29th Sunday C – Does God Listen?
One day, years before her conversion, the agnostic Edith Stein wandered into Cologne Cathedral out of curiosity. While in there and looking around she saw a woman enter, kneel and pray, and leave again. The image stayed with her. If the future Carmelite nun, holocaust martyr and saint felt a fleeting wish to pray like that woman, she was already praying. Her praying never stopped. Prayer, personal contact with God, often comes in unexpected and fleeting ways. People pray when they spontaneously ask God for help, when they see or hear something inspirational, or when they wonder about God or the meaning of life.
Prayer comes from God. When we pray we are riding on the back of God’s love which is poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit – cf. Rom 5: 5. Thomas Aquinas might say that prayer is one hundred percent our doing and one hundred percent God’s doing. We are tempted to think it boils down to our own personal effort, like the widow’s pleading with the judge in the gospel. Widows in ancient Israel were voiceless and people of no worth. Many judges at that time were corrupt and usually found in favour of the rich and powerful, while ignoring the needs of widows and the poor – cf. John J. Pilch, vol. 3, 152.
There was a huge social distance between the widow and the judge in the gospel. They lived as it were in different universes, had vastly different values. The distance between God and us is immeasurable, and is bridged in Christ who is human and divine. God’s love is poured into us when we pray, and the Father hears the voice of his Son Jesus in our prayer. That’s the theology. What about the daily practise of praying, the uphill push, the frequent dryness and sense of futility? God listens to us no matter what.
What happens in prayer when we close our eyes? A lot depends on what has been going on in our lives. If the major item in the news has been the war in Ukraine and images of destruction have been shown, we may feel sadness and fear during prayer. If a health diagnosis has been good, better than expected, our feelings during prayer may be warm and positive. Some people’s experience may be deeper and border on encounter with Christ. Their prayer can be accompanied by personal memory of God’s love as experienced in various passages of sacred scripture. One thing is for sure: God is very near to us in prayer, whether we are aware of it or not.
Fr. QQ – 10/14/2022
The surest sign of prayer’s genuineness is when it influences what we say and do. – Joyce Rupp .