Knock, knock, knockin' on heaven's door...

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Homily for the 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time
(Scriptures for today's Mass)

Audio for homily

We sang in the psalm:

“Lord, on the day I cried out for help, you answered me…”
Wouldn’t it be great if it worked that way all the time?

How about if we begin by closing our eyes,
just for a few moments,
and asking ourselves a couple questions…

What am I praying for today?

Who am I praying for today?

For what, for whom,
have I been knocking on God’s door, day and night,
and now this morning,
hoping and praying that the Lord will open up
and give me what I ask for
and help me find what I seek?

How long have I been knocking on that door,
praying for the same things, the same people,
seeking and asking for the same gifts?

Perhaps I’ve been praying for weeks or months or years
- or all my life:
seeking the same things,                 
interceding on behalf of the same people,
asking for the same help…

What am I praying for today?

Who am I praying for today? 

(Open your eyes, please…) 

Sometimes people speak to a priest as if he’s God himself.
When that happens to me I always say,
“Whoa - I’m not God!  I’m just the local sales rep.”
Well, this scripture makes it difficult to be the local sales rep.

Jesus seems to promise us everything here:
if we’ll only be persistent, then God will come through for us.
And that’s true.

But the Lord’s public relations department has been clever here
with how the advertising is worded. 

Yes, if I knock, the door will be opened
(but I’m not told what I’ll find on the other side). 

Yes, if I seek, I will definitely find
(but I might find something I didn’t expect or want).

And yes, if I ask, I will receive
(but I’m asking a God who gives --and takes--
in mysterious and often confounding ways).

What I find behind the door God opens,
what I discover when my search is over,
what I receive when my prayer is finally answered
might sometimes seem to be a snake when I asked for a fish
or a scorpion when I was looking for an egg.

In fact, we have to read the fine print here to truly understand
the sweeping promises Jesus makes.

In all our seeking and asking
and knock-knock-knocking on heaven’s door
even if no immediate response comes from God, we can be sure that:

• our prayer brings us always closer to God
because it’s in and through our deepest needs and hurt
that Jesus comes to meet us

• we can be sure that whatever we find when the door finally opens,
Jesus will be there to meet it with us

• we can be sure that
whatever we discover at the end of our searching
Jesus will be there to help us face it

• and we can be sure that
whatever we receive in response to our asking,
Jesus will be there to help us accept it.

We can trust this because what Jesus really promises in this gospel
is not that we’ll always get what we want and pray for
but that God will never abandon us,
will never fail to give us his Spirit
to help us meet and accept whatever comes our way.

On the night before he died, Jesus prayed:
he prayed to be spared the cup of suffering.

He knocked on his Father’s door,
seeking deliverance, asking for relief.

And that door opened: to his arrest, his indictment,
his suffering, his death  – and his rising from the dead.

His prayer was heard and answered,
the door was opened,
but not apart from the Cross.

In the power of the Spirit   
and in the mysterious and confounding ways of God,
Jesus rose to new life.
And that same life will be given to all of us who seek it.
To us a door will open to life                      
that has no suffering, to life that has no end.

In fact, nothing less than that same life is ours, even today,
in the Bread and Cup of the Eucharist.

Here at the altar,
the door to heaven is open to us.

And here we find all that we ultimately seek:
the gift of the presence of God,
the answer to every prayer.


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