On the one hand, we are told that God has a plan. Often when tragedy strikes and we wonder at how this or that thing has befallen us, others are quick to point out “God works in mysterious ways” and the platitude that “we can’t know the full plan of God”.
This all leads to the conclusion that on the one hand it’s all ordained. Life is nothing more than our living out what has already been decided. Taken to its logical conclusion, we don’t have to feel responsible for anything we do, for “it’s all part of God’s plan”.
Yet we are told that we have free will.
And the two seem in utter conflict. Either we decide our own fate on a daily basis or we don’t. God announces his intent, and Abraham begins to dicker with God. By the end of his discourse, Abraham has whittled down those to save Sodom to ten. In the end there are only four. God has changed his mind.
These are amazing things in and of themselves. This God of ours doesn’t know everything! He can be reasoned with! He can be led to change his mind!
What kind of God is this?
It’s hard to know. We are not asked to dwell on those questions of course. We are rather to dwell on how wonderful it is that we have a God that we can talk to and we can “make our case to”. We have a God who responds to calls for justice, and if our cause is just, and if we make it fairly and honestly, we will be heard! Our God is not arbitrary nor capricious.
In the Gospel reading, we are told exactly how to go about that. Jesus gives us the Our Father prayer, the one perfect introduction to discourse with God. Not only that, we are told that far from being wrong, persistence is favored by God. As we read of Abraham’s continuing to push at God over Sodom, we winced, silently saying, “oh goodness Abraham, stop now. Don’t make God mad! It’s enough that you got him to twenty! Don’t push your luck!”
Yet Jesus tells us that God doesn’t get angry at our persistence, quite the contrary. He is impressed perhaps by our willingness to not give up. Will he repay our persistence with with a scorpion? No Jesus insists. The squeaky wheel gets the grease it calls out for.
By our persistence we show to God our commitment. And by our commitment, we show our sincerity. We aren’t just giving our weekly laundry list of desires. We mean it! Needless to say, this is not always enough. If our desires are still frivolous we may find an unhearing ear in God. Wish for a million dollars because you want to be rich, and I’m thinking you won’t get a very positive reception. Saint Monica, it is said, prayed for years for the conversion of her son Saint Augustine. Saint Augustine, by his own admissions, was not a poster child of piety. Yet, he became one of the churches most revered doctors. He speaks to many exactly because of his personal story of what God can do to change one’s life. He is proof of the efficacy of prayer.
It has always been the case that humans have struggled with “fate” versus human control. We have established elaborate priesthoods, investing these people with special abilities to talk to God on our behalf. Jesus brings this down to each of us, and says, no, you too, by your humble asking will be heard and answered. If you are sincere and persistent, God will hear you. He will answer you. If you think that you are not Abraham and will be ignored, you are simply wrong. God doesn’t define worthiness in that way. Humans do.
The door is only closed because we have failed to realize that God waits with even greater patience than we can ever exhibit in our waiting. He will wait infinitely for us to knock. Will you wait another moment?
- God Listens (marypenich.wordpress.com)
- Talking with God (sermon 7/28/13) (enarcheblog.wordpress.com)
- VATICAN – Pope: we must pray with courage, persistence, become “tiring”: praying is also “negotiating with the Lord” (asianews.it)
- We Are Called to Atheism by Abraham and Jesus! (Sunday Homily) (mikerivageseul.wordpress.com)