FR MICHAEL’S THOUGHT ON BIBLICAL IMAGERY
(Fr. Michael Boakye Yeboah, Vice Rector: St Gregory Seminary, Kumasi-Ghana)
The biblical image of intercession or intervention can be visible to the eye and heart of the believer in the texts provided for us for our 17th Sunday reflections. For all of us on this planet, at one point in life we need someone or a group to intercede or intervene for our peaceful and joyful life to be lived. In the first reading Abraham’s intervention shows us how one can intervene for others when he/she knows that he does not stand to benefit directly from his actions. In the Gospel, Jesus’ use of a parable nuance how one ought to be persistent in his/her intervention so that his/her friend may receive his/her basic needs for survival at a time that needs are hard to come by (at Mid night).
The Planet we are living in needs our intercessions and intervention if we are to preserve it for our good livelihood and for the generations to come. Global warming is not a theory or illusion of some scientists, it is a reality. At the Paris climate conference (COP21) in 2015, 195 countries adopted the first-ever universal, legally binding global climate deal to save our planet from climate change. The agreement sets out a global action plan to put the world on track to avoid dangerous climate change by limiting global warming to well below 2°C and pursuing efforts to limit it to 1.5°C. We are getting into the fourth year since the Paris Conference and we are not saved yet as regards the dangers of Climate change, and so we need people to intercede and intervene for our planet before God and human agents who can make the safety of our planet possible as Abraham did for the lands of Sodom and Gomorrah. The Angels were on their way to destroy those lands but Abraham came in to intercede and intervene.
The biblical image of intercession and intervention that Abraham portrays does not only call our attention to Climate change alone but to many other things affecting our world. The Abrahamic example directs us to play our little roles if we are to save ourselves from destruction. Intercessions and interventions have always been strong attributes of many a religion. For interventions and intercessions to be successful, the petitioner needs to be skillful in bargaining and so if one cannot emulate the bargaining skills of Abraham at least it deserves high praises. Let us take a close look at the text. The phrase that caught my attention in Genesis 18:20-32 is: “Will you sweep away the innocent with the guilty?” Abraham’s intercession for the righteous in Sodom, as related in Genesis 18:20-32 is the first great example and the lasting model for intercessory prayer. It is simultaneously insistent yet humble. It constantly dares to go a little farther: from fifty righteous as enough to stave off destruction, to forty-five, forty, thirty, twenty, ten. Even if the petition in the end falls short, since not even ten righteous people could be found in Sodom, such an account can only serve as a unique stimulus to a believer to penetrate into God’s heart so far that compassion begins to flow there. If God has entered into a covenant with men, he has no wish to behave like a tyrant toward his covenant partners. Instead, he is willing to let himself be shaped (in human terms, one might say, “be persuaded”), as we see often enough from Old Testament pleas that moderate Yahweh’s wrath. God has granted the man who is in covenant with him power over his heart.
Jesus in Luke 11:1-13, with the biblical image of “a friend who goes to request bread in the night” teaches us how to get to the heart of God through persistent intercession. In the account, Jesus asks of the Father and knows that he “always hears” him (John 11:42). Since he is praying, his disciples asked him to teach them to pray. They received Christ’s own prayer, the Our Father, and, in addition, the parable of the man who wakes up his friend at midnight in order to ask him for three loaves of bread. In the parable the man has to be persistent if he is to receive what he has asked for. Not indiscretion but persistence in pleading, seeking, knocking at the door is necessary if God is to open up the door as a Father to his creatures. Far from being asleep, God is ready to “give his Holy Spirit to those who ask him”, but he does not toss his most precious gift at those who have no desire for them or who request them only half-heartedly. For what God gives is his own, zealous love, and this can be received only by those who genuinely hunger for it. To ask God for something that he in his own essence is unable to give (a “scorpion”, a “snake”) is absurd, but he will infallibly and immediately grant every petition congruent with his will and his attitude, even though we may not notice it within the passing of time in which we live. “All that you ask in prayer, believe that you will receive it and it shall be yours” (Mark 11:24). “If we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in regard to whatever we ask, let us not be selfish and ask of our needs alone but remember to seek for the needs of those who need our intercession and interventions.
The image of an intercessor is visible in the life of everybody: from parents’ intercession for their kids to teachers’ entreaty for their students. Some people are living in the comfort of their homes thanks to the defense of their defense attorneys while others are in jail not because they are guilty but maybe due to lack of a good defense attorney. Someone’s persistent intercessory prayers may depend on the intervention of a Good Attorney taking up a pro bono case. Among all these intercessors, one of great value is the Blessed Virgin Mary. The strength of the Blessed Virgin Mary’s intercession is clearly seen in the story of the wedding at Cana. (cf. John 2:1ff).