Wed, July 20, 202210 mins readFather Hans Buob

17th Sunday

Biblical Homilies on the Sunday Gospels in Reading Year C

Bible passages


Luke 11:1-13

He was praying in a certain place, and when he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray just as John taught his disciples.” He said to them, “When you pray, say: Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread and forgive us our sins for we ourselves forgive everyone in debt to us, and do not subject us to the final test.” And he said to them, “Suppose one of you has a friend to whom he goes at midnight and says, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread, for a friend of mine has arrived at my house from a journey and I have nothing to offer him,’ and he says in reply from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door has already been locked and my children and I are already in bed. I cannot get up to give you anything.’ I tell you, if he does not get up to give him the loaves because of their friendship, he will get up to give him whatever he needs because of his persistence. “And I tell you, ask and you will receive; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. What father among you would hand his son a snake when he asks for a fish? Or hand him a scorpion when he asks for an egg? If you then, who are wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the Father in heaven give the holy Spirit to those who ask him?”

Biblical Homilies


"He was praying in a certain place, and when he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray just as John taught his disciples.’" (cf. Lk 11:1)

In this Gospel, Jesus is presented as a praying man. Here, he teaches us a prayer that we usually know from childhood. In prayer, Jesus receives revelations. The disciples perceive this as a completely new prayer and they want to participate in it. Jesus is again compared with John: the latter also taught his disciples. But Jesus is the unsurpassable teacher. He is the Kyrios, the divine Lord. That is why his disciples ask him, “Lord, teach us to pray.”     

"He said to them, ‘When you pray, say: Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come.’"  (cf. Lk 11:2)

Addressing God as Father is the soul of the whole prayer and actually wants to be included in every petition. In fact, it should be added to every petition: Father, let your name be hallowed. Father, your kingdom come. Father, give us daily the bread we need. Father, forgive us our sins. Father, lead us not into temptation. This word "Father" addresses a God whose innermost being is precisely this being a father and who communicates himself as a father to his son. This address as Father therefore presupposes a revelation of the Father: the disciples must first know who this Father is, so that they can pray in this way. But because he has already explained the Father to them, Jesus can teach them to pray.

In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus always speaks only of his Father, so this prayer is an invitation of Jesus to his followers to share in his own relationship with God (from Son to Father). And these petitions are, after all, like praise. "May your name be hallowed." Here the will of praise already overturns in the beginning and becomes a wish that already knows about the fulfillment, since the Father wants to reveal himself in his kingship. Here, then, petitions are made which are quite certain to be fulfilled, since they correspond entirely to the Father's will.

"Hallowed by your name": In the Old Testament it is proclaimed in advance that the name of God shall be known to all nations. Behind his name, of course, is God himself. The name stands for the person, for the essence of the one who bears it. The name “Yahweh” is the essence of God. The name of God shall no longer be profaned by sin. He is no longer to be blasphemed. All the following wishes and petitions in the "Our Father" actually enable this introductory wish that his name be hallowed. For when his kingdom comes, his name will be sanctified. When the will of God is done, his name will be sanctified. So the other petitions could be summarized as follows: Bring about, Father, a situation in which Your holiness is manifested, in which your kingdom comes, your will of salvation is done, and forgiveness among men becomes possible.

The second petition, "Your kingdom come," is about the coming of the ‘basileia,’ the reign of God. In Greek, this does not necessarily mean a repeated coming, but the actual, unique coming, the last coming of God, this final goal towards which we are all moving: the dawn of this reign of God. This request is about the central concern of Jesus for the here and now: the proclamation of the reign of God, the Kingdom of God. That is why Jesus repeatedly uses comparisons to explain the reign of God, this Kingdom of God (mustard seed, etc....) Thus, Jesus' central concern in proclaiming is also the center of this prayer. "Your kingdom come." Although this is about the coming of the kingdom at the end of time, at the same time this Kingdom of God is already present in us. This petition for the coming of the Kingdom of God is about the central concern for the here and now, because the final, full dawning of the Kingdom of God is the most important thing. We live for this goal. The Kingdom of God, which will one day be fully manifested should already begin here and today in us. It is already present and growing in us and among us, but one who prays in this way longs for the full fulfillment of the request in the reality of the Kingdom of God. And in the Greek it is clearly expressed that it is about a request that does not imply a "maybe", but a certainty. God himself wants the full dawning of his kingdom and will bring it about.

