Saturday, July 24, 2010

The Answer to Prayer

(17th Sunday in Ordinary Time, C; Last Mass at Sacred Heart)

In the gospel today we hear some of Jesus’ teaching on prayer. ‘Ask and you will receive, seek and you will find, knock and the door will be opened to you.’ Even more, by sheer persistence, Jesus says, we will receive a favorable answer to our prayer.

To hear this can be a little jarring; it can be an occasion of a ‘cognitive dissonance.’ Often it doesn’t seem like we get what we pray for simply by our trust in God and our faithful persistence in prayer. Look at poor Abraham; after all of his haggling for the city of Sodom, we know what happened to them. In the end only Lot and his two daughters survived that mess, if you don’t count Mrs. Lot who turned into a pillar of salt during the escape. Even more, if you keep reading in Genesis you will observe that Lot’s daughters weren’t exactly the most wholesome and righteous girls that ever lived.

So how are we to take what Jesus says, when he assures us that our prayers are answered, and that we will receive what we want from God, who is even more attentive than human parents who know well how to give good gifts to their children? I think we receive an answer when we read carefully.

Jesus says, “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.” There it is. The Holy Spirit is the gift we receive from our trust and persistence in prayer, not anything else that we might think we need or want.

The Holy Spirit Whom we receive in prayer is the same Spirit Who stretches the divine life of the Blessed Trinity into the world to conceive Our Lord through the consent of our Blessed Mother. He is the same Spirit who gives birth to the Church when He comes to rest on the apostles gathered in prayer on Pentecost. Both of these mysteries are present when each of us receives the gift of the Holy Spirit through prayer. Just as with Mary, the Spirit desires to conceive the Word of God in us, that we may bear his presence to the world and the Word may become flesh through our words and actions. By our common prayer here in the liturgy, we are transformed anew into the Body of Christ, ready to be sent into the world as God’s own reconciliation, forgiveness, and sacrifice for the life of the world.

This gift of the Holy Spirit, given to all who ask with faith and persistence, is the perfect answer to prayer because it draws us into the infinite creativity, delight, and joy of the Blessed Trinity himself. This is the heart of the Christian mystery; that we might come to share, through the Holy Spirit, the same intimacy of Jesus’ relationship to the Father. In this sense, all of our prayers are answered because we receive the gift that is infinitely satisfying and delightful, God himself.

This is not an easy gift, however. To be conceived as the Body of Christ in the world also means accepting the Cross. To consent to become the Body of Christ here at Mass is also to consent to the Cross that the Body of Christ carries. The Cross is God’s answer to the suffering we have brought upon this world with our sins: not to magically fix the world, but to show us a way through its suffering to new life. Taking up our Cross means refusing to pass evil on, rejecting revenge and refusing to participate in this world’s cycles of violence. Jesus’ life and death assure us that those who accept the Cross in this way participate in God’s work of renovating the world through the divine life poured out into our humanity in Christ. The mystery of this renovation of our humanity is what we call the Resurrection.

Let us surrender today to the gift which God is (literally) dying to give us, the Holy Spirit. By this Gift we are drawn into the divine life of the Blessed Trinity, and are made sharers in the salvation that Jesus Christ has accomplished for the world.

1 comment:

Elizabeth Mahlou said...

I dropped by to see if you had left a message about an unusual lack of activity on your blog in the past two weeks. I have missed reading it.

Then I noticed that you have listed Blest Atheist in your blogroll. That is kind. Unfortunately, BA was hijacked by a furniture company three weeks ago. I replaced it with 100th Lamb - same blog, same posts, different title. Thought you might like to know.

Hope to see your posts appearing again soon -- and I certainly hope that you are well.