28 July 2019
Our Father in Heaven
Christ has given us in very truth the power to become the children of God. Compare the timidity and self-abnegation of Abraham’s prayer with the confidence with which Christ teaches us to pray to our Father in heaven.
– Sunday Missal
The Lord said, ‘How great an outcry there is against Sodom and Gomorrah! How grievous is their sin! I propose to go down and see whether or not they have done all that is alleged in the outcry against them that has come up to me. I am determined to know.’
The men left there and went to Sodom while Abraham remained standing before the Lord. Approaching him he said, ‘Are you really going to destroy the just man with the sinner? Perhaps there are fifty just men in the town. Will you really overwhelm them, will you not spare the place for the fifty just men in it? Do not think of doing such a thing: to kill the just man with the sinner, treating just and sinner alike! Do not think of it! Will the judge of the whole earth not administer justice?’ the Lord replied, ‘If at Sodom I find fifty just men in the town, I will spare the whole place because of them.’
Abraham replied, ‘I am bold indeed to speak like this to my Lord, I who am dust and ashes. But perhaps the fifty just men lack five: will you destroy the whole city for five?’ ‘No,’ he replied ‘I will not destroy it if I find forty-five just men there.’ Again Abraham said to him, ‘Perhaps there will only be forty there.’ ‘I will not do it’ he replied ‘for the sake of the forty.’
Abraham said, ‘I trust my Lord will not be angry, but give me leave to speak: perhaps there will only be thirty there.’ ‘I will not do it’ he replied ‘if I find thirty there.’ He said, ‘I am bold indeed to speak like this, but perhaps there will only be twenty there.’ ‘I will not destroy it’ he replied ‘for the sake of the twenty.’ He said, ‘I trust my Lord will not be angry if I speak once more: perhaps there will only be ten.’ ‘I will not destroy it’ he replied ‘for the sake of the ten.’
You have been buried with Christ, when you were baptised; and by baptism, too, you have been raised up with him through your belief in the power of God who raised him from the dead. You were dead, because you were sinners and had not been circumcised: he has brought you to life with him, he has forgiven us all our sins.
Once Jesus was in a certain place praying, and when he had finished one of his disciples said, ‘Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.’
He said to them, ‘Say this when you pray:
And do not put us to the test.”’
He also said to them:
‘Suppose one of you has a friend and goes to him in the middle of the night to say, “My friend, lend me three loaves, because a friend of mine on his travels has just arrived at my house and I have nothing to offer him”; and the man answers from inside the house, “Do not bother me. The door is bolted now, and my children and I are in bed; I cannot get up to give it you.” I tell you, if the man does not get up and give it him for friendship’s sake, persistence will be enough to make him get up and give his friend all he wants.
for the sake of those ten, I will not destroy it
A youtube video I once watched began with a boy slumped on the floor. He did not look to be in a happy state. To make things worse, a large stone suddenly struck him on the head and he started to bleed. The boy jumped up, screaming and shouting at someone whose back was turned towards him, arms outstretched, blocking out other projectiles hurling towards the boy. The boy accused him of doing a bad job of protecting him from getting hurt. “How could you let this happen to me? You must be sleeping on the job!!”
The video then went on to show that person, turning sheepishly to the boy and apologizing for letting that one stone slip through and hurting the boy. Upon closer examination, I realized that the person himself was bleeding profusely from all sorts of cuts and bruises from the myriad of stones and other flying objects that kept hitting him as he used his own body as a human shield for the boy. Then came the clincher — the human shield was Jesus. And he was sorry to the boy for not doing a ‘good enough’ job because that one stone slipped through him.
Not possible? God does not make mistakes? He is perfect after all, isn’t He? And why on earth would Jesus apologize to the boy? Are we forgetting who the creator and who the creature is here? Instead, the boy should count his blessings that Jesus himself was protecting him from all the many other projectiles that did not reach the boy. We need to ponder on how often we have been that little boy.
I would like to focus my reflection on the first reading where Abraham bargained, it seemed, with God, to spare Sodom on the count of the handful of good and faithful people found there. Abraham was certainly shrewd in his handling of the Lord; he played to the mercy and compassion of God instead of His wrath. He played to the goodness of God that would sooner look on the goodness of His children than their evil. Abraham played on the one weakness God had – His incomprehensible love for His children, which makes Him appear even weak and foolish, by giving in so much to the ungratefulness and indifference of his spoilt children.
Yet, it was once said that conversion comes not from the judgment of God, but from His mercy. That for those touched by the grace of the Holy Spirit to true repentance, deep and true conversion swiftly follows a heart grateful to have experienced the compassion, understanding, forgiveness and unconditional love of a loving Father. This is the love of a Father God that has chosen to look upon the goodness and virtues of His children, even if these exist only in the most miniscule iota of a speck in that person, than on their all-too-obvious faults and failings. It is this deep, incomprehensible love and compassion of God that the second reading points to — that which has removed and nailed our transgressions to the Cross. It is this incomprehensible love that Our Lord’s prayer calls us to follow as we learn to forgive the transgressions of others against us, as we ourselves are forgiven by our own Father.
You see, God does not look at what we truly deserve, but what He truly wants to make deserving of us as His sons and daughters. I’ve said this before in earlier sharings – our focus must NEVER be on ourselves. It must ALWAYS be upon God.
Let me end with one more twist — that it is not we who ask, seek and knock but in truth, the Father who asks, seeks and knocks on the doors of our hearts. That it is He that is the one showing great patience, persistence and hope that one day we will finally come to our senses and realize that although we really have absolutely nothing to give to God, God is waiting to give everything to us. That God helps those who help themselves is a fallacy – this phrase does not exist in the Bible. But if you can allow me to cite a wisdom once said by Fr Erbin Fernandez, “God helps those who finally realize that they can no longer help themselves”.
To finally open that door, to see that our Father is at our door – waiting to embrace us once again. That He has always been there — waiting for us to finally come to our senses.
(Today’s OXYGEN by Justus Teo)
Prayer: Father, help us. We have forgotten your love for us — that you are our creator. That you are the one who has loved us since before the beginning of time. That we are your own.
Thanksgiving: Father, thank you for never abandoning us despite our great unworthiness and incomprehensible ingratitude towards you. Help us to grasp the truth of the infinite love you have for us and to experience your love with the confidence of a child in his loving Father, who looks after His own with the utmost care. And to then be able to fully experience the joy of returning your love to you.