Sunday, July 24, 2016

Looking Ahead

Father Perry D. Leiker, pastor
By Father Perry D. Leiker, pastor 

Quote of the Week: “If you do all the talking when you pray, how will you ever hear God's answers?" — A.W. Tozer

There are two important themes in the readings today: hospitality and prayer.

Hospitality was one of the most important things required of a good Jew and many other cultures of the Middle East.

In an arid and unforgivable climate, an act of hospitality could mean life or death for a traveler. Any time a story included any aspect of hospitality, a Jew would immediately get the point.

The story of Lot included the threat of an act of violent and humiliating inhospitality. Lot, as any Jew, would be expected to protect them at any cost (Genesis 19:8).

This place (Sodom) had turned far away from God. The prophet Ezekiel (Ezekiel 16:48) said of Sodom: “She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy.”

When God decided to destroy Sodom for her many acts of arrogance and pride and inhospitality, Abraham bargained with God. This was another custom of the Jews and people of the Middle East. They did the same with God. They were very much themselves when dealing with God.

Abraham’s dealing gets down to the minimum number 10 (a minion), the number that would be required to have a Jewish burial. For this reason, Abraham bargained (prayed) intensely with God to spare the people of Sodom.

PRAY THIS WAY!

The intensity of the call to be hospitable is accentuated in Luke: A man asks his neighbor to lend him three loaves of bread so he could provide hospitality to a visitor who came to his home at midnight. The time is significant because by this hour a man, his wife, his children, his animals, and everyone and anything needing protection was brought into his small house. Any request at this hour would require waking up and inconveniencing the entire household.

The act of inhospitality (to not feed a tired visitor) was so serious it would make any Jew persistent to the point of obnoxiousness, even disturbing his neighbor at any hour. Any neighbor knew it was better to give in to the request rather than to put up with what would follow.

PRAY THIS WAY!

That is the advice of scripture. What follows is mystery. Does anyone ever get everything they ask for? Is anyone ever disappointed in prayer? Is God there waiting just to satisfy every want we have?

What about when we ask for good things, like the cure of the cancer of a mother with five little children? Is it conceivable that God would not give us the healing we would seek? Why are some prayers seemingly answered and others not?

It is truly mystery. It is also about hearing and seeing God answer in more ways than just for what we ask.

Sickness and death are part of life; they will probably come to us all. But God doesn’t avoid or go around life, he works through it.

Facing life on life’s terms is part of what it means to be human. Healing isn’t the only option. Facing reality, accepting consequences, being bold and courageous, and surrendering, are answers to our prayers.

Our final piece of peace comes with the promise: “How much more will the Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him?”

Father Perry D. Leiker is pastor of St. Bernard Church. Reach him at (323) 255-6142, Ext. 112; email perry.leiker@gmail.com. Follow Father Perry on Twitter: @MrDeano76.

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