A word from Pope Francis ~ “Challenges exist to be overcome! Let us be realists, but without losing our joy, our boldness and our hope-filled commitment.”
As we move into the final days of July, we celebrate the 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time and continue our reading of Luke’s Gospel. During the past few weeks, we’ve been hearing Jesus speak about the qualities of true discipleship. He continues his teaching this weekend through some very familiar passages. The Our Father is the prayer that Jesus taught to his disciples. He follows that prayer with one of his central teachings – if you ask the Father for what you need, God will hear you.
These familiar passages provide us a look at the person of God. There is a particular portrait of God painted in Jesus’ words. As Jesus’ disciples ask him to teach them how to pray, Jesus takes advantage of their request to point to a God who is very close. This God is called “Abba,” or “Papa,” one known as “Father.” I suspect that Jesus’ instruction to call God “Father” ruffled the feathers of those who wanted to keep God at a formal, safe distance – perhaps on the top of some isolated mountain, out of harm’s way. Instead, God keeps trying to break into our lives, seeking to draw near – providing us with every blessing, giving when we ask, pointing out when we seek, and opening when we knock.
It almost seems too good to be true. But isn’t that the way sin speaks in our hearts? Sin creates doubts and makes us want to believe that the Good News is too good to be true. And even though Jesus told us again and again that God is closer to us than the breath that keeps us alive, we resist. We push God back into a distant heaven or imagine that God is a judge who can’t wait to condemn. Not the God of Jesus – the Abba, the Papa who seeks to bless us with everything we need. At the heart of the Our Father is God’s desire to be with us – loving us, caring for us, providing for us.
Perhaps it is a good thing that Jesus taught us about God in the form of a prayer. For every time we approach God in prayer, we are invited to recognize the presence of God with us and within us, so that we can also recognize God around us and in each other.
We continue our celebration of “summer saints” this week, with the celebration of the feasts of additional giants in our litany of saints. Monday is the Feast of St. James the Apostle. Tuesday is the Memorial of Saints Joachim and Anne, the parents of Mary and the grandparents of Jesus. While they are not named in any of the Gospels, their names are found in the Protoevangelium of James, a document dating back to the 2nd century. This celebration gives us a good opportunity to prayerfully remember our own grandparents and the influence they have had in our lives. If they are still with us, give them a call on Tuesday or stop by for a visit or even lunch. If they are no longer with us, Tuesday may be a good day to visit the cemetery where they are buried. Ask them to pray for us. We are still connected in the Communion of the Saints. Friday is the Memorial of Sts. Martha, Mary and Lazarus. They were of the same family – sisters and brother and close friends with Jesus. It was Lazarus whom Jesus raised from the dead. It is a good day to remember our close friends who are like family to us.
The “Back to School” advertising circulars are beginning to weigh down our Sunday newspapers. The month of August begins in another week. Many of our college students will be leaving us in just a few short weeks. Let’s enjoy the time that we have. And we remember in prayer all those who are traveling at this time of year. May God continue to bless us with all that we need, and more.
Father Jim Murphy