Asking for the Holy Spirit
Homily for July 24, 2016 Seventeenth Sunday of Ordinary - C
by Dcn. Bob Bonomi
What would you do if you won the lottery? A BIG one – like the 1.6 billion dollar Powerball last January. OK, so that one was split three ways but still, half a billion dollars is a LOT of money, and if you had all that money, what is the first thing that you’d want for yourself? (I mean, after paying off your bills, of course, And giving St. Paul’s ten percent of your winnings – after taxes.) In other words, if money was no object, what’s the ONE thing that you want most of all? A new car? A new house? Some other expensive toy?
But, maybe what you want can’t be bought with any amount of money. Maybe you’re fighting health issues, and you just want them to go away – an end to the suffering or to get healing for an illness that others have said is incurable?
Or maybe what you really want is something that you don’t think you could ever get, or that you even deserve. Maybe it’s just something as simple as having someone to love, or someone to love you?
I really want you to think seriously about this for a moment - if you asked God for ONE thing for yourself today, what would it be?
Now – I want you to ask yourself another question: “WHY”? Why do I want a new car or a new house or for the pain to go away or to live longer – or whatever it is that you want? I’m sure that whatever it is, you have a good reason for wanting it, but since you want it, you obviously don’t have it. So, ask yourself, why do I want this one thing over anything else?
Now, hold onto that thought for a few minutes.
Today’s Gospel from Luke is one that’s often quoted by those who proclaim the “Gospel of Prosperity”. Others passages include:
- Matthew, chapter 7, verse 11: “If you then, who are wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good things to those who ask him” and Matthew, chapter 21, verse 22: “Whatever you ask for in prayer with faith, you will receive.”
- Or, Mark, chapter 11, verse 24: “Therefore I tell you, all that you ask for in prayer, believe that you will receive it and it shall be yours.”
- Or in the Gospel of John, chapter 14, verse 14: “If you ask anything of me in my name, I will do it”; and John, chapter 15, verse 7: “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you.”
According to these scripture passages, if you pray hard enough, you should get what you ask for, right? Maybe not. I didn’t win that big Lottery jackpot in January, and I even bought a ticket and prayed about it. So I guess I didn’t pray hard enough? Or maybe God knew it wouldn't be good for me.
In any case, let’s take a closer look at today’s Gospel reading. It begins with Jesus’ disciples asking him how to pray, and Jesus teaching them a shortened form of the Lord’s Prayer. (The “Our Father that we usually pray comes from Matthew’s Gospel). But look at how today’s Gospel ends: “how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?”
The answer to everything we need or want lies in the precious gift that God wants to give us: the gift of His Holy Spirit – the gift of Himself. And if we look at what Jesus is telling His disciples from that perspective, we see that the other gifts that God offers us through His Holy Spirit are far greater than mere cars or houses or money or even health.
Do you remember the 7 Gifts of the Holy Spirit and the 12 Fruits of the Holy Spirit from your CCD or faith formation classes? I’m embarrassed to say that I have to usually look them up. The 7 gifts are: Knowledge. Understanding. Wisdom. Counsel. Courage. Piety. Awe and Wonder of the Lord. And the 12 fruits are: Peace, Joy, Love, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Generosity, Gentleness, Faithfulness, Modesty, Chastity, and Self-control. These are the Good Gifts that God has in store for us, available to us if we just ask.
Why are these gifts so valuable? Why should we want them instead of wealth, health or power? How do they answer the question of “what’s the one thing I want most?”
Because if you think about the question I asked you earlier, “Why do I want what I want?”, we find that it is because we are lacking in one or more of these Gifts. We want what we want because we don’t have what we need – peace, joy, love, courage, wisdom – and so on. We mistakenly think that more money, or better health, or earthly hookups will satisfy us, and they don’t.
But, God knows what we need, and He wants to give it all to us. Like we hear in the classic Rolling Stone’s song, “You can't always get what you want / But if you try sometimes you might find / You get what you need." If we pray for the Holy Spirit, then we'll get what we need, for all we really need is the Holy Spirit, and with it comes an inner peace and joy which fills our longings and leads to a holiness that bring us closer to God.
One final thought. In order for our prayers to be answered we need to pray with persistence. Persistence in prayer isn’t just us knocking on God’s door with a list of our earthly wants, but it is about helping us come to a better understanding of what we need. And, with that understanding – that wisdom – we also come to recognize that God indeed answers our prayers. We only have to accept those gifts that He offers us so that we can also experience the one Gift we need most: His Love.