Fr Frank’s Homily – 24 July 2022

By Fr Frank Brennan SJ, 23 July 2022
European wildfire. Image: Shutterstock.


Homily for the Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C

Readings: Genesis 18:20-32; Colossians 2:12-14; Luke 11 1-13

24 July 2022


How consoling are those words of Jesus in today’s gospel: ‘Ask and you will receive; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.’   As if to drive the point home, Luke has Jesus ask two rhetorical questions which invite only one response: ‘What father among you would hand his son a snake when he asks for a fish?  Or hand him a scorpion when he asks for an egg?’  No father in his right mind would do such a thing, even if he were negligent or selfish.  Any father who did such a thing would be not just malicious; he’d be sadistic.

Listen at

Teaching us how to pray, Jesus gives us the words of the Our Father.  Scripture scholar Luke Timothy Johnson compares Luke’s version of the Our Father with Matthew’s version: ‘Luke’s prayer is an unadorned series of five imperatives. The first two concern the holiness of God and the establishment of his kingdom. The final three ask for necessary provisions, forgiveness of sins, and freedom from testing….The prayer Jesus teaches his disciples authenticates his prophetic mission, for it shows that what he proclaims and performs in his ministry expresses the deepest reality of his own relationship with God.’[1]

Jesus does not promise that God our Father will give whatever we ask.  Jesus provides this twist: ‘If you then, who are wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him?’

So why pray?  Why offer prayers of petition?  Why ask for anything other than the Holy Spirit?

I’ve spent the week in Italy.  Europeans are encountering sweltering summer days previously unknown to them, but all too familiar to us in Australia.  There’s no doubt that the climate is changing.  Debate will continue about the extent to which we are contributing to that change.  Mercifully there is no longer serious debate contesting any human contribution whatever.  The sweltering heat has added to European uncertainties with the ongoing war in Ukraine, Germany reaching a crisis point with its reliance on Russian gas supplies, Italy in another political melt down, and the UK in search of a new prime minister.  What would one ask for in prayer?

I contemplated this question while riding the fast train through Puglia in the south of Italy.  The terrain is dry.  Many fields are occupied only by olive trees.  But alas, many of the old large olive trees are dead, being infected by a fungus, neofusicoccum mediterraneum.[2]  This is the livelihood of many of the local farmers.  It’s a stark, contrasting vision outside a train window especially as one contemplates the extraordinarily beautiful images of outer space which have beamed around the world these days from the James Webb telescope.  NASA tells us: ‘Light from these galaxies took billions of years to reach us.  We are looking back in time to within a billion years after the big bang when viewing the youngest galaxies in the field.’[3]  Brother Guy Consolmagno SJ, the Director of the Vatican Observatory, has observed: ‘The science behind this telescope is our attempt to use our God-given intelligence to understand the logic of the universe.  The universe wouldn’t work if it weren’t logical.  But as these images show, the universe is not only logical, it is also beautiful.  This is God’s creation being revealed to us, and in it we can see both his astonishing power and his love of beauty.’[4]  That logic and beauty were not manifest looking out the train window in Puglia.

So what should we pray for?  That human ingenuity might solve the problem of the fungus?  That nature might put right what the fungus has put wrong?  That the impoverished farmers be accepting of their lot?  That the devastated farmers be able to find new crops or new ways of earning a living to support their families?  That we and the farmers might better learn our place in creation and our relationship with God as we contemplate both the images from the James Webb telescope and the images from their dead fields?  That the Holy Spirit might fill our hearts so that we may know and contribute to the logic and beauty of all creation?

Like Abraham in today’s first reading from Chapter 18 of Genesis, we wonder if God will sweep away the innocent with the guilty, whether in the olive groves of Puglia or the cities of Ukraine.  What would it take to save any modern-day Sodom and Gomorrah?  Fifty just men? Or forty? Or just ten?  What would it take to save Europe at this time in the midst of the ongoing war in Ukraine, the energy crisis, the climate crisis and the new strains of COVID?  Abraham bargains with God, and so can we.  But like Abraham, we should not lose hope – hope that the efforts of only a handful of just persons might make a difference; hope that logic, beauty, truth and goodness matter;  and hope that the gift of the Holy Spirit expressed by the people of God will produce fresh fruit for the whole of creation.   The importance of individual commitment and involvement was highlighted by Brother Guy Consolmagno’s observation: ‘We’re all thrilled because when one person learns something new, we all learn something new.’

On this World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly, may we be especially attentive to the insights given us by our elders who’ve long lived and contemplated war, pestilence, upheaval and profound change, all the while seeking truth, beauty and goodness in the midst of uncertainty.

Lord, on the day I called for help, you answered me.

I will give thanks to you, O LORD, with all my heart,
for you have heard the words of my mouth;
in the presence of the angels I will sing your praise;
I will worship at your holy temple
and give thanks to your name.

Lord, on the day I called for help, you answered me.

Because of your kindness and your truth;
for you have made great above all things
your name and your promise.
When I called you answered me;
you built up strength within me.

Lord, on the day I called for help, you answered me.


[1] Luke Timothy Johnson, The Gospel of Luke, Sacra Pagina Series (Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press, 1991), p. 179.

[2] This fungus has come on top of Xylella fastidiosa which has destroyed millions of olive trees in Puglia since 2013.

[3]‘NASA’s Webb Delivers Deepest Infrared Image of Universe Yet’, 12 July 2022, available at

[4] ‘James Webb telescope images are “food for the human spirit”, Vatican Observatory director says’, The Catholic Leader, 18 July 2022, available at



Fr Frank Brennan SJ is the Rector of Newman College, Melbourne, and the former CEO of Catholic Social Services Australia (CSSA). He was appointed a peritus at the Fifth Plenary Council of the Australian Catholic Church.



Read Daily
* indicates required