Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time (August 16, 2020)
How many times has something been going on in your life that you don’t like? Something that is causing you grief, heartache, or stress and it would just be easier if things were different.
We get a glimmer of that in today’s Gospel passage from Matthew. A woman begs Jesus to help her daughter who is being tormented by a demon. I’m a huge fan of scary movies and have seen my share of movies showing possessions and demonic activity. So I can imagine how miserable the daughter’s life is and also how difficult it is for the mother to watch helplessly.
It is with this desperation that the woman approaches Jesus and begs for his help. Surprisingly, Jesus actually initially ignores her request. Not once. Not twice. It took her pleading with him three times for Jesus to help the daughter. It was a test of faith. The mother could have easily walked away after getting denied once or twice, but kept pleading. Jesus granted her request and this encounter has a nice, happy ending.
But what about the times we beg God to help us… but we don’t get the answer we demand? What about the times we cry out to God in desperation… but feel ignored?
A terminal diagnosis. Financial struggles. Unemployment. “Have pity on me, Lord, Son of David!”
Infidelity in a marriage. Addiction. Feeling unloved. “Lord, help me.”
What do we do when, even after praying, there seems to be no answer?
Last week, as I was going over today’s readings trying to figure out what to preach, I came across a Christian singer named Micah Tyler. He wrote a song titled, “Different” that really caught my attention. But what makes the song even more powerful is the story behind the song. It’s helped me greatly look at things in a different way the past few weeks.
So, I have a treat for you today!
I don’t know about you, but I really miss all the music during Mass. Granted, Micah Tyler’s song is not a liturgical song, I still thought it would be very beneficial to play it for you today in the context of my homily. Listen to the lyrics but especially listen to the opening story:
“God change me so I can handle the things you are walking me through.” God. Change. Me. How beautiful is that??? That is the take away from the song. It is such a powerful prayer, which is why I encourage you to add it to your daily prayers.
Our current society is very self-centered. It’s all about me. Do what you want. So if something is not going well, we too often are quick to want to change the factors outside ourselves. We are quick to say, “God, change these things” or “God, change that person.” Then we get mad when our prayer is not answered. But… what if God really is answering our prayer, but not in the way we want? What if God is using our current situation to change… US?
It’s still very much appropriate to pray to God like the woman in today’s Gospel passage. Ask God for what you need. He knows, but tell him anyway. It helps to hear it out loud. But if God doesn’t answer immediately, consider changing the prayer. Ask God to change YOU so you can better handle the situation with grace and understanding.
It’s funny, because here is a typical prayer that sounds like something I would have said in the recent past,
“God, my kids are driving me crazy. They don’t listen; they don’t clean up or follow the rules. I need them to be quiet so I can have some peace. If they would just stop running around screaming, then I’ll yell less. Please help them change their bad habits. Amen.”
After meditating on this song, my prayers are now sounding more like this,
“God, thank you for my crazy kids. Help me to put aside my work struggles and love them more intensely in the moment. Help me have more patience with them. I pray that I can be firm, yet always loving when disciplining them. Help me appreciate these times with them because I know they will grow up and be off on their own in the blink of an eye. Thank you God for choosing me to be their dad. I pray that with your grace I will be worthy of that title. Thank you for all the blessings in my life. Amen.”
Don’t be discouraged if things aren’t going the way you want. Keep praying and be faithful.
But, if you are feeling brave…. try adding 3 words to your prayer life:
God… change… me….