This reflection is being prepared two weeks before Ash Wednesday! I am running a good six weeks ahead of time (the result of being housebound and forbidden to drive after...
I strongly suspect that neither the concept nor reality of sin is especially high on the list of contemporary society’s concerns. I also have the suspicion that we ourselves do not take our own sinfulness into any sort of serious consideration or self-evaluation. This flows from the lack of a real and conscious appreciation of exactly what it cost God-in-Christ to reconcile us and our world to himself. We know the theory but do we really believe the dramatic detail of
HOW he actually did it?
Saint Paul tells us how in
TODAY’S NEW TESTAMENT EXTRACT [COLOSSIANS 2: 12 – 14]. “God made (us) alive together with (Christ), having forgiven us all our trespasses, having cancelled the bond which stood against us with its legal demands; this he set aside, nailing it to the cross.”
First of all we need to seize the reality of God’s own words as recorded for us in
TODAY’S OLD TESTAMENT READING [GENESIS 18: 20 – 32]. At once we should never forget the very personal, hands-on, manner in which God’s word comes to us in this first book of the Bible. It comes to us very differently from the rest of scripture where the Lord’s ‘talk’ is recorded through one of the prophets, Moses, or as a recall reminder in the New Testament. In Genesis it is always the immediate speech of God himself.
The creation narratives tell us that
“God said …” and today we read that “the Lord said … “ and he speaks directly and personally to men and women. To Adam and Eve he asks “what have you done?” This Sunday we are told: “I will go down to see whether they have done … I will know.” Indeed, he went down, saw and knew. This is a splendid fore-image of, and can be seen as such, the Father’s motivation in sending his Son – even “for the sake of ten.” As “Abraham still stood before the Lord” so Jesus stood and still stands before his and OUR Father. Like Abraham he pleads “will you not spare it for the fifty” or for the decreasing numbers of the repeated petitions. “O let not the Lord be angry.”
Here we find the faith and confidence to pray the prayer Jesus taught us
. It is the faith expressed by the Church Itself in the liturgy of the Eucharist when we are invited by the celebrant to “let us make bold (dare) to say – Our Father.” It is the same faith expressed by the Psalmist in TODAY’S PSALM [138 or 137] when it prays “on the day I called, you answered me, Lord, you increased the strength of my soul … you give me life … you stretch out your hand.” It is also the reason why we start the Lord’s Prayer with praise – “hallowed be thy name” – and ask that his “kingdom come” – the kingdom which was saved on our behalf by Christ. Together with Abraham we pray “O let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak again.”So we dare to say and are bold indeed …. “to speak again.” Again and again and again – over and over. Then, as the Psalm prays “your right hand will save me; the Lord will accomplish this for me.” This is the reason that today Saint Paul is able to assure us that we “were also raised with him through faith in the working of God.”
All of this is confirmed in
TODAY’S GOSPEL [LUKE 11: 1 – 13]. There we read of the Father’s response to our petitions for forgiveness, strength and courage to continue with our battle against our sinfulness. “What father among you if his son asks for a fish, will instead give him a serpent” …. or a scorpion for an egg. “How much more will the heavenly Father give …” He ‘gave’ in the face of Abraham’s persistent prayer and in today’s Gospel Jesus tells us that “he will rise and give him whatever he needs.”
The emphasis at the start of this week’s reflection on our need to be much more aware of our sinfulness and the cost of our ransom from its permanent effects was not intended (and should not be seen) as an effort to develop any tendency to an unhealthy and guilty preoccupation with guilt. Rather, it should engender an awareness of our basic need to
“ask, and it will be given; seek and you will find, knock, and it will be opened to you.”
This is why we dare and are bold enough to say “OUR FATHER.”