Commentary on the Gospel of
Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Will not God then secure the rights of his chosen ones
who call out to him day and night?
Will he be slow to answer them?
I tell you, he will see to it that justice is done for them speedily.
“Mom, can I have this? I’m starving.”
“What are we having for dinner?”
“When do we eat?”
It’s a nightmare – the checkout aisle in a grocery store with two kids. It’s more than an hour to dinner, stuck behind someone who last shopped six weeks ago. I tune out the non-stop “petitions” for the junk food within easy reach.
Whew! Glad those days are done!!!!
Then I asked myself if this is how God feels about our endless prayers for things that are the spiritual equivalent of junk food. Does he care if Creighton beats Marquette or Xavier?
Today’s gospel from Luke invites us to reflect on how we communicate with God. “I tell you, he will see to it that justice is done for them speedily.”
Jesus invites us to freely and persistently tell God about our needs, often our only form of prayer. But if this is what Jesus wants us to do, why does it seem that our prayers go unanswered? If only praying were like ordering a pizza. You tell God what you want and he delivers it.
Of course, it’s more complicated. I spent 25 years teaching students that “communication” is two-way. You have to listen as well as talk and that’s true of communicating with God. Even a seeming non-response IS a response. It’s often a way of saying I heard you but I’m not doing what you ask and I have my reasons, like a mom turning out requests for chocolate in the grocery store.
Former students who were devastated not getting a job that they had prayed for were often elated when God seemingly sent them something better. Most of us have experienced the failures that led to later success. Today’s gospel suggests that a listening, loving God answers our petitions but not necessarily in the way we seek.
There will always be mysteries about answers to prayers. Why do children die of cancer? Why are there wars or droughts? Why do people suffer despite our bombarding heaven on their behalf?
There may be no good answers in human terms but we need to trust Jesus’ promise that if we ask God for help, he will respond in some way, if only to help us bear our suffering.