Gospel Lectio Divina for Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time - July 24, 2022
Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created. And You shall renew the face of the earth.
O, God, who by the light of the Holy Spirit, did instruct the hearts of the faithful, grant that by the same Holy Spirit we may be truly wise and ever enjoy His consolations, Through Christ Our Lord, Amen.
Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he had finished,
one of his disciples said to him,
"Lord, teach us to pray just as John taught his disciples."
He said to them, "When you pray, say:
Father, hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come.
Give us each day our daily bread
and forgive us our sins
for we ourselves forgive everyone in debt to us,
and do not subject us to the final test."
And he said to them, "Suppose one of you has a friend
to whom he goes at midnight and says,
'Friend, lend me three loaves of bread,
for a friend of mine has arrived at my house from a journey
and I have nothing to offer him,'
and he says in reply from within,
'Do not bother me; the door has already been locked
and my children and I are already in bed.
I cannot get up to give you anything.'
I tell you,
if he does not get up to give the visitor the loaves
because of their friendship,
he will get up to give him whatever he needs
because of his persistence.
"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.
What father among you would hand his son a snake
when he asks for a fish?
Or hand him a scorpion when he asks for an egg?
If you then, who are wicked,
know how to give good gifts to your children,
how much more will the Father in heaven
give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him?"
Give us each day our daily bread
We get from prayer what we put into it. If we pray daily, Jesus will give us what we need daily. Also, the connection to the Eucharist here is clear. Does this mean we should go to Mass daily? It wouldn’t hurt. There is probably no better way to pray than by praying with the whole Church in the very presence of Jesus and then actually receiving the Daily Bread from heaven, Christ himself. But “daily bread” in the way it is used in the Lord’s Prayer could also mean our daily needs, since bread is the most staple part of our daily diet. Prayer is one of those daily needs. So by simply praying every day we are helping God sustain us. You may think it is impossible to help God with anything, but we can help him help us. Because he respects our free will, he is not going to come to our aid if we don’t ask him to. The central message of Christ’s instructions regarding prayer is to ask God for help. Just ask and he will provide, but if you don’t ask he will not provide. That is why prayer is so important.
Do not subject us to the final test.
Luke’s version of the Our Father is different than the one we usually pray in church. We usually pray, “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” But Luke’s version says “do not subject us to the final test” instead. The essence of the petition is the same: We are asking God to basically protect us from ourselves–our concupiscence or inclination to sin–and give us the grace to choose good over evil. But Luke’s version offers a helpful reminder of that last moment where we will have to choose between good and evil, the memento mori (remember your death) portent. In this way, Luke’s version of the Our Father parallels the Hail Mary, which ends “Pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death.” So when we pray these two prayers together, as we do in the Rosary, we are asking the Father to help us avoid evil, especially at our final test (the moment of our death), and then we are asking Mary to help us in the same way.
Seek and you will find
I’ve always been intrigued by the concept of “the journey” or “the quest” for truth, for God. It’s the subject of some of my favorite books like John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress and Hilaire Belloc’s Path to Rome. I often take road trips and put on my favorite traveling songs as I drive. All of these examples have something in common: the search for something greater than our surroundings. I’ve searched far and wide for that something, hoping for some kind of paradise here on earth. I’ve taken roads while not knowing where they lead, and I’ve gone on trips while knowing exactly where I was going. Having a destination could provide needed motivation when on those long roads, but having no destination could satiate our desire to discover new things.
But Jesus, the truth, is not a destination. It is, and he is, the Way. The truth, and therefore Jesus, is the journey. We experience paradise on earth by embracing that journey. We don’t know what we will find along that Way, so there will always be the intrigue of discovery.
I don’t know if you’ve ever gone down a road and just became really lost with no idea where to go next. It’s not pleasant. On those occasions, I was desperate to find the way back to something familiar, like a road I knew. Jesus, on the path of life, is the road we know. So it behooves us to find our way back to him when we’re lost. We are sojourners in exile here on earth, searching for something we know little about while not knowing where to find it. But Jesus provides the Way. In fact, he is the only way. We may search all the world for different paths, but only one leads to eternal life. And if we seek it we will find it.
Honestly, I never liked that concept. I want to explore different paths. Nothing bothers me more than limitations. Why would God give us so much to explore if he wanted us to just stay on one path? This question required deeper meditation, and caused me to reflect on the natural limitations of my life. For instance, I only have so much time on earth. I need to make the best of it. What if, in my insatiable desire to explore, I miss out on once-in-a-lifetime opportunities? In college, I was tempted to do as much as possible: I wanted to make as many friends as I could, play sports, write for the campus newspaper, join clubs, and work on my degree. My main purpose for being there though was to get my degree. Then I could use that degree to help me go places for the rest of my life. Life on earth is like our schooling years, but only for eternity. Let’s not forget why we are here. The Way, Jesus Christ, is like the courses we have to take to get our degree. If we stray from that course, we miss out on the whole point of life. The point is to get to heaven, where we will be able to infinitely explore and discover for all of eternity.
If you then, who are wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him?"
I love how casually Jesus just calls us wicked. Why do I love it? Because if we are wicked then the world makes sense. If we are good, then why is the world so wicked? Some people may be shocked to hear Jesus use such harsh language to describe what we are, but he is drawing a necessary contrast. People ask, “If God is so good, why does he allow evil things to happen?” as if we, the wicked ones, didn’t factor into the equation at all. To be the ones who act wickedly and then to blame God for the wickedness in the world is a very wicked thing to do. It has come to the point where we even embrace our wickedness, not only condoning sin but celebrating it. We even use the word “wicked” in slang sometimes to mean something that’s cool or awesome. We’ve turned morality upside down. Yes, it is true. We are wicked. This, more than anything, is what helps me make sense of the world, because if we were not wicked then all of the suffering in the world would be arbitrary and random. But suffering entered the world because of our sinfulness. Thank God, because he has a remedy for that. Repentance and God’s forgiveness cleanse us so we can return to our original state.
I want to find you, but so often I look in the wrong places. With your grace, show me how to love you better, how to pray better. Great teacher, I am asking for your guidance and I am confident you will provide it. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Jesus is teaching us how to pray. We listen and obey by giving God praise, contritely asking for forgiveness, and then making our petition. There are many ways to do this. The Lord’s prayer provides the framework. Let’s listen by obeying Jesus’ teaching on prayer in this week’s Gospel.
Kilby is a freelance writer from New Jersey and managing editor of Catholic World Report.