Monday 24 February 2014

Faith, prayer, and the impatience of Jesus

The gospel of this morning: "I believe; help my unbelief." Jesus is coming down the mountain after a night spent in prayer (see Lk) and the transfiguration. I was struck by the fact that seeing him, the people were amazed and rushed to him. (Twice, for some reason, the text of Mt alludes to the crowd pressing upon Jesus.) And Jesus is impatient upon hearing from the father that the disciples could not cure his son: O faithless generation! How long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him to me. And after the father makes his request: If I can! All things are possible to one who believes.

By the time they retire 'indoors', however, Jesus is more calm. The disciples ask why they could not cast out the demon. Jesus does not say, because of your lack of faith, or your little faith. He says, quite calmly: this kind can be cast out only by prayer. He makes here a connection between prayer, faith, and healing. And his impatience is also therefore connected to prayer and to faith. He expects his disciples to pray. He models prayer for them.

Don Bosco prayed: we are becoming more and more aware of this, and of the way he valued and encouraged prayer, even, to our eyes, extreme forms of prayer, in his boys and Salesians. The Catechism of the Catholic Church, in its Fourth Part on prayer, describes prayer as a relationship.

Prayer is relationship. Prayer is love. The same rules apply to prayer, to our relationship to God, as they apply to other relationships. Only, here, the 'feeling', if at all, comes not at the beginning but at the end. So discipline is unavoidable. The discipline of waiting, with empty hands.

We willingly spend time with those we love. When it comes to God, perhaps the willingness is not there at the beginning. Perhaps the willingness itself is a gift. Or perhaps the gift was given, and it has died the death of neglect and disuse. So we learn to ask. Long. Desire. See Ps 83 (84) that we recited this morning:
My soul is longing and yearning,
Is yearning for the courts of the Lord.
Chiedo costantemente per la grazia di una intima conoscenza di Te, per amarti di piu' e di seguirti di piu'.

The fact is that I am already related. I am already loved. I might be aware of this. I might not be aware of it. A relationship has a chance to grow when we know that we are loved. Without such knowledge, we do not respond. And without a response, love withers and dies. Or at least human love withers and dies. The love of God, I would like to believe, does not follow this law. But ... even God is a beggar before the human heart. The relationship cannot grow unless there is a response. Not even when one partner is God. 

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