Thursday, December 16, 2010

For This We Pray

For President Obama and all civic leaders, that they may protect the sanctity of life, and support the holiness of marriage; for this we pray to the Lord …

In the Catholic mass the Scripture readings come near the beginning, followed by a sermon on what they mean. God speaks to us, and we try to hear; he gives us example, and we try to understand. He extends to us blessings, and we try to receive. Immediately following His words is our public response to them --- and we immediately begin to ask for things.

This section of the mass rightfully is called “The Prayers of the Faithful”, because we are engaging in prayer, speaking to God. But it also rightfully is called “Petitions”, since all we do here is ask. It’s fitting, I guess, that our first words are those of needs and wants. Despite all that God has given us we feel we need more. Sons and daughters of Adam and Eve, we act like them. Despite the huge blessings we have, we want more. I guess we are all really like young Oliver Twist, we are blessed with food, shelter, clothing, and companionship, and still we ask: “More, please. I would like some more.” Putting ourselves in the shoes of Oliver, I guess it often seems like we don’t have much.

Still, today, as the petitions began, the one praying that our government respect life and marriage shocked me. It sounded no different to me than if I had asked for food because I am starving. Respect life and marriage??!! Those are basics, just as food! Are our leaders as Hitler and Stalin, murdering millions that we have to pray that they might protect life? Are our leaders like the those of the French Revolution, who murdered priests and nuns, such that we have to pray that marriage and the sacraments be respected? When I was a lad growing up in the ‘50’s, I never imagined that there would come a day that I’d pray that our government would not be like these others.

In the ‘50’s, we often prayed for peace. Having just come through two great wars, we knew the value of peace --- because we knew the costs of when we lost it. We may have felt that there were many things we would like to have, “More, please”, but we knew the value of what we did have, and we prayed our blessings, as meager as they might seem, continue. “Never say that things can’t get any worse” is the saying which comes to mind.

When I think back on that early time period, for me, there were many things the whole world seemed to worry about. China’s power was demonstrated in Korea to a stalemate, but we worried about what the outcome might be if we had to fight again. We practiced hiding under our desks, in case a nuclear attack came. And we discussed scientific studies that a new ice age was upon us, and what we might have to do to keep warm and grow food in the coming years, kind of the opposite of what kids are taught in schools today. And mass global starvation was predicted by 1990, as population growth would outstrip the ability to feed them --- and that was a scientific fact.

I guess there are always things to worry about; we are only men. I read a study recently that explained the drastic drop in the number of icebergs, the eventual starving of seals and eliminations of species, and the likely mass flooding of coastal cities which will occur in just a few years. The study was done in 1922. There are always things to worry about.

Now we worry about seals dying again, and we worry about our government killing people. Perhaps these worries, together, are worse than before, but I think they are not different. We are only men. There is so little we can control, and even those things we can control, we do so badly. And so we pray: “More, please.” Oh Lord, You give us so much, so many blessings, but can’t You make things better?

History tells us He can, He did, and if we trust, He will again.

Do Not Be Anxious. There is a reason I chose those words for this blog’s title. They are so important, and need to be remembered. And if you must, read the words following them in Matthew 6: He will take care of us. We need not pray our petitions with anxiety, He knows them even before we speak them, but we need to pray them in trust and in praise. He will make all things right; He has promised us. He can be trusted.

In a few short days we celebrate His birthday, the biggest promise kept of all.

Near the end of the mass, we pray again:

Our Father, who art in heaven,
Hallowed be Thy name.
Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done,
On earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
And forgive us our trespasses,
As we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
But deliver us from evil.

And shortly after this perfect prayer of praise and trust, we can receive Him. The biggest promise kept: He was born; the biggest miracle, the “more” we asked for: He is with us even today in the Eucharist; and the happiness we cannot even imagine: We will be united with Him forever.

For this we pray …

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