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To Whom Do We Belong?

Updated: Dec 12, 2023


"What's in a name?" We've all probably heard that phrase used many times. Or maybe we've heard, "Who's your family?" In other words, where do you come from and to whom do you belong?

If I refer to my Cape Breton roots, in Glace Bay, a person might say that there from Steele's Hill, Number six, the Hub or Sterling. In Sydney, they might say they are from Ashby, the North End or in my case, Whitney Pier. In the winter we may say, the Causeway is closed because of the blowing snow. Some people, even non-Cape Bretoners would know that we are talking about the Canso Causeway, the bridge that links the rest of the Canada to us.

Folks not from our island may find our references strange and somewhat confusing, especially if they are looking for directions. But Cape Bretoners know exactly what they mean. At face value these references seem like mere regional expressions, but deep down they're more than that.

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In reality, people are claiming a place in a particular group, an extended

family. It's a way to explain in part who they are. It's the same no matter what part of the country you're from. There are ways of claiming how you belong. But what does talking about being part of a particular family have to do with today's Gospel?


If we take the Gospel of Saint Luke 11: 1-13 literally it would seem not much. If we do that, we'll be tempted to say that this Gospel gives us two things. It gives us the exact words of the Lord's Prayer to say, and then it tells us that all we have to do is pray hard enough and long enough and we can get God to give us what we want.


Reading those few verses of this Gospel literally can lead to real frustration and heartbreak when we come up against hard things in this life. "I asked, but I didn't receive what I wanted. I knocked but that door wasn't opened ." But we have to realise that this reading isn't a "how-to" instruction . It's not intended to give us a recipe of sayings that we can call on when we want or need something. These few verses are simply part of a whole picture given to by Saint Luke. It tells us something very important about what it means to be a part of God's family, to be the People of God.


Remember the last two Sunday Gospels? First, we heard the Parable of the Good Samaritan. This Parable reminds us that it is through our actions, our works, and the way we treat others, that proves we understand we're living in the kingdom of God. We do things in a certain way because we understand the lessons Jesus taught us about how His followers should act. Then last week we heard again the story of Martha and Mary. Jesus was not putting one sister above the other. He was reminding us that we must hold up our prayers with action and vice versa. We must also constantly renew and strengthen ourselves to do God's will by listening to His word and sharing our faith together in prayer.


In today's Gospel, Jesus is continuing His teaching on what it means to be his

disciples. These disciples have heard Jesus teach others; they may have even heard Him speak to Martha and Mary. Now they want Jesus to teach them to pray. Here's where things get interesting. Our English translation says, "When you pray, say...." But remember that this reading is a translation of the original Greek text. If we go back to it, we find that this verse could be translated, "When you pray, you are saying...." Jesus was reminding His listeners that they already knew how to pray; they'd been doing it all their lives. He was simply making them conscious again of a prayer that perhaps had become too familiar. He showed them how prayer ought to effect them in there daily lives'.


We mustn't make the mistake of turning the story of the neighbour and the bread into an allegory. We can't make God the neighbour and us the person who needs some food in the middle of the night. That's not the point of the story. The point is that, if we are members of God's family, we're bound to act in a certain way. The Gospel says, "Ask and it will be given to you. ' Ask whom? "Seek, and you will find." Seek where? "Knock and it will be opened." Knock where? Too often we say blithely, God is the answer, and then we try to set things up as a me-and-Jesus vertical line.

By actively participating in the Family of God we become free to open our hearts and our doors to each other, giving and receiving the same kind of love that Jesus modelled for us. If we say that this is really who we are and we act upon it, then we are working out what the Gospel means for all of us as the 'People of God'.


Saint Luke's Gospel is reminding us that yes, this is how we pray. However, we need to remember that even though God is the Holy One and that He indeed provides for us, we also have a role to play in this relationship. The Lord's Prayer is a call to action because it is our responsibility to reach out to others and mirror God to them. We need to forgive and be forgiven, and remember that, however good we are, we all fall short as human beings. We are still sinners, all of us. But thankfully God forgives us. And if God forgives us, then shouldn't we forgive each other?


If we look deeply into our Gospel today we might see ourselves. We may see our-self as a Samaritan and sometimes as a kind of Martha or a kind of Mary, even sometimes as a Priest or a Levite. But more importantly we should see that we're a Community of Faith. We are people of prayer living in God's Kingdom.


The Kingdom, as Jesus constantly taught, is here and now. Through our baptism, we've promised to live a different life - a type of life God would live, the kind of life God did live through Jesus. It is a life that looks to God through praying together, reading the scriptures and in the sharing of the Eucharist. It is in this way, we can begin to understand the meaning of family and answer the questions, "where do we come from and to whom do we belong?"


For Morning Prayer on the Eight Sunday after Pentecost

Published on July 29th, 2001 {Revised on May 11th, 2023}


© Dr. Charles Warner 2023

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