17th Sunday C: Are Prayers Answered?

Audio version of homily here:

Two wonderful readings in today’s Mass for the 17th Sunday of the Year. (Genesis 18,20-32,Luke 11, 1–13)

The Genesis story says that God came down to stand with Abraham before two notorious cities, Sodom and Gomorrah, that stood near the Dead Sea. Should these places be destroyed? God comes down and looks at these evil cities with Abraham at his side.

Not a pretty picture, the two cities where corruption and evil of every kind have taken hold. We might imagine seeing the same picture in some places we know today.

But Abraham speaks up for them, and how familiarly he speaks to God! “Suppose there were fifty innocent people in the city; would you wipe out the place, rather than spare it for the sake of the fifty innocent people within it? Far be it from you to do such a thing, to make the innocent die with the guilty so that the innocent and the guilty would be treated alike! Should not the judge of all the world act with justice?”

How simply they talk together. “How about 45 people? How about 30, 20, 10,” Abraham asks? “I would save the city for 10,” God says at the end.

We’re told something about God here. God certainly doesn’t want the world destroyed, even if evil seems so bold and prevalent. God who made heaven and earth stands with us as we look regularly at our world, seeing what we see and even more. God wants to save what God has made.

We’re also told something about how we as human beings should face evil in our society as we listen to Abraham, our father in faith. He stays hopeful about the world he lived in, even at its worse. He wants to save it too. Shouldn’t we follow him?

Notice Luke’s version of the Our Father in the gospel for today. Unlike Matthew, Luke omits the phrase “who art in heaven.” Does the evangelist want us to know that God is not a distant God, far away and unavailable–in heaven? God is the Father standing at our side, looking on the same reality we do. A Father who gives us daily bread and nourishment, who opens the door we think is closed. A constant watchful parent, ever present, never far away.

These readings invite us to pray to God in a familiar way when we face evil in our world. That advice might not be a popular today. Recent surveys of religious belief say that many Americans believe in God, but does that mean they believe in a familiar God, like the God revealed in our two readings today? Or is God simply unknowable, maybe possible, uncertain, or someone for an emergency? Is God someone we can talk to as we face hard days, and does God answer our prayers?

In facing the violence and hard times of today, we often hear calls for prayer, but today you also hear some say: “Forget about prayer, let’s do something about it.”

If we hear our first reading for today, Abraham’s prayer was doing something about it. His prayer came from his concern and love for people and cities dsperately in need. And God was not unconcerned either, if we understand our reading right. God hears.

Prayer is not something we should forget about. It’s the most important step to take when we need to be delivered from evil.

4 thoughts on “17th Sunday C: Are Prayers Answered?

  1. Bill Lenahan

    I am sure you are correct! However I a eternally hopeful that prayers are answered. We have experienced several priest at St Mary;s that have all made a difference… each had their message from the Holy Spirit! Sometimes it takes someone who will not allow the comfortable to go on! I think the gospel message applies to our situation! Only an improvement will come from adversity!

    Bill

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  2. Gail Smyder

    Sadly, I think we often do because we are too full of ourselves to truly trust and hope and speak clearly and simply to Our Father. Your words give us hope and these reading indeed are powerful.
    We learn and relearn and we help each other along. HOw good is that. Hope springs Eternal through the special people in our lives who challenge us to be real disciples with open and loving hearts.
    Cudos Father,
    Gail

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  3. Gloria

    Thank you, Fr. Victor. I was blessed to listen to your homily at Mass
    yesterday and not to read it again today. When we have fierce rainstorms
    or day-after-day rains, I wonder if God is standing under our umbrellas with us sadly contemplating all that he made and found good while we pray for peace and love and goodness among all his children.

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  4. cenaclemary12

    From the Psalms:”O Lord, hear my cry, listen to me when I call on your name” and “The Lord hears the cry of the poor” which affirms that it’s a good thing to present our needs before the throne of mercy. Some naysayers would dismiss the notion but I believe prayer changes the heart…mine and those whom I pray for.

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