Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Genesis 18:20-32 Colossians 2:12-14 Luke 11:1-13
In the first reading from Genesis, we hear one of the most protracted deal-making scenes between a human and God in all of the Bible. It was this sort of courageous standing toe-to-toe with the Almighty that helped earn Abraham the reputation of being a fearlessly faithful man, one who lived his end of the covenant and, in deep, trusting faith, would call upon the Lord to live up to the other end. Other ancient religions had accounts of mortals bartering with the divine, but for a mere man to whittle down the divinity’s requirements, to stay the wrathful hand of the heavens for the sake of a handful of the innocent, was new and remarkable. Abraham began the trajectory that would find a pinnacle in Christ on the cross, where his own “faith in the power of God” (Colossians 2:12) would lead him not to care how many innocent there were, but to offer himself as a sacrifice so that all might be forgiven their transgressions and allowed to live in life eternal.
In teaching his disciples how to pray, Jesus gives them the benefit of the doubt: “Forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone in debt to us” (Luke 11:4). It is not too difficult to imagine Jesus looking around at his followers rather pointedly as he says this, eyebrows arched, perhaps emphasizing the word “everyone” as he spoke. This, when truly prayed, is a scary invitation or challenge to God: forgive us in the same way and to the same degree that we forgive others. Perhaps we count on the Almighty to live up to the forgiveness end of the bargain even when we fail to; therefore, we don’t really seem to believe that God can reserve the right to say “OK” to this invitation at any time, and make us bear the consequences. A good barometer of whether or not we’re truly sincere in our invitation might be whether or not we break out in a cold sweat when we pray it. Can we always count on God to be merciful and forgiving? Yes. Can we always count on God to honor every agreement God enters into? Again, yes.