"Give us each day our daily bread" (cf. Lk 11:3)

The three petitions that follow are, in a sense, like an “SOS call”. These prayer requests are the only ones necessary for all who follow Christ and are focused on the kingship of Jesus Christ.

First, there is the request for the bread needed for today. Bread in the Kingdom of God and in the Bible always represents the necessities of life, while wine always represents      abundance. That is why grace is always compared to wine. God does not give just a little. He always gives in abundance. The request for the bread needed for today is very important and we mean not only the daily bread, but everything that we need for spirit, soul, and body today, in order to participate in the coming of the Kingdom of God, that the name of God is sanctified and his will is done.

It is not a matter of stockpiling for a rainy day. We already know this image from the story of the manna in the desert. The manna was always meant for today only, except for the Sabbath - there it was enough for two days. When the Israelites tried to save the manna for the next day, it was rotten the next day. So we are to rely completely on the Lord. It is not about a normal provision in everyday life: going to the store tomorrow morning to get something when the whole family is hungry. That is not what is meant. It is about this fundamental trust in the Lord. This becomes even clearer in the words of Jesus: “Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself. Sufficient for a day is its own evil.” (Mt. 6:34) Some people are always thinking about tomorrow and keep wondering, “What will tomorrow be like? But I always get only the grace needed for today. That is why I have to live in the present. Tomorrow I will get the grace for tomorrow again, and on and on. That is why it is actually an expression of my absolute trust when I ask daily for what I need and live completely in the present. The disciples are on the way with Jesus. They do not have a supply. For them, this petition is very concrete.

"and forgive us our sins for we ourselves forgive everyone in debt to us, and do not subject us to the final test." (cf. Lk 11:4)

In this petition, a clear distinction is first made between God forgiving our sins ("amartias") and us forgiving the debtors what they owe us. This is a big difference. Sin is something that we ourselves cannot make up for, where God Himself must step in. It costs Jesus his life to take away our sin. That is something very different from what people owe us. For that can be repaid, but sin cannot.

The request to God for forgiveness of sins is also accompanied by an affirmation of forgiveness: in the Greek text, one's own forgiveness of what the other owes me is already a fulfilled condition for God's forgiveness. Through this I ask God: as I have forgiven what the other owes me, so forgive me my sins, which I myself can no longer make good. Conversely, when I pray like this, it also means: Lord, I have not forgiven my debtor, so you do not have to forgive my sins. That is actually the content. Here we realize what we are actually praying.

The present tense “now as always and all the days to come” expresses exactly this meaning: My forgiveness must be a permanent state, it is present, past and future. I am always in forgiveness. Therefore, I ask you, God, that you also forgive me. This "panti" (παντι) meaning “I forgive all, everyone without exception” expresses this universally and unexceptionally. This is difficult to render in other languages. I forgive everyone, always, at any time and without exception.

The last request refers to a great danger. It is the request for protection from the fall, i.e. apostasy from the faith. Each of us is tempted at the end of our lives. But the expression “into temptation” is clearly in the singular without the article: “Lead us not into temptation,” not “into the temptation,” or “into temptations,” but “into temptation.” It is about temptation in discipleship. It is, after all, the disciples who follow him who pray in this way. That is why Jesus also says, “Watch and pray that you may not undergo the test.” (Mt 26:41) But temptation in discipleship is apostasy. And today we really live in a time of great apostasy. It is not for nothing Jesus that says: “And if those days had not been shortened, no one would be saved.” (Mt. 24:22) Here we sense how endangered we all are and how earnestly, therefore, we must make this plea: “ Lead us not into temptation. ”Let us not fall away from this faith, from this discipleship.

