Monday, June 22, 2015

Prayer in the Storms of Life

In the Gospel for the Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B (Mark 4: 35-41), we see quite a contrast.  The violence of a storm contrasts with the inner calm of Jesus, asleep in the stern of the boat that is being swamped.  The terror of the disciples contrasts with the peace of Jesus.  As Jesus addresses their fear and cry for help, his inner peace calms the storm.

We all experience storms in our lives. Our first response is usually to try to handle them on our own. Only when we feel our helplessness do we turn to God in prayer.

Then we pray and pray and nothing happens. The desired result of our prayers doesn't come.  Last year I prayed and prayed for Fr. Will Prospero, S.J.--a personal friend and strong supporter of the Apostleship of Prayer--and he died of cancer at the age of forty-nine.  (Here is a video tribute that friends of his put together after his death.)

The response to situations like this is often, "God doesn't hear my prayers." No.  God is not hearing impaired.  Or we say, "God doesn't answer my prayers."  No. God answers every prayer, but sometimes the answer is not the one we want. Sometimes the answer is "no."

Behind these responses is the question of the disciples in the Gospel: "Teacher, do you not care...?"

Yes, God cares. Do we believe that? Jesus asked the disciples (and us): "Do you not yet have faith?"

Faith is a virtue.  I like to say that the virtues are spiritual muscles which require exercise in order to grow and remain healthy.  We can pray "Lord, give me faith," or "Lord, increase my faith," but get ready.  Faith won't come out of the blue, just as physical muscles don't.  God answers this prayer with storms and challenges that require us to exercise faith.

We don't like the stress and hard work that this exercise requires.  I once saw a cartoon that showed a jogger running past a park bench. On his T-shirt was the slogan: "No pain, no gain."  On the bench sat an overweight man with a can of beer wearing a T-shirt that said; "No pain, no pain."  We don't like the pain that goes with exercising the virtue of faith in the midst of life's storms.

Blessed Mother Teresa once said: "People say that God will never give you more than you can handle. I just wish God didn't trust me so much."

God trusts us.  God wants more for us than we can imagine.  God trusts that we can handle the storms that can lead us to exercise faith and grow in holiness.

In his Apostolic Exhortation "The Joy of the Gospel" (#275-9), Pope Francis has some challenging and consoling words about faith and the prayers and sacrifices we make:

"Christ, risen and glorified, is the wellspring of our hope and he will not deprive us of the help we need to carry out the mission which he has entrusted to us.  Christ's resurrection is not an event of the past; it contains a vital power which has permeated this world. ... Often it seems that God does not exist: all around us we see persistent injustice, evil, indifference and cruelty.

"Faith ... means believing in God, believing that he truly loves us, that he is alive, that he is mysteriously capable of intervening, that he does not abandon us and that he brings good out of evil by his power and his infinite creativity. ... Let us believe the Gospel when it tells us that the kingdom of God is already present in this world and is growing, here and there, and in different ways: like the small seed which grows into a big tree.... Christ's resurrection everywhere calls forth seeds of that new world....

"Because we do not always see these seeds growing, we need an interior certainty, a conviction that God is able to act in every situation, even amid apparent setbacks.... We may be sure that none of our acts of love will be lost, nor any of our acts of sincere concern for others. No single act of love for God will be lost, no generous effort is meaningless, no painful endurance is wasted.  All of these encircle our world like a vital force."

1 comment:

  1. Reasons to Believe in Jesus

    Reasons to believe Jesus is alive in a new life with God can be found in quotes from two prominent atheists and a biology textbook.

    Thus the passion of man is the reverse of that of Christ, for man loses himself as man in order that God may be born. But the idea of God is contradictory and we lose ourselves in vain. Man is a useless passion. (Jean-Paul Sartre, Being and Nothingness: A Phenomenological Essay on Ontology, New York: Washington Square Press, p. 784)

    Among the traditional candidates for comprehensive understanding of the relation of mind to the physical world, I believe the weight of evidence favors some from of neutral monism over the traditional alternatives of materialism, idealism, and dualism. (Thomas Nagel, Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature Is Almost Certainly False, location 69 of 1831)

    And certain properties of the human brain distinguish our species from all other animals. The human brain is, after all, the only known collection of matter that tries to understand itself. To most biologists, the brain and the mind are one and the same; understand how the brain is organized and how it works, and we’ll understand such mindful functions as abstract thought and feelings. Some philosophers are less comfortable with this mechanistic view of mind, finding Descartes’ concept of a mind-body duality more attractive. (Neil Campbell, Biology, 4th edition, p. 776 )

    Sartre speaks of the "passion of man," not the passion of Christians. He is acknowledging that all religions east and west believe there is a transcendental reality and that perfect fulfillment comes from being united with this reality after we die. He then defines this passion with a reference to Christian doctrine which means he is acknowledging the historical reasons for believing in Jesus. He does not deny God exists. He is only saying the concept of God is contradictory. He then admits that since life ends in the grave, it has no meaning.

    From the title of the book, you can see that Nagel understands that humans are embodied sprits and that the humans soul is spiritual. He says, however, that dualism and idealism are "traditional" alternatives to materialism. Dualism and idealism are just bright ideas from Descartes and Berkeley. The traditional alternative to materialism is monism. According to Thomas Aquinas unity is the transcendental property of being. Campbell does not even grasp the concept of monism. The only theories he grasps are dualism and materialism.

    If all atheists were like Sartre, it would be an obstacle to faith. An important reason to believe in Jesus is that practically all atheists are like Nagel and Campbell, not like Sartre.

    by David Roemer
    347-417-4703
    http://www.newevangelization.info

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