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Homily for 17th Sunday Ordinary Time, Yr C, 2022

This week’s readings are a little overwhelming. Probably says more about my prayer the other weeks, but this week, there just seem to be so many questions. How does our first reading link in with the communion of saints, and prayer at funerals? How does God’s command to ask God persistently work with last week’s command to listen? But we can’t do everything right now, so perhaps we should focus on the Lord’s prayer that we find in our gospel.

Again, there is no end to what one could say about this. We are literally dealing with God teaching us to talk to God. This is about as high as it gets. But perhaps one helpful perspective on this prayer is to see its dynamism. How Christ in giving us this prayer is again giving us himself. Perhaps it is useful for us to remember how it lays out the Incarnation for us. The life of the prayer flowing from the top-down: God filling up creation, and us pleading with God to do so. What do we mean by this?

Let’s just look at that first line: Father, may your name be held holy. What’s going on here? Well, in fact everything. Everything, the whole mystery of creation is found in these words. And the rest of prayer fills out the picture.

One of the big religious mysteries is: why is there something rather than nothing? What’s the point? Since God is perfect, God does not need creation. So, why create? The only reason that makes any sense is that God wants to share the divine life. In unfathomable generosity, God creates in order to give life and so share life. God wants to share God’s glory.

This is the point of creation. The universe is supposed to make God known. The universe is supposed to come to know God. The universe is supposed to share in the life of God. And how is God made known? Through God’s name. The point of creation then is to become part of God’s name. A name which reveals God’s Glory. A name which incorporates creation. And a name which elevates creation into the life of God.

And so for that to occur, creation through us, through humanity, creation must hold as holy the name of God. This is the only way we can come to know God. This is the only way our destiny can be fulfilled. God’s name must be revealed. In being revealed, must be known. And must accomplish its work in creation.

God’s name therefore is how God draws close to creation, and creation is designed to be filled up by God’s word. Creation is designed to be fertilized by God’s word. Creation is designed to be the house in which God dwells. Creation is designed to be the body whose life is God.

We see all of this in the first creation story of Genesis. The first three days are God ordering the universe, establishing a hierarchy in creation. God establishes the structure of the cosmos. The next three days God populates creation, introduces life. Order and life: these two must always go together. They are inseparably part of God’s creative Word. We see this in the Eucharist: Body and blood of Christ. We see it also in the First Eucharistic prayer. The first list of saints sets out the hierarchy of the church; the second lists martyrs whose blood is the life of church.

The seventh day God rests, but this rest is not that of sleep. It is the king sitting on his throne. It the Lord taking possession of his empire. This is the incarnation. This is God hallowing his name. This is God fulfilling humanity and creation’s mission to be part of the name of God. This is God redeeming us and so inviting us to once again be part of God’s name, for the sake of the universe.

And so we pray: your kingdom come. And so we pray: fill us up with your word. Make us your temple. Give us that bread of life that we too might be caught up in God’s word. We too might come to life in God.

But we know that if our prayer comes true, if God does make his home in us, if God’s Holy Spirit truly does move through us, then God’s action will spill out into our lives. We too must be transformed. If God is to work in us, if God is to redeem us, if God is to forgive us, then that redemption and that forgiveness must flow through us like a flood. We cannot block God’s mercy. It must extend through us to our neighbours.

And finally we know that this work of creation, this work of redemption, this filling up of the cosmos must be God’s work and God’s work alone. We cannot do this. We are too weak. We need God to do this in us and through us. And so we pray not to be put to the test. Because if God tests us and does not help us, we will surely fail, as we have every time we have gone alone and ignored God.

And so we can see in the Lord’s prayer, this phenomenal vision for creation, the vision that is to be found on every page of the Bible. The vision which is Christ and is Christ’s vision. This is the destiny of the whole world. This is the only reason why any one of us exists. This is the only reason why anything exists at all. Therefore this alone can be our prayer. Father, may your name be held holy.


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