Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
- Genesis 18:20-32
- Colossians 2:12-14
- Luke 11:1-13
Today’s first reading for the seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time – C Cycle, comes from Genesis 18:20-32. This is one of my favorite stories in all of sacred Scripture because it demonstrates how wonderfully prayer works the more audacious and persistent it is. In last week’s reading, the Lord and the two men who accompanied Him were prevailed up by Abraham to stop for a while and to refresh themselves, but now it has come time for them to return to the purpose for which they have come. The text says, “In those days, the Lord said: “The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is so great, and their sin so grave, that I must go down and see whether or not their actions fully correspond to the cry against them that comes to me. I mean to find out.” It is at this point when Abraham began negotiating with the Lord, saying, “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?” To which the Lord replied, “If I find fifty innocent people in the city of Sodom, I will spare the whole place for their sake.” Abraham continued to speak up; trying to strike a bargain with Lord all the way to down to if only ten innocent people were found in the city. Notice how there are a couple of persistent prayers at work here; one prayer of people crying out to God to do something about the evil taking place in Sodom and Gomorrah; and now a second prayer by Abraham pleading with God to have mercy on the innocent people in those cities. As persistent prayer promises, God hears it and then enters into the situation to give it His justice.
In the second reading, Saint Paul is writing to the Church at Colossae. The idea that Paul is beating back in this whole letter is Gnosticism, which was a teaching spreading around Rome and was positing that Christ Jesus was just a superior man, an eon – a being that was an intermediate between God the Spirit and matter. Today’s reading from 2:11-14, sings of the Mass by pointing to the liturgy of the Sacrament of Baptism. Verse eleven demonstrates how the Sacrament of Baptism fulfills the Mosaic law of circumcision, saying, “In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without human hands, by putting off the body of flesh in the circumcision of Christ, and you were buried with him in Baptism in which you were also raised with him through faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead.” Through this initiation into the mysteries of Christ Jesus, God renders to His People His justice; that is, that which they are due by virtue of our sins being forgiven (the bond against us being obliterated) through the sacrifice of His Son on the Cross.
In the Gospel of Luke this Sunday, Jesus’ disciples ask Him to teach them how to pray. After instructing them in how to pray what we call today ‘The Lord’s Prayer’, He then goes on to teach His disciples about why prayer works most wonderfully when prayer is persistent and how prayer invites God into the situation to render unto it His justice; that is, what is due according to what has been asked. He says, “And I tell you, ask and you will receive; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.”
Together, these readings at the Holy Mass this Sunday point to the whole matter of the liturgy itself. That is, the liturgy intimately elevates the prayers and confessions of the People to God; asking Him, most persistently – daily – from the rising of the sun until its setting – throughout the world and throughout the centuries – for Him to enter into our situation to render unto it His justice, which has been most wonderfully given to us in, with, and through the Holy Eucharist.
Truly, the most important thing to know about justice is not that human law is oftentimes unjust, but, rather that, God is just, and that He goes through extreme measures to show us His justice. He continually renders to His People what they are due, both for their transgressions against Him and for their sincere humility and dependence upon Him. For the latter, if they were to ask, ‘God, if my love for you cannot be muted, what is due to such a dependent soul as I?’ God would look upon the low estate of His handmaiden and say, ‘You are due nothing but my love that loved you first, through my Son, your Lord Christ Jesus.’
From the first memorial sacrifice of the lamb on the night before God slaughtered the firstborn of the Egyptians, until the memorial sacrifice of the Lamb of God at Mass today, God is showing His People His justice; that is, the death that is due to those who hate Him, and the love that is due to those who love Him. You faithful Catholics have chosen the better half. Persistently pray and confess the liturgy with all audaciousness and partake of the Holy Eucharist worthily and you will enjoy the fruits of God’s justice.
This is just one way how the readings at Mass this Sunday connect to the liturgy and how the liturgy is forming us how to live our lives in the world. Be in the world what you have received through the liturgy.