By faith Sarah herself, though barren, received power to conceive, even when she was too old, because she considered him faithful who had promised. (Hebrews 11:11)
It seems to me we are too easily discouraged in prayer. When God does not answer in the way or the time we would prefer, our faith is weakened. We start to wonder if God is really listening. Does he really answer prayers? Then why doesn’t he answer mine?
Let us take the example of Abraham. When Abraham was 75 years old, God promised him that his descendants would be as numerous as the stars. But Isaac and Sarah had to wait another 25 years before Isaac was born! Their faith was certainly tested!
“Take off the garment of your sorrow and affliction, O Jerusalem, and put on forever the beauty of the glory from God.” (Baruch 5:1)
These days there seems to be a superabundance of sorrow and affliction. Conflict seems never to be far away. Weariness pervades. Psalm 13 says it all:
How long, LORD? Will you utterly forget me?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I carry sorrow in my soul, grief in my heart day after day?
How long will my enemy triumph over me? (Psalm 13:1-2)
John 21:17 [Jesus] said to [Peter] the third time, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?’ Peter felt hurt because he said to him the third time, ‘Do you love me?’ And he said to him, ‘Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Feed my sheep.’”
What a Lent! What an Easter! We mourn with the world the death of Mother Angelica, and at the same time we rejoice in the glorious sign of her passing on the Day of Resurrection. All glory and praise to our risen Lord!
I felt this Lent and Easter were significant in ways we cannot understand. I was given some little hints to that effect, which I would like to share here.
First of all, Lent was a time of severe trial for so many—in the world, in the Church, and likely in each of our circles of acquaintance, including mine. One of my sisters has a saying when one of us has a trial during Lent, as often happens: “Aahh…Lent!” Faithful Christians in general, and penitents in particular, must not shy away from the cross during Lent. Our time on the cross with Christ is a treasure whose value we will only appreciate in the next life. When you hang with Jesus, you hang on the cross. Just ask Mother Angelica.
“But [the widow] said, ‘As the Lord your God lives, I have nothing baked, only a handful of meal in a jar, and a little oil in a jug; I am now gathering a couple of sticks, so that I may go home and prepare it for myself and my son, that we may eat it, and die.’” (1 Kings 17:12)
These days, there seems to be a crisis around every corner—everywhere. Persecutions, perversions, inversions of truth, untimely deaths—in a word—chaos. I can’t help but think of something that happened a few years ago. Once, during the night I felt the Lord’s presence and saw an image. It was like multi-colored pieces shifting and overlapping. The image seemed to have no order to it. It was very chaotic and hard to figure out. These words came to me: “Things will happen in rapid succession.” In the image it seemed like things were happening all over the place that were seemingly unconnected, but really, they were all connected in the big picture. Still, I could not make sense of it. Kind of like a living, moving, “crazy quilt”. I felt a strong urge to tell people to prepare, both practically with emergency kits and contact plans, as well as spiritually with prayer and fasting.
“Where there is envy and selfish ambition, there will also be disorder and wickedness of every kind. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy.” (James 3:16-17)
Have you noticed the confusion that permeates our culture these days? It’s pretty hard to miss. The evil one has sown the seeds of confusion in abundance. For those whose faith is weak, it is increasingly hard to distinguish the wheat from the weeds. In fact there are many who are plucking out the wheat and leaving the weeds. It’s all upside-down! And it’s hard to feel hopeful.
For this reason (Christ) is mediator of a new covenant: since a death has taken place for deliverance from transgressions under the first covenant, those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance. (Hebrews 9:15)
There is a lot of confusion in the Church today. It is popular to say that one is “spiritual” but not “religious”. So often we focus on ex-ternals, when we should be focusing on e-ternals. Too many are choosing to leave the Church without ever having delved into its depths. There is a deplorable lack of catechesis in the adult faithful. It is as if many are content to swim in a shallow pool and just lap up the dried flakes cast onto the surface by an unknown hand. The Church has so much more to offer! The Church is not incidental to the life of the Christian—it is absolutely necessary!
“I will give you as a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.” (Isaiah 49:6)
In his Christmas address to the Roman Curia in 2010, the Pope Benedict had some very strong words in reference to the future of modern society. He compared it to the decline of the Roman Empire and also said, “The very future of the world is at stake.”
“Excita, Domine, potentiam tuam, et veni. Repeatedly during the season of Advent the Church’s liturgy prays in these or similar words. They are invocations that were probably formulated as the Roman Empire was in decline. The disintegration of the key principles of law and of the fundamental moral attitudes underpinning them burst open the dams which until that time had protected peaceful coexistence among peoples. The sun was setting over an entire world. Frequent natural disasters further increased this sense of insecurity. There was no power in sight that could put a stop to this decline. All the more insistent, then, was the invocation of the power of God: the plea that he might come and protect his people from all these threats.
“Excita, Domine, potentiam tuam, et veni. Today too, we have many reasons to associate ourselves with this Advent prayer of the Church. For all its new hopes and possibilities, our world is at the same time troubled by the sense that moral consensus is collapsing, consensus without which juridical and political structures cannot function. Consequently the forces mobilized for the defence of such structures seem doomed to failure.”
“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interest of others.” (Philippians 2:3-4)
There are two things I often hear from people. The first is that they feel isolated in their faith walk, that in their family, workplace, peer group, or sometimes even their parish there are few people with whom they can openly share their faith. The second thing I hear a lot is that so many people are worried about family members who are far from God. They try everything to bring them to faith, but their words fall on deaf ears. They fear for the souls of these loved ones if they do not repent.
In fact, these two issues are closely related and the good news is that God, in his infinite wisdom and mercy, has got it all under control. Yes, dear child of the Father, God has a plan to bring those souls he loves more than you do, back to him. The enemy thinks he has won those souls, but God has a secret weapon. He has strategically placed his agents behind enemy lines. Those agents are none other than his faithful remnant–you and me. Continue reading
“Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Hebrews 4:16
If I were to take a poll of the people reading this blog post, how many do you think would say they were praying for the conversion of friends or family members? I do not think it is an exaggeration to say probably 100% of us are. For many of us it is the most fervent prayer in our minds and hearts.
But how many of us are worried that the Lord will not hear our prayers? Or will somehow be prevented from answering them and our loved ones will be forever lost? Do we feel despair over their eternal souls? Or do we approach the throne of grace with boldness, confidence, trust, and gratitude?
Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?” And the king will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did it to me.” (Matthew 25:37-40)
The above Scripture passage speaks eloquently about our call to see to the physical needs of our brothers and sisters. But read in another way we can apply this reading to the spiritual needs of the members of the family of God.
Saint Mother Theresa often spoke of the spiritual poverty that afflicts First World nations. The suffering that began as a result of sin and that is now intensifying, will tempt many, many souls to despair. The world will be hungry, even starving, for hope. We know and believe in the promise of the Lord, that he will never forsake us, that he will be with us to the end of the age. We who have been given the grace of faith must not close the door on those who come begging for hope, but must freely give what we have been freely given, by sharing our hope with those who are longing for it.