Sunday, February 17, 2008

Answered Prayers

Some of us have had closer encounters with God, like, when prayers, real prayers, are answered. When that occurs, I suppose one is filled with awe: OMG! [they text to themselves] God does really exist!

The question for me is, however, why would God ever answer a prayer at all. A popular song asks about God's relationship to us in another way (I laugh at the earnestness of the the refrain: "What if God was one of us?". A simply question with a very simply given answer -- God, in the Person of Jesus, replies: "I AM" for in Jesus' two natures we find that God is one of us: fully God and fully Man.) This song gets it all wrong, of course: even without the saints and angels and archangels and cherubim and seraphim, God is never alone. God, Three Persons, One God, is complete onto Himself. We can add nothing to His Joy; we can take nothing away from His Glory. In short: God owes us nothing.

So, back to my question, why would God come down to our level and answer a prayer? I mean, does God change his mind because of our incessant supplication? (Lk 18:5) C.S. Lewis had a meditative twist to this: "I don't pray to change God; I pray so that God may change me." (This statement he uttered as his wife, whom he loved more than he loved his own life, was dying of cancer. Shadowlands and Passion of Christ are good views for this Lenten season, I believe). Of course not. When God's "anger burns hot" against me, it's not because: Ha! I "made" God angry with my disobedience! No, it's because my wrong catches fire when exposed to God's unchanging light. So, God doesn't need to answer our prayers, and we can't make God intercede because He owes us one.

The Priest at today's Mass had an enlightening position: God answers our prayers to prepare us for our cross, and to prepare us for The Cross. God comes down to our level when He answer our prayers, but what good does that do us? The good is that it strengthens us to face our crosses, because when we are raised up on our crosses, when we are cruxified, that's when we meet Jesus, face-to-face, on Calvary: we become the good robber to whom Jesus said: "This day you will be with me in Paradise."

For, what is our final end? Many argue the final end is death. The purpose of our life is to live our life because oblivion is all that awaits. In short, our life's final end is nothingness -- we are meant for nothing. But this is not true; not at all. We live our life for some good, and judgment, based on our disposition in this life, determine our final end in the next. God answers our prayers, so that we may have the strength to take up our cross, during this Lent and during our lives, so that we may follow Him.

Today's Gospel was the Transfiguration. Notice, this occurred just before they departed to Jerusalem, just before Calvary. Jesus shows his divinity to Peter, James and John (the "Sons of Thunder") before the darkest hours. Why? To prove to them that He's God? As if his many miracles haven't already set him apart ("set apart" is one translation of "Holy"), no, it's to strengthen them so that even though they fail the trial that is to come, they do not descend into despair.

What does this mean for us? It means suffering: when God chooses His own, that means nothing but suffering -- God's chosen race, the Jews, have a well-documented history of oppression from their inception. It's funny, in a way, atheists have it hard -- they have nothing but themselves to know and have the excuse of everything, from the weather to pure perversity, to get them off the hook. But we Christians have our comfort in the Lord. This comfort is even harder, however, because we can cast our burdens on the Lord, but God chooses to chastise the ones He loves.

It takes faith to make sense out of suffering, but it takes strength to persevere in faith in the midst of that suffering.