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Bible Reflections View Comments

With the Lord, It Never Hurts to Ask
By Diane M. Houdek
Source: Bringing Home the Word
Published: Sunday, July 28, 2013
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If we’re living in suburban America, we probably don’t have any everyday experience of the haggling that was commonplace in the bazaars of the ancient world—and still goes on in many places around the world. Providers and consumers work together to set a fair price—or a fantastic deal for one of the two participants. These transactions are governed by unspoken rules and each one knows that the other is acting on self-interest. It becomes as much a game as an economic transaction.

In today’s first reading, we might be shocked to discover Abraham bargaining with God to save Sodom and Gomorrah for the sake of ten worthy men. Like any good merchant, he starts high and works his way down. But we quickly realize that God was less interested in haggling over a specific number than in helping Abraham to realize that while divine mercy and compassion are infinite, there comes a point when even God says no, however regretfully. Abraham finally comes to terms with the fact that he can’t save a city whose inhabitants have no desire to be saved.

Abraham’s story provides a good example of the persistence that Jesus talks about in his Gospel story of the man who wakes his neighbor asking for bread to feed a visitor. Sometimes we can turn a no into a yes if we just keep asking. We’ve all heard the saying, “The squeaky wheel gets the grease.” Suffering in silence might show fortitude and forbearance, but it’s not likely to change the situation, at least not in the short term.

The entire Gospel passage finds several ways to say the same thing: God wants what’s best for us. The problem is that sometimes we don’t know what’s best for us. And sometimes we don’t know what we truly want. We waste time and energy asking for the wrong thing. Other times we don’t realize that we are indeed on the right track and we give up too soon. Fearing disappointment, we ask once and then abandon our desire. Most of the time, we simply don’t ask. And in the process, we lose sight of how much we’ve been given without asking. We feel cheated, but in truth we never asked.

Our gracious and abundant God thinks nothing of telling us, “Ask and you shall receive.” But because this is not usually our experience with other people, we’re afraid to ask. Instead we become fiercely independent, determined to go it alone. Maybe once too often our hopes were disappointed, our trust was abused, we were in fact handed a stone instead of the loaf of bread we needed. Asking isn’t always easy.

Jesus gives his followers a simple prayer to teach them how to ask for what they need. And not surprisingly, it begins with a reminder that God is greater than anyone we’ve ever known. The central petition in the Lord’s Prayer is, “Give us this day our daily bread.” This is at the heart of our learning to ask. Life is lived day by day. If we get what we need today, we aren’t as likely to fear tomorrow.

Psychologists tell us that our basic needs must be satisfied before we can trust in more complex matters. Each time we ask and receive, we’re able to ask for a bit more. Someone once defined economic justice as the ability not only to survive but to thrive a little. It’s that state of thriving that Jesus wants to help us reach.


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Maria Goretti: One of the largest crowds ever assembled for a canonization—250,000—symbolized the reaction of millions touched by the simple story of Maria Goretti. 
<p>She was the daughter of a poor Italian tenant farmer, had no chance to go to school, never learned to read or write. When she made her First Communion not long before her death at age 12, she was one of the larger and somewhat backward members of the class. </p><p>On a hot afternoon in July, Maria was sitting at the top of the stairs of her house, mending a shirt. She was not quite 12 years old, but physically mature. A cart stopped outside, and a neighbor, Alessandro, 18 years old, ran up the stairs. He seized her and pulled her into a bedroom. She struggled and tried to call for help. “No, God does not wish it," she cried out. "It is a sin. You would go to hell for it.” Alessandro began striking at her blindly with a long dagger. </p><p>She was taken to a hospital. Her last hours were marked by the usual simple compassion of the good—concern about where her mother would sleep, forgiveness of her murderer (she had been in fear of him, but did not say anything lest she cause trouble to his family) and her devout welcoming of Viaticum, her last Holy Communion. She died about 24 hours after the attack. </p><p>Her murderer was sentenced to 30 years in prison. For a long time he was unrepentant and surly. One night he had a dream or vision of Maria, gathering flowers and offering them to him. His life changed. When he was released after 27 years, his first act was to go to beg the forgiveness of Maria’s mother. </p><p>Devotion to the young martyr grew, miracles were worked, and in less than half a century she was canonized. At her beatification in 1947, her mother (then 82), two sisters and a brother appeared with Pope Pius XII on the balcony of St. Peter’s. Three years later, at her canonization, a 66-year-old Alessandro Serenelli knelt among the quarter-million people and cried tears of joy.</p> American Catholic Blog Lord, may the medals we wear be constant reminders of the lives they depict. While wearing them, may we be blessed through the saints’ intercession and protected from harm. Help us to continue to spread the messages of Jesus and Mary and the saints and angels.

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