Thursday, March 01, 2007

Thursday in the 1st Week of Lent
There is No One Else…

Readings: Esther C:12, 14-16, 23-25; Psalm 138:1-2ab, 2cde-3, 7c-8; Matthew 7:7-12

Come to my help, for I am alone and have no one but you, Lord…

Those who have experienced it will testify to this truth: probably nothing does more to improve our prayer than the awareness of one's own utter and total helplessness. Prior to this realization, prayer often feels like something extra, something that one can choose to do at one’s leisure, when there’s time left over from the other more urgent things that need one's attention. Of course, we’ve all been told how important prayer is. And at some level we may even believe it. But often our practice belies our supposed belief.

And then, at some point, something happens, something which jolts us out of our complacency, something which forces us to realize that no earthly power can give us the help we need. It is at this point that prayer becomes for us something as important as the air we breathe. Prayer becomes a matter of survival. This is Queen Esther’s situation in the first reading today. Her predicament takes the form of the impending destruction of her kinsfolk by their Persian conquerors. In her distress, she addresses a heartrending cry to God: I am alone and have no one but you, Lord… And God answers her. God saves her people from certain death. For it is as Jesus tells us in the gospel: if you… who are evil, know how to give your children what is good, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask him!

Whether we realize it or not, our journey through the season of Lent is designed precisely to bring us to a deeper awareness that we are all in a predicament similar to Esther’s. We are all, individually and communally, in mortal danger. We are all faced with a choice between life and death, good and evil. And we don’t have what it takes to choose life without reservation. At most we choose it only half-heartedly. We continue to cling in some way to our favourite little fragments of darkness. And in the clinging, we nurture death and destruction, for ourselves and for others as well.

If, then, there is one great grace that our Lenten discipline disposes us to receive, it is the realization of our own utter and total helplessness in the face of sin. We cannot help ourselves out of our predicament.

Rather, like Esther, we are alone and have no one but the Lord. And it is out of this realization that our hearts can begin truly to turn to God, to seek, to knock and to ask for that which we truly need. More than the food we eat, more than the water we drink, more even than the air we breathe, we need the Lord to free us from the sin that holds us captive. And it is when we turn wholeheartedly to God in our need that we can share Esther’s experience, the same experience out of which the psalmist writes: on the day I called, you answered me, O Lord.
What are you praying for this Lent? What do you need from the Lord today?

1 comment:

  1. It is counter-culture in today's society to be helpless. There is nothing that science and technology cannot resolve or which money cannot buy. And it is getting actually more poignant by the day! The irony is the more the progress, the stronger the conviction. And yet we see around us, many things that neither science and technology or money can resolve: broken relationships, dishonesty, mortality/death.

    We are utterly and totally helpless in the face of sin. Why? Because evil has been around much, much longer than any of us and 'it' knows how to exploit our weaknesses and vulnerabilities.

    Why then do we go about kidding ourselves into thinking that we are "in control"? For one, society has conditioned us into believing that we are "in control". Fr Chris gives a more potent reason: that we are mostly half-hearted in our choice between life and death, good and evil. Yes, broadly speaking, we are decent folks but folks who blow neither hot or cold (myself included). Some of us are really part-time, half-hearted Christians. Lent is a time when we consciously re-affirm our loyal allegiance to God, the same allegiance we solemnly declared when we were first baptised and which we'll re-affirm this Easter.

    "For all you have made and gifted me LORD, I am nothing without you. I have no one but you".