It’s raining today in Union City. Just the day for reading Isaiah:
Thus says the LORD:
Just as from the heavens
the rain and snow come down
And do not return there
till they have watered the earth,
making it fertile and fruitful,
Giving seed to the one who sows
and bread to the one who eats,
So shall my word be
that goes forth from my mouth;
It shall not return to me void,
but shall do my will,
achieving the end for which I sent it.
But isn’t it true, we don’t always like rain? Here it snarls traffic, stops you from going places maybe. Like the woman above, you may not have a car and you get soaked waiting for a bus. It gets in the way of your plans.
We think of God’s grace as pleasant and good, but we’re not always “Singin’ in the Rain”. Like the rain nourishing seed in the ground or filling reservoirs from thousands of distant streams, God’s grace isn’t quickly apparent. More often it’s slow and sequential. Without it, though, would we have water to drink and bread to eat?
So we say in the Our Father, “your will be done,” because God’s word goes forth. “It shall not return to me void, but shall do my will, achieving the end for which I sent it.” But his will isn’t immediately seen.
The wise St. Theresa of Avila says, “We’re people who don’t feel rich until we feel the money in our pocket.” So, we have to pray, “You kingdom come…on earth.” It’s not enough to pray, “Give us whatever is good for us,” Theresa says. “We need to pray for specific things…or else we wont accept what God chooses to give us (even if it is far better than what we asked for) because it’s not exactly what we asked for.”
We have to pray that God’s kingdom come “on earth” –for my cousin who’s sick, for Dennis, Joan, Camille, Mary, and Betty who lost their jobs, for the migrants waiting for work along route 46, for Bernie Madoff and all his victims. Our prayer embraces “specific things” because we live our lives in them, we only know through what we see and feel and experience.
A wise woman, St. Theresa. No wonder she’s a Doctor of the Church.
We forget how rich in wisdom are the words of our prayers. Unfortunately, they become words we say unthinkingly. Listen to the commentary of St. Cyprian on one phrase of The Lord’s Prayer, the Our Father.
“Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. This is not that God should do what he wills, but so that we may be able to do what God wills. For who could resist God in such a way as to prevent him doing what he wills? But since the devil hinders us from obeying, by thought and by deed, God’s will in all things, we pray and ask that God’s will may be done in us.
For this to happen, we need God’s good will – that is, his help and protection, since no-one is strong in and of himself but is kept safe by the grace and mercy of God.
Moreover, the Lord, showing the weakness of the humanity which he bore, said Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me, and showing his disciples an example, that they should do not their own will but God’s, he went on to say nevertheless, let it not be my will, but yours.”
The great background theme playing through our Lenten days is the story of the Exodus. Like the children of Israel guided by Moses, we go forward on our desert journey guided by Jesus Christ.
His presence with us is greater than the presence of Moses among the Israelites, however. Like branches on the vine he gathers us to himself.
He is with us when we pray, weak and stumbling as our prayer may be. Remember his presence in prayer, St. Cyprian says in today’s reading. “Let the Son who lives in our hearts, be also on our lips.”
He’s speaking of the Lord’s Prayer, given to us by Jesus. “To ask the Father in words his Son has given us, to let him hear the prayer of Christ ringing in his ears, is to make our prayer one of friendship, a family prayer. Let the Father recognize the words of his Son.”
The Lord’s Prayer is not just a prayer to be said by rote; it’s a “pattern of prayer,” according to the saint. We learn how to pray by considering its words and making them our own. See: http://www.cptryon.org/prayer/teach.html
We recognize the place of Christ in liturgical prayer when we end them with the words, “Though Jesus Christ, your Son…” It’s important to recognize the presence of Jesus as we pray privately and rely on him.
When the disciples were asleep in the Garden of Gethsemani, Jesus prayed a stone’s throw away and his prayer not only strengthened him but strengthened them as well.