"And he said to them, ‘Suppose one of you has a friend to whom he goes at midnight and says, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread, for a friend of mine has arrived at my house from a journey and I have nothing to offer him,’ and he says in reply from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door has already been locked and my children and I are already in bed. I cannot get up to give you anything.’ I tell you, if he does not get up to give him the loaves because of their friendship, he will get up to give him whatever he needs because of his persistence." (cf. Lk 11:5-8)

Jesus then tells the parable of the man who has a surprise visitor but has nothing at home to offer the visitor to eat, so he goes to his friend, but he is already asleep. Jesus then asks: is it conceivable that the other will not get up when his friend comes? And even if he would not do it out of friendship, then because of the friend's importunity. But Jesus will do it anyway as a friend - but even more so God! The one who asks, who gets a visitor and goes to his friend, does not want to be lent more than what a generous hospitality simply demands. He wants to give what is necessary to the one who visits him, and that is what he asks for. He only asks for what is necessary and wants to give it back, because he only wants to lend.

The approached friend, however, speaks from the inside, at a distance, so to speak. He does not address him as “friend” either, but actually reacts somewhat gruffly and without much thought. And he refuses the request of the friend consciously (in Greek it really means “consciously”). But if he really acted consciously like that - Jesus speaks only of the possibility - then such an action would be impossible for a true friendship.

The main person in this parable is not the one who asks, who goes to his friend in the night and asks him for bread. The main person is rather the asked person, who is in the house and already sleeping. But this main person ultimately gives everything that the friend needs, perhaps even without the persistent asking and knocking of the other. So this parable is not so much about persistent asking - though sometimes it is seen that way - but above all about the generosity of the giver.

"And I tell you, ask and you will receive; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened." (cf. Lk 11:9-10)

Jesus now applies the parable to the situation of those praying and asking. He invites them to “Seek! Knock!” - namely, to God. This expresses the confidence in the certainty of salvation and the certainty of being heard, and this is also the motivation for knocking and asking: God will give it.

Jesus then gives the absolute assurance: “He who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, it will be opened. ”An absolute assurance that seemingly contradicts all experience. How often do we think: yes, we have been knocking and asking for so long, but God does not hear us. No, God always hears - Jesus says this quite clearly here - but he does not always hear in the way we expect. When I ask God, I expect God, who knows what is best for me, to fulfill this request in such a way that it becomes my salvation. Of course, I can also ask for something that is not for my salvation, but God will not fulfill that, because otherwise he would not be a good God.

When I pray, I must always listen: ‘How does God answer? What comes now?’ in order to really perceive the answer to my request. If something comes differently than I expected, I must not say: God did not hear me. In reality, the answer may have been quite different from what I expected.

It is quite conceivable that God often uses our requests. He often makes us wait because he needs our prayer to save people that no one prays for. On the other hand, if we were heard right away, we would stop praying and asking. But in this way he often makes us ask for a long time in faithfulness and thereby saves many people for whom no one has interceded. We should always keep this in mind.

And this asking is closely connected with the “Our Father”. Because in it we ask for something that will surely come: “Father, let your name be hallowed. Your kingdom come. Your will be done. Give us daily the bread we need. ”We are assured of an answer. Jesus confirms this.

"What father among you would hand his son a snake when he asks for a fish?  Or hand him a scorpion when he asks for an egg? If you then, who are wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the Father in heaven give the holy Spirit to those who ask him?" (cf. Lk 11:11-13)

Just as no father would give his child a snake instead of a fish, or a scorpion instead of an egg, so just as he does not give his child anything dangerous but only good, so too God wants to bring his kingdom as salvation and not as judgment. We may confidently pray for God’s coming. But we address this God in the “Our Father” with “Father” and this Father is pure love. How much more will he hear us.

And since Jesus earned the Holy Spirit for us through his suffering, we should also ask the Father for this Holy Spirit. And this Holy Spirit is essential for us. And we have the promise: he will give him. Jesus says that very clearly. This is the most important thing for our life. We should ask daily for the Holy Spirit because without this Holy Spirit nothing works, neither in our daily life, nor in our spiritual life. The Holy Spirit continues the work of Jesus. We need him in a very special way. And Jesus has given us this wonderful guarantee: If you ask the Father for the Holy Spirit, he will give him to you. So let us not forget to plea for the Holy Spirit.