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Select Homily
July, 28 2019

17th Week in Ordinary Time (C)

Rev P. Del Staigers, DMin.

We find great comfort in the often-repeated words of Jesus, “Ask and you will receive, seek and you will find.”  There is something quite consoling in the notion that God cares enough about us to invite us to ask and seek.  And our faith tells us that this offer of intimacy is more than merely a passing notion, this offer is our belief that God could not do anything other than want us to turn to Him.  Knocking and opening a door is at the heart of God’s nature.  That is comforting! 

What we may not find so consoling are the questions that follow. “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?”  Snakes, fish, scorpions and eggs are not images that we typically associate with comfort and consolation.  But the parallels were significant to the people of Jesus’ day.  Snakes and scorpions had everything to do with peoples’ associations of fear and death, while fish and eggs made clear references to nurturance and life. 

We like predictability and security, we might even say that we have a right to expect it.  (That point may be debatable).  So for Jesus to say that the help of the Holy Spirit is promised to those who ask is no small promise.  The promise of the Spirit is comfort for those of us who desire predictability and security, which is probably most of us.

Maybe you’ve seen the commercial on television in which two little girls are asked by a man if they would like a pony.  The first girl responds in the affirmative and receives a small, toy pony.  The second girl also responds that she would like a pony.  The man clicks his tongue to the roof of his mouth and a live pony is presented to a very happy little girl.  Looking very disappointed and in a state of disbelief, the girl who received the lifeless, plastic toy pony explains her disappointment because she wasn’t told there was a live pony.  The man bluntly responds, “You didn’t ask.” 

When we see this commercial there is something that cries out in us, “Fowl,” or “That’s not fair.”  We see the injustice of not being told in advance what the rules of the game are.  And, to be sure, there is plenty in each of our lives that can be labeled “unfair.” 

The promise of Jesus, our faith in his promise that we can always turn to Him, is the justice that the world can not give, but Christ can and does.  Too good to believe?  Try asking and see how your life changes! 

The promise of good gifts is one to be taken seriously, especially when it comes to God’s mercy.  In yet another series of questions Abraham tries to find the lowest common denominator for God’s threshold of compassion.  Abraham has perceived that God is going to do a serious investigation about Sodom and Gommorah.  Abraham wants to make sure that the innocent will not be harmed if God finds things as bad as reported.  Abraham has probably figured out that the cities are moral cesspools and would like to limit collateral damage.  No matter how bad a place is, Abraham presumably reasons, there are always good people in the mix. 

What is God’s line in the sand?  50 people?  45 people?  40?  20?  10 people?  Abraham must have been surprised at God’s response, "For the sake of those ten, I will not destroy it."  What we do not read in our passage today is the next verse in which God goes his way and Abraham goes his way.  Enough is enough.  God is finished.  Mercy is mercy. 

You and I can get easily frustrated with trying to put perimeters on God’s mercy.  When we see injustice we have an obligation to cry out, “Fowl,” or “That’s not fair.”  We also have an obligation to open our hearts to the mystery of God’s mercy, often beyond our comprehension.  Sometimes we confuse a response of retaliation with what we think is a response of God’s justice. 

Asking, seeking and finding are all invitations to encounter the God of justice, whose love is rooted in mercy, in ways beyond our imagining.  That’s fair!

 

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