I heard a speaker once ask his audience how it is possible to drive across an entire country in the dark. If you think about it, he said, all you know is the few feet in front of you - what is illuminated by the headlights. And yet, you trust and know you will arrive at your destination.
This is a perfect metaphor for the spiritual life and the necessity of trusting God, even when - as is the case most of the time - we only know the next couple feet in front of us, and certainly not what lies ahead in the years to come.
The readings this week have recalled this concept to mind, as in a few places there were reflections on prayer and abundance. In other words, we pray, we stay close to God, and we must trust in His abundance, even when we are not sure of the outcome.
From Wednesday’s (6/19) first reading, 2 Corinthians 9:6-11:
“Brothers and sisters, consider this:
whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly,
and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.
Each must do as already determined, without sadness or compulsion,
for God loves a cheerful giver.
Moreover, God is able to make every grace abundant for you,
so that in all things, always having all you need,
you may have an abundance for every good work.”
Paul goes on to remind his readers that they are being “enriched” and that God will supply, multiply, and increase their harvest.
Enter Bishop Barron in his daily reflection on the Gospel from that same day:
“You also have to pray with persistence. One reason that we don’t receive what we want through prayer is that we give up too easily. Augustine said that God sometimes delays in giving us what we want because he wants our hearts to expand.”
The following day, June 20, the Gospel tells us one of the profound truths of prayer, and one which deserves meditation: “Your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.” (Matthew 6:8)
Enter Bishop Barron again for the hard-hitting truth:
“Keep in mind that prayer is not designed so much to change God’s mind or tell God something he doesn’t know. God isn’t like a big city boss or a reluctant pasha whom we have to persuade. Rather he is the one who wants nothing other than to give us good things - though they might not always be the things we want.”
I connect these things intimately: prayer and trust. And, persistence in prayer. And what results from this prayer? Abundance. I have heard it said that God’s dream for us is so much larger than that which we can dream for ourselves.
The readings themselves, especially from St. Paul, urge a spirit of abundant generosity back to God. Indeed, I believe we must begin with our own attitude of generosity when we approach God, including in our prayer life. After all, everything we have, beginning with the first breath in our lungs, is a gift from God. We are merely giving Him back what is already His. To come to him in prayer with gratitude and trust in His abundance is maybe the whole point - because He already knows what we need. There is, of course, value in praying for specific things we need or desire, but there seems to be something to what Bishop Barron says, that the purpose is not to “change God’s mind,” but rather to be with him, close, trusting, which in turn opens us to His abundance. It is like the difference between having clenched fists to hold on to what you have, versus open hands to receive what God wants to give.
Happy Corpus Christi Sunday to you.