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Thursday, 21 July 2022 12:14

The hospitality of God

Once Jesus was in a certain place praying, and when he had finished, one of his disciples said, ‘Lord teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.’ He said to them, ‘Say this when you pray:

“Father, may your name be held holy,
your kingdom come;
give us each day our daily bread,
and forgive us our sins, for we ourselves
forgive each one who is in debt to us.
And do not put us to the test.”

He also said to them, ‘Suppose one of you has a friend and goes to him in the middle of the night to say, “My friend, lend me three loaves, because a friend of mine on his travels has just arrived at my house and I have nothing to offer him”; and the man answers from inside the house, “Do not bother me. The door is bolted now, and my children and I are in bed; I cannot get up to give it to you.” I tell you, if the man does not get up and give it to him for friendship’s sake, persistence will be enough to make him get up and give his friend all he wants.

So I say to you: Ask, and it will be given to you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened to you. For the one who asks always receives; the one who searches always finds; the one who knocks will always have the door opened to him. What father among you would hand his son a stone when he asked for bread. Or hand him a snake instead of a fish? Or hand him a scorpion if he asked for an egg? If you then, who are evil, know how to give your children what is good, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!’ (Luke 11:1-13)

Reflection - The hospitality of God

Many people struggle with a name for God. For some, ‘Father’ is fine. For others, the image of God as Father evokes traumatic memories of their childhood experience of pain, suffering, neglect and even abuse.

Alternatively, some prefer terms like, ‘Creator’, ‘Redeemer’, and ‘Sanctifier’. But these terms describe functions, not persons, and they seem to lack the warmth and intimacy that we intuitively feel marks our relationship with God.

In today’s Gospel, one of the disciples, having seen Jesus at prayer, asks him to teach them. The prayer that Jesus teaches them is probably very close what he, himself, prayed.

The prayer has none of the formality of those used in Temple and Synagogue worship. Instead, it begins with a more informal, warm and intimate addressing of God as ‘Abba’ - not as formal as ‘Father’ and not as childish as ‘Daddy’, but somewhere in between.

However we choose to name God, the term we use needs to have the same sense as ‘Abba’ had for Jesus. The disciples also live in the same warm and intimate relationship which God and Jesus share. And it is out of this relationship as members of God’s household that Jesus teaches them to pray.

The focus of the prayer is initially on God alone (‘may your name be held holy’), then moves to what the world needs (‘your kingdom come’), then to what the disciples need (sustenance, forgiveness and rescue from trial, persecution and temptation).

A community which prays this prayer recognises its privileged closeness to God. But it also recognises that the hospitality of God calls the whole human race into this same closeness experienced as the coming of the Kingdom.

The shamelessly persistent knocking on a friend’s door is an encouragement not to be afraid to continually ask God for what we need to live as members of the kingdom. God will not fail to share God’s life and love through the gift of the Holy Spirit.

If human beings, as flawed as we are, know how to give good things to our children, then how much more will the loving and gracious God give the gift of the Holy Spirit to those who ask? The Holy Spirit who is the bond of love between God, Jesus and us - the Holy Spirit who helps us sense and experience that we are deeply enfolded in God’s love, care and concern.

Download & read our Celebrating At Home prayers, reading and reflection for this Sunday:

Celebrating At Home 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time [PDF]
Celebrating At Home 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time [ePub]