17th Sunday Ordinary Time (Fr. Gribowich homily)

Podcast transcript:
Good morning, everyone! It’s good to see you on this very beautiful Sunday morning, and I really hope that all of you continue to enjoy the summer months here, and make sure that we are always mindful that our time in nature is a way for us to, I think, strengthen our prayer life. So, I always try to encourage people on nice days to spend time in nature. And really, today’s readings get us to the heart of what is the purpose of prayer.

You know, we hear Jesus make it very clear in the Gospel today that whatever we ask, we will receive. You know, ask, you shall receive; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be open. I think for many of us, this is a very bold pronouncement that Jesus makes and one that we are somewhat confused by, because typically we fall into two camps or in 2 modes, when it comes to us in our prayer relationship with God the Father. For some of us, we may question what we want to ask God or we may not feel like our intentions are pure enough, or we may feel that we’re being selfish, or we’re fearing that work asking the wrong thing. So we don’t really go to God and ask him what we want because we just don’t think that maybe were worthy of that request, for whatever reason.

And then the other mode would be us asking God things – good things – say someone sick, say you’re sick yourself and praying for healing and strength and then you don’t receive it, you don’t receive the answer to the prayer that you want, and leads to frustration. These two things happen, I think that a lot of us in our relationship with God where we feel intimidated to ask and then we get frustrated when we ask we don’t receive. But Jesus says to us everyone who asks will receive. Don’t be afraid to ask: in fact, be persistent in asking: keep on asking.

Jesus gives us the example today of this man who needs loaves of bread – to serve his guests – and he’s banging on his neighbor’s door. Jesus says, you know, if the guy’s just not a not nice guy, at least the guy’s going to get annoyed with you banging on the door and come down. So there’s this understanding that God wants persistence. And we see that person in the famous story in the first gospel – in the first reading, ith Abraham petitioning and questioning God, like would you be merciful to the city and not destroy it if there’s only 10 people there.

I think that when it comes to our prayer life and why we may feel like we shouldn’t ask certain things or get frustrated when we don’t get what we asked, is that in both of those situations, we don’t fully understand who the Father is. We don’t understand who God the Father is. If we really believe that God the Father is the essence of love, that nothing could possibly exist without God the Father’s Love, then our way of approaching God the Father in prayer would probably be very different than us always feeling that it’s up to us to push God’s hand to do something.

Who is God? God is infinite, first off, and that is such a massive word or massive concept that there’s really nothing we can understand in this timely-space world that we are in, to understand the magnitude of infinity. Maybe the only thing that can kind of get us there is just thinking about, you know, numbers and the number line, right? It never ends, right? You keep on adding one, and it keeps on going on, forever. There will never be a time where you exhaust the number line; and it works both ways, right? Negative 1, negative 2, blah, blah, blah, and keep on going backwards. That might be the only way for us to somewhat grasp the magnitude of infinity. Time-space are irrelevant to God. God is present to all time, to all space. He doesn’t know what’s going to happen: it’s actually Him who allows everything to happen. Even horrible things: sin, suffering, but that doesn’t even escape how God acts.

Of course does God will these things? Does he want them to happen? No, but clearly God allows everything to happen, because nothing could possibly exist without God’s love in the mix – nothing. A lot of times, maybe when we’re growing up, we think that the world’s just really caught between this really good God figure, and then this really bad Devil figure, right, and we kind of think that they’re both like on equal playing ground. They’re kind of battling it out.

But it isn’t an equal playing, because the Devil, even, is a creature that God created. The Devil is even subject to God. In fact, the Devil can’t even operate unless he does a perversion of God’s creation, meaning that something that is good, the Devil needs to use, in order to make it not good.

Now, when we get to this place of understanding that God has everything under his watchful eye, then we think about our own lives. And we have to ask ourselves the question, did any of us decide to be born? No. None of us make that decision. Did any of us decide to live currently right now, in this time of history, in 2019? No. Do any of us decide when it is we are actually going to die? No.

