Reflection 28th July 2019

A Reflection for the Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Lk: 11: 1-13 (

Years ago, I was in Burundi in southern Africa – doing some conflict-resolution work in a seminary at a place called Gitega. I was accepted by the students who were from the Hutu and Tutsi sides as they knew that I came from the border area of Ireland – Co. Monaghan to be precise – where the conflict in Northern Ireland touched us.

Most of the students in the seminary had lost family members during the years of conflict between the Hutu and Tutsi. One day I put this question to them: Was it possible to love one’s enemies? There was a general silence until one young man spoke up, saying “Father, here it is not possible to love one’s enemies”.  I said “but Jesus calls us to love our enemies”.  Another student then said that Jesus was naive.

I said that whether naiveor not – as trainee priests – we would be expected to try our best to follow the teachings of Jesus. But I didn’t push the issue because I knew that there were times in our lives when the teachings of Jesus and actually following Jesus could be extremely difficult.

That is why it is important to have the Trinitarian understanding of who God is in our lives. When Jesus’ teachings are difficult to follow, then we can turn to God as Father to help us in whatever difficulties we are facing.

In today’s Gospel the disciples ask Jesus to teach them to pray, and Jesus teaches them the Our Father. He didn’t say “I am your Lord, and everything should revolve around me”. Rather, He taught us that God is a loving, compassionate father to whom we can turn at every moment in our lives. I am especially thinking of people who are divorced and may be in second marriages, or people whose sexual orientation may not be in line with official Church teaching on the issue. Sometimes it may be hard to reconcile our life situation with what are regarded as Gospel teachings, and people may feel inclined to leave the Church because they can no longer feel at ease with their situation and the official Church teaching on it. But this is precisely where we as Catholic Christians should come to the forefront with our understanding of God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. God is an all-rounder who can deal compassionately with any situation in which we may find ourselves.

Having a Trinitarian understanding of God allows us to pray to God our Father at all times and allows the Spirit in our lives to help us to keep knocking, searching for the way to connect or re-connect to Jesus.

Life is never straight-forward, and Jesus tells us never to give up but to constantly seek and ask in the knowledge that the Father through the Spirit will lead us to peace of mind and contentment.

God – as Father, Son and Holy Spirit – is ever on our side.

John Skinnader C.S.Sp. – Fr. John was ordained in 1981. Having already ‘prefected’ in Sierra Leone, he was in pastoral ministry in the west African country for most of the 1980s. He also served in Rome, Ireland and Ethiopia before moving to South Sudan in 2012.