Sunday, December 14, 2014

Why Doesn't God Hear Me ?

Steve walked up to me at the coffee shop last week.  He hasn’t been around much lately.  “Hey, Tom,” he said.  “Did you know Our Lady of Good Counsel Church will start the 6:30A mass again?  They’re starting with Fridays during Advent, and may move to other days next year.”
His words gave me pause, and later I even prayed over them:  “Lord, after the 6:30A mass --- which I liked very much --- stopped, I began attending the Friday morning men’s Bible study at 6:30, and attending a 5:30P mass.  I really like the 6:30A mass, but now so often it seems You are with me in the Evangelical church Bible study group.  What would You have me do, Lord?  And even as I prayed, I perceived the situation as being one of a “here is what I want” versus a “here is what You want” decision.
I chose to continue with the Bible study group, but still I wondered:  Is this really what God wants of me?  Did he hear my prayer?
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The Third Order Franciscan group is a close-knit group of friends, living humbly as they have vowed to do.  I only attended two of their meetings and remember few of their names, yet they invited me to their Christmas celeb ration in one of their homes.  I thought to do what I would usually do:  I purchased some books for each of them, and planned on baking my cherry cheesecake as my contribution to the celebration.  I knew they would like it.  But during my nightly prayers I was having second thoughts about the party invite:  This event will make me happy, but ….. will it bring me joy?  These are close, humble people, and a stranger would attend their party with gifts and special food, and then they’d thank me and talk to me and focus on this stranger in their midst --- and, yes, that would make me happy.  ME.  At that moment in the chapel, I suddenly realized, my happiness would arise from being noticed, and not from the joy for which they gathered, as a faith family.
I didn’t like the way I had planned my “scene” at the party.  I liked my plans, but saw into my heart, and didn’t like my motives.  This was not about me.  And so I sent a polite denial to their invite.  If I actually become a member of this faith family, there will be other celebrations, hopefully at a time when I am more humble, as they are.
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As the men gathered for the Friday morning Bible study, I gave each a copy of the book I had originally purchased for the Franciscan group.  Then I sat off to the side, reading my Morning Prayer.  The words I read spoke loudly to me:
We know that we have never wholly striven,
Forgetting self, to love the other man.
Free every heart from pride and self-reliance,
Our ways of thought inspire with simple grace.
Teach us, good Lord, to serve the need of others,
Help us to give and not count the cost.
I recalled my question to God about attending this Bible study group, and my reflections on selfishness.  My Morning Prayer readings continued with Psalm 51:
Have mercy on me, God, in your kindness.
O wash me more and more from my guild
and cleanse me from my sin. ….
My sacrifice, a contrite spirit.
A humbled, contrite heart you will not spurn.
As I read further, I saw that the day’s feast day was of St. Jane Frances De Chantal.  She wrote about a “martyrdom of love” where love of God “divides us from ourselves.”  In such a love, we are totally humble, unselfish.  Again, the words seemed to speak to me.
Meanwhile, the men at the Bible study were discussing the difficulty they found in persevering in evangelization, in “a world where no one cares about God.”  Some said it irritated them and made them difficult to be around.  They I read them some quotes from another book I was reading:  “A saint should be a very easy person to live with,” and “it is only by dying to oneself that one can give life to others.”  The words gave them much to think on.
And then, suddenly, on this feast day of St. Jane Frances De Chantel, I read these words in my second book (This Tremendous Lover):  “Might we refer then to the example of St. Jane Frances De Chantel?  While she was still living in the world, St. Frances De Sales became her director.”
I felt God’s presence, as I glanced across the table at a copy of the book I had earlier given to the men:  Roses Among Thorns, quotes from St. Francis De Sales.  Jane Frances and St. Francis, in the brievery, in a meditation book, in a gift book.  How had all these things come together in this one hour?  My thoughts and purchases over days, and writings and books written over the years all converged to provide me a clear message of humility, of doing not for self first, but others, and of seeing not coincidences, but the face of God … smiling on me.
“Why doesn’t God hear me?” was the question I had when I first prayed.  I can see the clear answer now as being but another question:  Why am I not listening?”  In seeing the feast day of St. Jane, the book I gave by St Francis, and the opening of my meditation bookmark to the exact page relating the two, to the men’s Bible study discussion being about humility:  I heard God’s answer to my prayer.  All the blessings and contemplations He blessed me with were so I could convey them to the Bible study men.  I was meant to be there.