But you can get even more particular. Do any of us even decide what’s going to happen once we go out these doors today? Yeah, we may have an agenda of what we want to get accomplished today, but there’s no guarantee that that would happen, because there would be other things that may happen that cause us to have to respond differently.

So, in a real sense, we’re not in control of anything! We weren’t in control of our birth, not in control of our death, and really not in control of our life either. And sure, granted, we can do lots of things to create good habits, to be disciplined, to be mindful of how we have to strengthen ourselves – and prayer is definitely a discipline in of itself – but what is it a discipline for? Not necessarily to show to God that we’re paying attention to Him. Not to show to God that we want to bargain with Him. And definitely not to get God to do something that He wasn’t going to do. Because infinity – timelessness – means that God is impossible to change His mind.

We can understand God changing his mind, maybe on our end, but God is changeless. It’s the essence of who God is, because what is God constantly?Love, infinite Love. Yet, how are we who are finite, meaning in time, in space, subject to time – how are we able to possibly grasp infinite love? There’s only one way and that is building on our desire – our desire for God is what opens up our heart to receive the infinite love of God. And desire can only happen if we are constantly persisting in praying and speaking to God. Because it widens are the fullness of our person; it widens our heart to receive God’s love; it widens are mine to be open to maybe that are specific prayer is maybe not the way we should be thinking about something.

The more we are desiring God, is expanding ourselves to fit, if you will, infinity into ourselves. And we realize it that’s ultimately how we are designed. The longings of our hearts are far greater than instant gratification. Sure, we may think that it’s nice to be able to watch movies on demand or just yell out to our phone to listen to a certain song at that moment, or just order something so quickly and it arrives in the mail the next day – sure all that stuff is convenient, but we do realize that the more we’re used to that type of instancy, everything becomes not really that exciting anymore. Everything just becomes too common, and everything becomes too much of being expendable – throw away-able – and our lives start just getting cluttered with stuff that we grabbed at the very moment we can.

Yet, when were desiring, longing for something how much greater is it when we receive the gift, because in a certain sense the gift can even as far exceed what it is that we were even thinking the gift was in the first place. And this isn’t just you know waiting all through December for your Christmas gift on December 25th, because even that can be thrown away ,but the anticipation of being able to receive life.

Perhaps the best way to understand this is not seeing your spouse or a loved one for a very long time and the distance between the two is what law makes the longing and desire grow stronger. And the meeting of two people after a long time away is far richer, and you realize that were made for this type of communion.

Recently, I heard a story of a woman who is suffering with terminal cancer and it was very clear that she had a very short time to live. And of course, many people start to pray for her – praying for a miracle – and she even herself was tempted to pray that her health may be restored, that somehow the cancer will be cured and there were lots of people praying for this intention.

Yet, she realized that she did not have to pray for health. She did not have to pray to be healed from the cancer. There’s only one prayer that she had to pray: she had to pray for life. For life. And praying for life is different than praying for good health. Praying for life is different than just praying that you have all your material needs next – insecurities. Praying for life is meaning that you are so open to God’s love that you are fully confident that it is His love that will give you the ability to do anything in the present moments.

And that’s exactly what the Lord says when He says to us: if we who are so limited – :wicked”, as Jesus says – if we who don’t have pure intentions can still do good things for other people, despite our failures, He says how much more will the Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him. Because the essence of infinite love is the movement of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

If we wonder what the Holy Spirit is, we say in the Creed every Sunday: the Lord, the Giver of Life. The Holy Spirit is what allows us to bear anything, any challenges, and despite the limitations in the sufferings that we have to face, we can still have life despite those sufferings and limitations. In fact, this woman end up living a lot longer than was expected and she lived life to the full to the ends. That is being a person of persistence in prayer. That is being a person who treasures desire for infinite love. That is a person who welcomes the Holy Spirit, the Giver of Life, to continue to give life despite the limitations of time-space and the body itself.

So today, at this Mass, once again we have the opportunity to receive the Bread of Life – nourishment for the journey, but more importantly, the fullness of the infinite love of God that comes into our very body to dwell. May we pray everyday to open up ourselves far, far greater to receive the Infinity, the Infinity of God’s love in the Eucharist.

May God bless you all.