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Seventeenth Sunday of Ordinary Time Cycle C (1)


From Fr DeSiano

I was late for dinner so I was happy the #1 train could take me from 28th to 72bd; I didn’t have to wait. I crammed my suitcase into the subway car and proceeded to ignore all the other passengers in good NYC style. No sooner had we left the station when a man entered from the next car and proceeded to size us up. “Ladies and gentlemen, can I have your attention,” he yells out. New Yorkers do not even look at each other, let alone give speeches, in the subway. He proceeded to tell us that his apartment caught fire, his and three other families were homeless. Surely we could help! Then he passes his water glass around with some small changes so we could properly donate. This is a major boundary violation in NY, but a minute later his wife started the same spiel. We were trapped. The next stop a man with portable African drums entered. After banging them a bit, he shouted, “Ladies and gentlemen, show me how much you appreciated my music …”

I later thought how their day went, car by car, train by train, probably for hours, giving the same pitch to people who didn’t want to hear it. Whatever they were, they surely were persistent. And perhaps desperate too.

I’m not sure Jesus would have done the subway bit if he lived today, but he would well have understood desperation. We hear the short form of the Our Father, almost as if Jesus were out if breath. Then he gives us this parable of desperation, the man knocking on the neighbor’s door in the middle of the night so could borrow food. We usually pay attention trained on the man inside, but I think Jesus wants us to think about the one knocking… He wants us to know we are as desperate as that man…we have to keep knocking hard.

“Ask and you will receive, seek and you will find…” But perhaps we have not begun to get even that far, because we haven’t learned how to pray persistently. It’s as if we were Abraham in the first reading, but we give up after one modest request. God wants us to cry out and keep crying out, in prayer to him.

Wait, we ask. Is God hard of hearing? Is he demented? I thought he already knew my prayer. What’s up? God surely knows and hears our prayer, but we don’t pray for his sake but for ours—so we will learn the deepest contours of our own hearts. We so often ask insipidly for insipid things in our prayers; God wants us to ask boldly for the great and essential things we truly need.

Prayer opens a dimension of heaven in our lives. It allows the extraordinary and unexpected to emerge in our lives. In prayer we see and know things not otherwise visible. “Seek, ask, knock.” If we do this in trust, things come into our lives we never imagined, not in the form of magic but in the form of God’s abundant love.

At this Mass our prayer is joined to Christ’s, he who prays without stopping for us. He prays because he knows our needs. He teaches us what and how to pray so we can finally come to know our own true and deepest needs as well.

“Ladies and gentlemen, can I have your attention!” Jesus calls to us in our desperation, waiting until we respond in prayer.