I pray the men enjoy the meditations of St Francis De Sales in the book I gave each of them.  Perhaps there might even be one thing put there just to touch their soul --- if they are listening.  Then they too can hear God’s answer to their prayers.
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As I drove around I listened to the Christmas music sung by Amy Grant:
Trust me and follow me,
And I will lead you home.
--- from A Christmas Lullaby
Listening and trust.  This Advent is about preparing for His coming, His birth.  Are you preparing?  Are you reading, are you praying; are you listening?  “Why doesn’t God hear me?” is the question of a person with little faith.  He is God!!  Of course He hears you.  The question is, this Advent season, do you hear Him?  Are you really preparing to celebrate His coming; are you listening?
The Christmas hymn asks: “Do you hear what I hear, said the shepherd boy to the little lamb?”  He is coming.  Do you have to be thrown off your horse like Saul and have God speak loudly to you the answer to your prayer?  Do you think you are that important?  Or is God’s answer to you in the quiet of the night, like that whispered to the little shepherd boy?
“Do you hear what I hear?”  Advent is a time of preparation.  We prepare by doing something.  What are you doing, that you might hear His answer to your prayers?
I didn’t go to the mass I wanted to go to on Friday morning, and in the events of the Bible study I heard His answer to my prayer.  I read recently that martyrs today are not one who die, but ones who die to self.  I saw that in God’s answer to my prayers.  I’ll pray that you hear His answer to your prayers, and this builds to you having a joyous and Blessed Christmas celebration of His coming, to you.
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I wrote the last of the above words, finished my night prayers, and set out for home.  Driving through town, I said I’d stop at the local bar for a glass of wine if I saw an empty parking space.  There was one.  And as I turned toward the bar, the car in front of me signaled it was taking the empty space.  Rats!  I pulled into a side lot, taking the last space there.  And as I walked around toward the crowded bar, I saw across the street and town park the marquis of the local movie theatre, brightly lit:  “Miracle on 34th Street.  December 12, 13, 14”.  Huh, today was December 14th.  I walked across the park to the ticket window, glancing at my watch:  7PM.  “When does the movie start,” I asked.  “It’s starting right now,” the young woman answered.  Behind me I heard a woman say to her young daughter:  “Great, we’re not too late.”  I told the ticket agent: “Give me three tickets, so we won’t be late.”  The woman thanked me as we all rushed in.
The movie WAS just starting, and the theatre was jammed.  I found a lone seat near the back and sat down to watch the classic movie.  Rather quickly I determined, from the comments I could hear and the laughter at some of the old lines, that most of the people there had never seen this classic movie.  To me, this was odd, but it made watching it all the more enjoyable.  And I remembered the joy from when those lines were new to me also.  But it was one classic line which caught my attention and the attention of everyone in the theatre:  there was dead silence when it was spoken.  “Faith is believing when reason tells you not to.”  Everyone got the meaning of that line; it hit home to everyone.  Miracles happen; it is not wrong to believe in them.  It is not wrong to expect them ---- even if you don’t understand them.
It’s what this whole post has been about.


  1. "...Meanwhile, the men at the Bible study were discussing the difficulty they found in persevering in evangelization, in “a world where no one cares about God.” "

    I remember reading an account of a conversion to Catholicism from a former atheist a while back and was very impressed. But several commenters expressed frustration at how many people did not believe in God, and how disheartening it was. But for me, I was so joyous, because I had the thought that all our prayers for unbelievers were having an effect. God WAS speaking to hearts, and some of them ARE responding. It brought me great joy.

    The men of the Bible study should stop forgetting about results. They have no idea who they are touching, and how the person is affected. After all, they are just scattering the seed. God will water it and make it grow. That atheist may appear hard hearted and cynical, but maybe one day, maybe years later, the seed planted by one of those men will start to spout. So they must never lose heart.

    When I have felt disheartened and frustrated at my attempts to fan the flames of faith to no avail, and have a sense of little to no success, I was blessed to come across Blessed Mother Teresa's saying, "God does not ask us to be successful. He asks us to be faithful." That set it right for me.

    God bless. Fran

  2. Opps! It should read, "The men of the Bible study should START forgetting about results." And it should say, "They have no idea WHOM they are touching..." Oy vey!