Saturday, November 18, 2006

32nd Saturday in Ordinary Time (II)
The Blessedness in Asking

Readings: 3 John 5-8; Psalm 112:1-2, 3-4, 5-6; Luke 18:1-8

Most of us are familiar with that line from Acts 20:35: it is more blessed to give than to receive. And generosity is indeed a common trait among Christians. I myself am a regular and grateful beneficiary of others’ generosity. Every Sunday, just to mention one example, parishioners take turns to bring us lunch. And I often admire and am inspired by the people who respond so selflessly to the needs of others. Just the other day, I listened in rapt attention as someone shared his experience visiting refugees in a remote corner of a neighboring country. Indeed, the praise that John showers upon his readers in the first reading – you have done faithful work in looking after these brothers – could very easily be applied to many whom we know.

But, quite ironically perhaps, while many rejoice in the various expressions of charity, not too many find it easy to do what Jesus encourages in the gospel: to pray continually and never to lose heart. If my own, albeit limited, experience in spiritual direction is anything to go by, it’s often even more difficult to ask God for what we want than it is to give others what they need. I often wonder at this tendency – something that I must confess to sharing at least to some extent. Why do some of us prefer to give to others than to ask another for what we need – even when that other is the almighty and ever-compassionate God? And even when we do finally get around to asking why do some of us find it difficult to persevere in asking when we don’t seem to obtain a favorable response at first? Could it have something to do with pride, or bashfulness, or the need to be in control, or the unwillingness to burden another with our problems…? I’m not sure. In the gospel, Jesus seems to see this as connected to faith. When the Son of Man comes, will he find any faith on earth?

I’m also reminded of what Louis Evely says: Everyone who prays begins by asking for something that he wants, something he has set his heart on; but if he prays truly, by the time he has finished, he will have set his heart not on the thing he was asking for, but on him of whom he was asking it. Could this be, at once, the great incentive and source of resistance to our asking God for what we need? Could it be that there is a part of us that, whether consciously or not, resists this call to intimacy with God, this chance that we may find ourselves drawn away from what we want and towards the One who is the deepest desire of our hearts?

Whatever the reason, if we do find this resistance within ourselves, perhaps the first thing for which we need to ask God is the grace of perseverance in prayer. How best might we do so today?

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