There is a story of a Franciscan, a Carmelite and a Jesuit priest on a boat. They were travelling to an island for some very important conference of Religious. While they were in the middle of the sea, the boat began to break up and they realised that the boat could only take the weight of one of them. So they decided to pray and discern for God’s Will, as to who would go for the conference and who would have to sacrifice their life.
So that all closed their eyes and began to pray fervently. After some minutes, the Carmelite priest exclaimed, “Praise the Lord!” . . . and jumped into the sea. The Franciscan and Jesuit continued to pray that God reveal His will to them. After half an hour there was still no apparent answer from God . . . The Jesuit opened one of his eye and saw the Franciscan still praying fervently. He then closed his eyes and also continued to pray. The silence was also somewhat tense . . . as the boat was not able to hold the weight of both of them for too long. All of a sudden, the Jesuit shouted, “Praise the Lord!” . . . and pushed the Franciscan into the sea!
What happens to us when God doesn’t seem to answer our prayers? What happens when we are desperate and experiencing certain crises in life? What happens when the “boat of our life” does not seem to be able to carry the weight of our problems and needs? What happens when we are dying of a terminal illness, when relationships that we used to treasure are on the brink of disaster . . . when our children are losing their sense of life and living a secular and sinful life? What happens when God seems to be silent? What happens to our prayer life, our life and relationship with God in such trying and threatening moments of our lives?
In today’s Gospel story Jesus reminds His disciples and us of our “need to pray continually and never lose heart.” Jesus illustrates this truth with the parable of the persistent widow who finally overcame the wickedness of the judge. More specifically, Jesus is assuring us that if a widow can wear down the wickedness of a judge to grant her the justice that is due to her, would not God our Father who loves us so totally and unconditionally surely and always answer our prayers?
My brothers and sisters in Christ, one of the main problems we face in our prayer life is our “impatience with God” In many ways our impatience with God is strongly influenced by the fast and hectic pace of our daily living where we have little patience with one another . . . we want quick answers to our needs; we want fast food, we want our buses and trains to turn up on time and gets upset when they are five minutes late; some of us on the other hand are used to having our drivers waiting for us at our doorways, and our maids at our beck and call. And, when traffic lights turn green we honk when the vehicle in front of us do not move within three seconds; on our home ground, we expect our parish office staff to answer telephone calls immediately and not having to wait for more than four rings; still, we have others too who expect that our car parking space must accommodate to our needs even though we are 20 minutes late for Mass, and the like . . . This list can go on . . . we can make up our own personal list . . . and laugh about how ridiculous we can sometimes be.
Yes, my sisters and brothers, if we are not careful, our impatience in life will make us impatient with God too. And, if we are impatient with God, it would be very difficult for us to discern God’s Will and how God wants us to live our lives in His Love and Ways. This is simply because we will not be patient enough to wait and still ourselves to listen to what God wants to say to us . . . Prayer becomes an inactivity that is boring . . . And if our impatience in life gets a grip of us we may end up rationalising and giving excuses after excuses for not living the way God Wills of us . . . And, if God’s Will and Ways are not rooted in our lives, then our daily living would inevitably be superficial, secular and eventually if we are not careful self-centered . . . and this will be the beginning of our crises of our family, careers and all our relationships and experiences in life.
Today, our Church celebrates “Mission Sunday,” universally. Our Holy Father, Pope Francis in his message expressed that he is grateful to “missionaries of men and women religious and lay faithful who by accepting the Lord’s call and leave their homeland to serve the Gospel in different lands and cultures. However, Pope Francis also adds for you and me that every baptised person should be a bearer of the Good News of Christ to all nations and to all peoples.
This missionary aspect, he adds, is “not a programmatic dimension of Christian life, but a paradigmatic dimension that affects all aspects of Christian life.” By this he means, living the Christ-like missionary spirit of our faith and not simply following and fulfilling a programme. Instead, it is the living of the Gospel of Christ daily. “We have to walk the streets of the world with our brothers and sisters, proclaiming and witnessing our faith in Christ and . . . every one of us should “be able to experience the joy of being loved by God, the joy of salvation! And, this is a gift that we cannot keep to oneself, but has to be shared . . . with fervour, joy courage and hope.
Such witnessing of the Gospel is ideal. However, the challenges are not easy because we live in a secular world that is complex, confusing and conflicting with the Gospel values that we uphold as Christians. Our Holy Father, Pope Francis says, “we live in a time of crisis that touches various sectors of existence, not only the economy, finance, food security or the environment, but also those involving the deeper meaning and the fundamental values of our lives. Even human coexistence is marked by tensions and conflicts that cause insecurity and difficulty in finding the right path to a stable peace. In this complex situation, where the horizon of the present and future seems threatened by menacing clouds, it is necessary to proclaim courageously the Gospel of Christ and (renew the world) with true hope, reconciliation, communion and the (reassurance) of God’s closeness, His Mercy and His path of Goodness. . . and (undoubtedly), we need the secure light that illuminates the path that only the encounter with Christ can give.
And so, as I conclude, let us remind ourselves that as we celebrate “Mission Sunday,” we are celebrating the Good News of Salvation that Jesus has proclaimed and lived to the full. We His disciples of today are called to witness to this Truth daily.
And, for this, Jesus in today’s Gospel urges us to persevere in our prayers, and assures us that God our Father will always answer our prayers because His Love for us is total and unconditional. Otherwise, our daily living patterns of impatience, if we are not careful, will lead us to become impatient with God in our prayer life and eventually in our daily living. And, if we have a weak relationship with God, we can so easily fall into the temptation of convincing ourselves that our will and ways are God’s Will and Ways; more so when the “boat of our life” is not able to bear the weight of the pains and crises in our lives. So, let us trust God more fully and unconditionally and live the “mission” of being Christ-like to others in our daily living.
Msgr Philip Heng,S.J.
visitors since 26th October 2013