On any Sunday morning, you can flip the switch on your TV set or radio and you can find a sermon blaring at you. Often the sermon topic will be about how God punishes and destroys sinners.
Part of the reflection will be about how our nation is in danger of God’s wrath because of pornography and drugs, scandals in government, murders on our streets, the ambush and attacks on our police, liberalism in our nation, problems in the Middle East or Ukraine – just to name a few. God destroys nations because of all this, and we better be careful – just look at Sodom and Gomorrah.
Well, the first reading does look at Sodom and Gomorrah. We see God and Abraham walking together, talking about the future of these two cities. When Abraham learned of God’s plan for the destruction of these two cities, he reminded God that He is the creator and judge of the universe. He needs to give a good example and judge the cities with mercy and justice; He should not destroy the cities.
Abraham, in the tradition of the Middle Eastern marketplace, is bargaining with God; and God seems to be willing to strike a deal. If fifty righteous people can be found, He will not destroy the cities. The bargaining begins with fifty, but Abraham bargains down to ten – if only ten just men can be found, God will not destroy the cities.
God says six times: “I will not destroy them”. It seems that if Sodom and Gomorrah are destroyed, it will be in spite of God – not because of God. God’s intent is to save – not destroy. Unfortunately, not even ten good people could be found.
In many ways, our prayer life is like Abraham bargaining with God. We assume that God is at our disposal to do what we want! We try to deal with God. We try to maneuver God into participating in our plans. “Heal my father and I will go to church every Sunday.” “Make my business prosper, and I will put a big fat check in the collection basket.” “Let me win the lottery, and I will a little bit to charity.” We act as though we are equal partners – something in it for me, something in it for God. Sometimes we convince ourselves that God somehow needs us, so we reverse roles and even threaten to punish God: “If you don’t help me and give me what I want, I will never darken the door of the church again!”
In the New Testament, the authors of the Gospels tell us that Jesus often prayed. He prayed before choosing the apostles. He prayed on the Mountain of Transfiguration before His death. He prayed in the Upper Room, in the Garden of Gethsemene, and on the Cross, from the first day of Jesus’ ministry to the last, Jesus prayed. Jesus was intent on saving us – not destroying us.
Jesus is the one who walks with His Father as Abraham walked with God did, to lead us. He is the one who pleads for us on the Cross: “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” Jesus’ whole life and death was one of prayer and union with His Father. Every miracle was another bargain struck with His Father for the salvation of just one more sinner.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus teaches us that we too need to pray – not just with empty words and demands – but with our hearts! We too need to be alone with God our Father, and our prayer needs to be simply: “Your will be done”!
We need to pray with the simplicity and trust of children. I once heard a little child saying her night prayers. She prayed for her mom and dad, her sister, her dog, and cat, and then she prayed: “And dear God, please take care of Yourself; cuz if You don’t, then we’re all sunk”.
Prayer is not bargaining with God or playing “Let’s make a deal” as was the case with Abraham; it’s placing ourselves in the presence of God; trusting Him, praising Him, petitioning Him, listening to Him, and receiving from Him.
In the Gospel today, Jesus gives us the model for prayer. In the Our Father, we give praise to God, we voice our petition for what we need. We acknowledge Him as Lord of our lives – trusting that we stand with open hands and hearts to receive whatever God wills to give us.
“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 the one who
knocks, the door will be opened.”
When Jesus was hanging on the cross in the scorching oriental heat, it appeared that Evil had won and that the world had been abandoned by God. Jesus sighed: “I thirst”. His thirst was not for water. is thirst was for each of us – for our response to His Passion and Death and Resurrection. His thirst was for us to meet Him through prayer in the Sacramental life of His Church, and recognize His presence in His gift of the Holy Eucharist. His thirst was for our salvation.
Our thirst for Him must be as intense as His thirst is for us. But we are afraid! Afraid of what other people might say or think. Afraid of what we might have to give. Afraid that we might not be able to give. Afraid that we might have to give too much. Afraid that in giving, we might have to stretch out our hands and be nailed to the cross. Thirst for God in prayer as He thirsts for you. Thirst for God in the Sacraments of His Church – it is there that He is found. Thirst for God in this Mass: He is here – reaching out to us to embrace us and take us to His Father.
May each one of us thirst for Him as intently as He thirsts for us.