This past weekend's Gospel was from Luke 1: 26-38. This the the story of the Annunciation, when the Archangel, Gabriel, appeared to Mary and announced that she would conceive and bear the Son of God.
In his homily, this weekend, Father put forth an interesting juxtaposition. Side note: does anyone else get excited to use a word like juxtaposition in their blogpost? Yeah, I figured. (I am SUCH a nerd!)
He reminded us all how fearful this moment must have been for Mary. She was young, a teenager, and she was being told that she would conceive a child, (when she had no relations with a man). Without the fact that this child would be the Savior of the World, this was scary. She was betrothed to Joseph who could choose to leave her; becoming pregnant out of wedlock might get her outcast (and that was probably the least scary option); and going through pregnancy, labor and childbirth without going through normal human means to get to that situation...the chances are that Mary might have wondered if there were ANY way at all to bring the Lord, our Savior into this world without having to go through all of this, that she might pray for that instead. But she said, "May it be done to me according to Your will."
Then he reminded us all how fearful the night before His Crucifixion was for our Lord in the Garden. He prayed that if there were any way at all to accomplish what He needed to accomplish without going through the torture that lay ahead, that He would rather do that. But His prayer, ultimately, was "Thy Will Be Done."
The juxtaposition was this: Instead of praying with the spirit and intention of "Thy Will be Changed" Jesus and Mary both prayed with the spirit and intention of "Thy Will be Done."
How often when I pray, do I say the words, "Thy Will be Done" but with my heart and mind I say, "Thy Will be Changed"? I have caught myself more often than I want to admit with the prayer, "Please, Lord, Let it be your will that X, Y, or Z happen."
I thought about this a lot this weekend.
It's human to want things in our lives. We think we know what's best for us. We would like to avoid suffering. We'd like to partake in all the comforts of this life while avoiding all of the discomforts (or most of them anyway). And I think it's in some of Paul's writings in the Bible (yes, I'm showing my Catholic laziness by not trying to find the actual Bible verses...sorry) that we are to petition the Lord. He wants us to pray and petition Him. That is how we build a relationship with Him. However, just because the outcome WE desire does not materialize, does not mean God has not heard our prayer or has not answered our prayer.
I think it's easy to get caught up in our prayers to God and think that we must be praying for what is God's will because we desire it so much in our hearts. We make ourselves believe that God put that desire on our hearts or else we wouldn't feel it so strongly. And, then when our hearts' most urgent and real desires do not become reality, we kind of stomp our feet and say, "Well, why do I desire this so fervently if it's not Your Will, God!?!?" And sometimes we only pray all the harder for this intention.
It's hard to remember that God answers prayers on His terms, in His time. And it's hard to remember that God's will is not always something we ourselves would choose.
I have a favorite line/quote from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (the first of the series). When I think about what I want versus what God wants, it pops into my head. It is at the end of the book when Dumbledore and Harry are having sort of debrief discussion after the climax of the story. Dumbledore tells Harry,
"--the trouble is, humans do have a knack of choosing precisely those things that are worst for them."
Now, of course. humans do not ALWAYS choose something that is worst for them. However, that which is best for us usually entails a bit of work, or some suffering, most likely some sacrifice.
More than likely, God's will for us is going to take at least some work on our part, most definitely some sort of sacrifice and undoubtedly a bit of suffering.
How often do we see our choices ahead of us and ask God to grant us the way with the least amount of work, sacrifice and suffering? And then, when the way that unfolds for us is the one with the work, sacrifice and suffering, we are sad, we think God didn't hear us and we surely believe God didn't answer our prayer if, somehow, He did hear us.
I have found myself pleasantly surprised at how much I've thought about this message over the last 24-48 hours. I am challenging myself to honestly assess my prayers and hold myself accountable for where my heart is anchored.
Do I pray with the spirit and intention and request that God's will be changed to conform with my wishes and desires?