Luke 11:1-13, 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time
At Mass, right before we pray the Our Father, the presider encourages us with the words, “At the Savior’s command and formed by divine teaching, we dare to say….” And indeed, the Our Father is a daring prayer. That we dare to address God implies that we dare to believe he listens to us when we call upon him – even if we ourselves do not always listen to him. Then we dare to call him Father – even if many times, we do not act like his children.
Our audacity pushes on. In our Gospel today, Jesus tells us, “Ask and you will receive; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you” (Luke 11:9). So we dare to ask and seek and knock. And when we do not receive what we ask for, we dare to protest, “Why?”
The letter of James responds to our demanding question: “You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly” (James 4:3). So what is the right thing to ask for? What should we dare ask from God? The Our Father teaches us the answer.
First of all, we should dare ask, “Let your kingdom come; let your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” This is a hard – maybe even foolhardy – thing to ask for. What if God’s will is different from ours? What if we disagree with what he has planned? Can we dare give up what we want for what God wants?
Next, we ask, “Give us this day our daily bread” – yet another risky request. Why only our daily bread for the day? Why not “Give us today our bread for the week, the month, or the year” so that we can be more secure? If God gives us today only what is enough for today, then we have to ask him again tomorrow, and the day after, and so on. To dare ask this is to dare trust that God will be with us again not only on Sunday, but on Monday, and Tuesday, and so on. It is to stake our lives on the dependability of God.
“Give us this day our daily bread” is also equivalent to saying “Give us only what we need.” The Our Father then reminds us of what else we need. To live, we need more than nourishment for our bodies; we also need the next petition the Lord’s Prayer puts in our mouths: “Forgive us our sins.”
To ask for forgiveness is to dare to believe in a God who is Mercy. It does not end there. We are dared to add the condition “as we forgive those who have sinned against us.” Is it brashness that volunteers, “If we are not merciful to our brothers and sisters, then do not be merciful to us”? Or is it justice? Do we dare to claim that we are just?
Finally, we dare to ask, “Do not bring us to the test, but deliver us from evil.” It is the same prayer Jesus dared to utter on the Mount of Olives: “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me” (Luke 22:42). Then Jesus dared even more, “Yet, not my will but yours be done.”
We are back where we began – with God’s will. Again, we have to ask ourselves, “Can we dare give up what we want for what God wants?” The danger of the dare becomes more real when we are reminded that God did not take away the cup of suffering from Jesus.
God’s will is not just something we passively undergo but also something we actively pursue. It is something we take up, hoist on our shoulders, and carry. It is something we make our own. And this is yet another daring thing to ask God: That we have the opportunity to cooperate and work with him, that we be able to say, “Let your kingdom and your justice comethrough me, let others feel your forgiveness through me.” To say “Let your will be done” is to dare to offer “Let your will be done through me, the scared me, the scarred me.” This is the battered me and the broken me. Maybe this is why our Gospel today dares us to ask the Father in heaven for the Holy Spirit. So this can also be the blessed me.
But before we start getting lost in me, me, me, our Gospel today gives us a glimpse of another thing we should be seeking and asking for. The man who wakes up his friend in the middle of the night asks for three loaves of bread not for himself but for another friend who has arrived after a long journey.
Our Gospel today promises, “Ask and you will receive.” It does not say you will receive what you asked for – only that you will receive. But we can be certain: God the Father will not give us his children snakes or scorpions. God will give us not only what we need but always what is best for us. Can we dare to believe this?
What do you dare ask from God? What should you dare ask from God?