There are three persons in the story Jesus tells us today: there is (1) the guest who turned up unexpectedly at his friend's house, (2) the owner of the house, and (3) the third, a neighbor friend who is asked for three loaves of bread in the middle of the night. Which one of these three should we identify with?
I think we can exclude number one, the guest who arrived unexpectedly at his friend's house at midnight, because we just don't hear anything further about him. Number two is our most likely pick, the one who asks persistently for help from his friend to be able to serve his hungry guest.
If we identify with him, then the parable is about the persistent friend—the word Luke uses means a shameless friend. The story is then about how to pray to an unwilling God, cajoling and coaxing him to give help that He is initially reluctant to give. We might also take number three as our model. In that case, the story is about a God who always hearkens to the cry of the needy and comes to their help. It gives the story an interesting twist.
Getting out of bed is a pain. Walking all over everybody in a one-room house to unbolt the door in the middle of the night is an even bigger pain—for everyone. All this just for a neighbor who lacks foresight and now asks you to give him groceries when you ought to be sleeping.
Thankfully, today's reading isn't about you and me! We are an impatient lot. The Gospel passage today isn't about the prayer but the one we should be praying to. With faith, yes! With persistence, yes! Unceasingly, yes! Jesus, in narrating this parable, goes beyond merely giving in because of sheer bull-headed insistence. His overriding goal is to present God as Provider — the Father who gives to those who ask, who leads and shows to those who seek, and who opens doors for those who knock.
One of Pope Francis' homilies recalled an example from his pastoral life in Buenos Aires in Argentina, where he worked as a pastor. A worker's daughter was dying. The man went to the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lujan after doctors gave him no hope. The sanctuary was closed when he finally arrived, but he stayed outside the door all night, begging the Virgin: "I love my daughter, I love my daughter, I want her health. You can give her to me." When he returned to the hospital, his wife said, "Our daughter had another test. They couldn't understand, but she woke up and asked for food. There is nothing wrong with her. She's ok. She's out of danger." That man, Pope Francis declared, knew how to pray, and whom to go to—Mary.
Maybe we should identify with that third friend in the story. Aren't we created in God's image? In this world, don't we carry God's presence? When you take that third friend as the most important one, when you identify yourself with the neighbor who was awakened and asked for help, the story is about you, yourself, helping out when asked for help by those in need.
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About Father Boby John, C.S.C.
Father Boby John, C.S.C., ordained a priest in the Congregation of Holy Cross in 2008, worked as a pastor and as an educator with tribal populations in Northeast India for thirteen years. Originally from Kerala, India, Father Boby grew up with three siblings. He is a dedicated and detailed educationist with experience in educational leadership. He is currently working as an executive assistant at the world headquarters of Holy Cross Family Ministries, North Easton, Massachusetts.