FOLLOWING A PATTERN

 

FOLLOWING A PATTERN

 The little boy knew where his mother had mislaid the car keys but was keeping quiet. At night time he knelt by his bed and prayed, “God, if you get me a bike I’ll tell her where they are.”

 Sometimes we use prayer in this way. We act as if we can make a bargain with God and then get what we want from him. I promise to do such and such and in return I want this and that. Then when we don’t get what we want we say our prayer has not been answered.

 When Jesus taught his disciples the Our Father he wasn’t teaching them a prayer. He was teaching them how to pray, the pattern of prayer, the attitude to take before God. We use the words of the Lord’s Prayer in our public and private prayer, but these words are only a coat hanger for our conversation with God. We acknowledge God’s holiness, our dependence upon him, and then we ask for what we need in order to live life as he intends and to inherit eternal life.

 Only those who know their true needs and who have the persistence to put them before God can really pray. And, of course, what we want is not necessarily what we need. That’s why God always answers our prayer but doesn’t always give us what we ask for.

 Sometimes the answer might be “no” and sometimes it might be to receive something we least expected from God. But the key to prayer is persistence, never to stop praying. The more we pray the more we come in tune with God’s will. Then our prayer changes. Instead of asking God for this and that we find ourselves able to be at one with the will of God, and this means that we are sure that God is giving us what we need as long as we keep asking and listening.

To think that God would make us ask and ask without bothering to answer is bizarre. Such a God would be perverse. God encourages us to pray in order that we may know him more, discern his will and love him for what we know.

 If your child asked you for something reasonable would you ever refuse if you could give it? Then why should God be any different?

 

A TALE OF TWO SISTERS

FAITH IN FOCUS:

We all know the story of the two sisters, Martha and Mary. When Jesus came as a guest, Martha complained that Mary was leaving her to do all the work in the kitchen and just sitting around talking and listening to Jesus.

 Surprisingly, Jesus came down on Mary’s side!

Yet we all live our lives like Martha. We shave in the shower and listen to the news on the radio at the same time to save precious minutes. At traffic lights we join the queue with fewer cars so we can be off first. And we scour the supermarket checkouts to find the least dozy-looking cashier.

 We’ve become consumed with doing as much as we can as fast as we can. We’re not so much burnt out as burnt up, consumed with activity. However, we rarely stop to ask ourselves why we are doing what we are doing and whether our priorities are right.

 Of course, we have to work. And we have to prepare meals if we invite people round to eat. But, just for a moment, forget about the work you have to do to earn a living. How do you spend the rest of your time?

 What are your priorities? Does God feature in them? Do you pray or read the bible or is watching the soap operas more important? Do you ever just try and sit back for a few moments in God’s presence? Do you have a sense of the spiritual? Of God being at your side in all that you do? Do you ever try to listen to what God might be saying to you in the events of your daily life? Do you try to process your activity?

 The Greek word that describes Martha being distracted actually means “pulled here and there by one thing and the next”. Sometimes in our flurry of activity that’s exactly what happens to us. Our rushing around becomes an escape from reality. We find refuge in being busy. It seems to validate our existence but really it stops us from asking deeper questions about our life’s direction.

 Jesus speaks Martha’s name twice.

“Martha, Martha, you worry and fret about so many things…” What a lovely reassurance of how fond he is of her! And what a reminder that from time to time we have to stop hiding behind activity and challenge ourselves at a more thoughtful level.

 

KITCHEN SINK HEROES

 

KITCHEN SINK HEROES

 Jesus rubs up everyone in today’s gospel. First he angers the Jewish establishment by telling a story about a man who was mugged, ignored by two clergymen and helped by a member of the hated ethnic minority. 

Then he shuts the legal boffins up by saying that you don’t need a degree in jurisprudence to understand God’s Law. Just a bit of common sense will do. You can know the Law but still be incapable of love.

 In fact, that’s what God said through Moses in today’s reading from Deuteronomy: “This Law is not beyond your strength or beyond your reach… it is very near to you, in your mouth and in your heart.” 

Yet we have problems thinking that God’s Law should be so easy. Coming from a superhero culture we tend to expect some great heroic sacrifice will be asked of us, some death-defying feat that will hit the front pages of the newspapers. But God simply says: look around and make sure your neighbour is OK. Christian morality is as simple as that. Love your neighbour.

 Today’s Samaritans are not those who go off to save the Third World but those who keep an eye out for the elderly or sick person on their street. They’re the kitchen sink heroes whose daily acts of kindness show that everyone is their neighbour. We shouldn’t need to ask, “Who is my neighbour?” Rather, we should listen for the call within us to become close to those in need around us.

St David said, “Do the little things well”. Perhaps that’s what God is trying to tell us today. For if we want to fulfil God’s Law, then we will do so by opening our eyes and ears and responding to people of all races and creeds when they need us.

 This is not something so difficult that only professionals can grasp it. It’s obvious, says God. It’s what we would want others to do for us, and we can do it for others simply by doing the little things well.

 

MOTHER OF ALL GODS?

 

THE MOTHER OF ALL GODS?

 In an attempt to shock, someone once said that all we know about God is that she is black. The one sure thing we can say about God is that he/she does not fit into a box. God is greater than anything we can ever imagine or understand.

 In today’s liturgy Isaiah uses feminine imagery to describe how God deals with the chosen people. And so God says that “she” will be like a mother to us, consoling us when we are sad, fondling us in her lap and suckling us at her breasts when we are in need of sustenance.

 Of course, God is just God. God’s not a man; not a woman; not something in between. God transcends, goes beyond, gender. But thinking of God in terms of a mother as well as a father allows us to glimpse God in an entirely new light. It means that we can suddenly appreciate the tender, life-giving, nursing side to God. These feminine attributes remind us that there is no part of our lives that God is absent from, and nothing that God is unconcerned about.

 Living as we do in a scientific age, we tend to think that we can dissect everything and find out exactly how it works before putting it back together again. Then we can use it when we want it. This approach sometimes affects the way people think about God. The have a Jack-in-the Box God that can be kept with the lid shut and brought out by undoing the catch when we can’t solve the problem ourselves and need a bit of divine help.

However, God is much too big to fit in the box and much too clever to be tamed by our attempts to tie him/her down to neat categories. Anyone who has ever read the scriptures will know that time and time again God acts in precisely the opposite way to how we humans think he/she should. God picks the very people whom everyone else discounts on the first ballot; God grants victory to the underdog; God confounds the proud with the humility of the meek, and turns up in circumstances where we wouldn’t expect God to be.

 Today Isaiah reminds us that God is bigger than us and we cannot pretend to have God taped. If we let our minds be stretched by thinking of God as both a mother and a father then we get twice as much God for our money!