Thursday, Twenty-Seventh Week in Ordinary Time
Readings of the day: RB 9Mass: Malachi 3:13-20b; Resp. Psalm 1; Luke 11:5-13Today’s commentary brought to you by Cardinal Basil Hume (1923-1999).
“How often have we prayed for something, and our prayer has been ignored, or so it would seem. And how irritating this is when we have been told quite clearly: ‘Ask, and it will be given to you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened to you’ (Mt 7:7/Luke 11:9-10).Is there such a thing as unanswered prayer?
I am not able to give an answer that convinces me completely. The Gospel passage about asking is clear enough. I am helped by two things:The first is this
: just outside Fribourg in Switzerland there is an ancient shrine to Our Lady. It is a holy place and one where it is easy to pray. The walls are covered with expressions of gratitude for answers to prayers said in the chapel. One plaque caught my eye especially. It said: ‘Thank you for not answering my prayer’. What had that person in mind? Did he or she realise how the answer required might have turned out to be harmful? Did that person realise that God’s way of handling the problem was wiser or better? I do not know, but that prayer chipped into a stone hanging on a chapel wall was, for me at any rate, an important lesson. God’s ways are not mine. He knows best. I do not know His plans, I do not understand them. I must learn to trust.How often have we prayed for, say, the recovery of a sick child, and the prayer seems to have been unheard. The child has died. There is no easy explanation of that. But we do have to trust, and that will mean in a situation of this kind, walking on in the darkness and in pain. God had a plan for that child and we do not know and we cannot understand.The second aid
to understanding apparent failure to answer my prayer of petition is to reflect on what God really wants for all of us. He had one over-riding wish for us, and that is union with Him. Everything else is subordinated to that. So I would think that any request made, which will lead to union with God, either here or now or later on when I shall see Him face to face, will most certainly be answered. Perhaps much that we ask for will not be helpful. But even the asking draws me closer to Him.
I remain a bit uneasy. I do think that what I have written above in these notes is true. Why, then, am I uneasy? It is because the prayer of petition come from a heart that trusts, from the kind of faith that is strong enough to move mountains. I have to add this reflection. My explanation of why prayers remain unanswered is in many situations true and valid; at other times, though, there may be too little faith” (To Be a Pilgrim: A Spiritual Notebook, 135-136).Prayer—dialogue with the God who saves—will save the world.
(E. Bianchi, Echoes of the Word: A New Kind Monk on the Meaning of Life, 99)