the young man was very successful in the business he went in. He had a beautiful home and a wonderful family but one day realized his father was very old. He then decided to go see him, because he’d not seen him since that graduation day.
However, before he could make arrangements to go he received a phone call from a funeral home director telling him that his father had passed away and had willed all of his possessions to him. He was told that he needed to come home immediately and take care of things.
When the son arrived at his father’s house sadness and regret filled his heart. He began to search through his father’s important documents and saw the Bible his father had given him for graduation. The Bible looked new just as it was years ago when he was given it.
With tears in his eyes he opened the Bible and began to turn through the pages. His father had carefully underlined a verse which read, “And if ye being evil know how to give good gifts to your children how much more shall your Heavenly Father which is in Heaven give to those who ask Him” (Matthew 7:11). As the son read those words, a car key dropped from the back of the Bible. It had a tag on it with the car dealer’s name, the same dealer who had the sports car that he wanted so badly for his college graduation. On the tag was the date of his graduation and the words written in large print “PAID IN FULL”.
God always hears our prayers, but often responds in a way that helps us to open our hearts more fully to know the heart of God, so we may use our gifts for ourselves AND for others.
Finally, the Second Reading reminds us of a critical element for us to understand God’s heart: forgiveness. Unless we practice forgiveness, we will rarely understand the heart of God. And, unless we understand the heart of God, we’ll not be able to build the Kingdom of God on earth.
Because the context of our invitation to ask, seek and knock comes after we pray the Lord’s Prayer, it’s logical to assume that we will be asking and seeking and knocking forever, unless our desire is to build the Kingdome of God for everyone to benefit.
Let us reflect this week: do I treat God like a sugar daddy, or do I truly love God by helping and forgiving others?
By Gerard Conlan, OMI