Bargaining with God
17th Sunday in Ordinary Time (C)

Antonio P. Pueyo
Reproduced with Permission

Some people I know find excitement in haggling. They go to the market or bazaars not just to buy items but to test their skill in bargaining. Sometimes when I accompany some friends in this activity I feel embarrassed at the ridiculously low prices they start off with. Eventually both parties settle for the price. The buyer goes home satisfied and the store owner made a sale. Bargaining is an art. The story of Abraham in the first reading (Gen. 18:20-32) is better understood in this setting.

Action starter: What is your favorite topic of conversation with God?

Abraham was good at haggling. He was a friend of God and so he bargained for Sodom and Gomorrha, “Will you sweep away the innocent with the guilty? Suppose there were fifty innocent people in the city; would you wipe out the place, rather than spare if for the sake of the fifty innocent people within it?” Abraham haggled still lower until he brought the number down to ten. “For the sake of those ten, I will not destroy it,” said the Lord.. Unfortunately there were not even ten good people there. Sodom and Gomorrha were destroyed.

At some time in our life, we have made bargains with God. I have bargained with God. At the age of twenty-eight, four years after ordination, I was brought to the hospital. I had high blood pressure and I could not move my arm. Lying helpless on my hospital bed, I prayed to the Lord to give me two more years of life.. I would be happy to reach thirty. I stopped my habit of smoking two packs of cigarettes a day. On my thirtieth birthday I asked God for three more years. I shifted to a mostly vegetarian diet and started doing Yoga. My health was improving and so when I reached thirty-three, I asked for another extension. On the premise that “Life begins at forty, ” I asked for seven years more. I took up daily Chinese Tai-chi exercises.

When I reached forty I felt healthier than when I was twenty-eight and so I made another bargain with God, “Lord, I don’t want to bother you any further with this business of health and so if You don’t mind, let us stop the addition. Why not just multiply my age by two?” I am now fifty-five and I have taken up mountain biking. I have haggled with the Lord and I found out that He keeps His end of the bargain. I have been given lots of bonuses in life.

The Gospel tells us that we should talk to God as we talk to a loving father. The prayer that Jesus taught to His disciples was a direct and simple prayer. In it are contained adoration, devotion, petition, and contrition. Not too many words. It is a prayer of the heart.

Prayer is not really a difficult affair. It is something we can do anytime anywhere. We can pray while sitting on a bus or doing gardening. We can pray in church or we can pray in our be room. In the course of years, I’m finding out that I am adopting what I call “prayer of sighing”. Perhaps it is closer to what spiritual writers call as the “Jesus Prayer” or what Brother Lawrence called as the “Prayer of Presence”. God is present everywhere and anytime and so we can converse with the Lord anywhere we are. All one has to do is sigh, “Lord Jesus” or “Father”.

As spiritual writers have told us, the test of love is not so much in the depth of our feelings but in seeking the good of the beloved. It is also shown by our devotion and communication. It is shown by spending time with the one we love – in conversation or comfortable silence.