Here’s a list of things I pray for every day (not in any particular order): my family’s growth and sanctification, especially my mother’s, two brothers’, and two aunts’; the repose of my father’s soul and close family members’ souls; all of you and our parish; my own growth in holiness; more vocations; the priesthood; Pope Francis; Archbishop Miller; an end to abortion and euthanasia; the flourishing of real marriage between a man and a woman; the flourishing of family life; and the poor and those in need. These intentions are very important to me. There are a few other intentions that are very personal so I won’t mention them, but these are among the most important.
What do you pray for everyday? What’s most important to you? Who’s most important to you?
The Gospel today is so beautiful, and the message is this: if we want to see things get better in our lives and in the lives of those we love, then we have to be completely open to whatever Jesus suggests, even if it’s difficult, and even if we’re not completely convinced.
At Cana in Galilee, there’s a wedding. “Weddings in the Holy Land were celebrated for a whole week; the entire town took part, and consequently much wine was consumed. Now the bride and groom find themselves in trouble.” To run short of wine would be a social catastrophe that would damage a family’s reputation for years. Our Blessed Mother notices this and goes to Jesus for help. She then tells the servants, “Do whatever he tells you” (Jn 2:5), meaning she’s open to whatever He suggests. Then Jesus asks the servants to fill six huge stone water jars with water and take it to the chief steward. They probably weren’t completely convinced but they do it anyway, and Jesus works a miracle by changing water into wine. Great things will happen, miracles even, in the areas we’re praying for, if we’re open to whatever Jesus wants to do.
I’ll give you one serious example and one which you may think is silly.
1) A priest was once assigned to a parish in serious financial problems. From the moment he heard about the assignment, he was worried about going there, and once there, became increasingly nervous. One night, when he called a priest-friend on the phone for help, expecting consolation, he got a huge challenge. To solve the financial problems, his friend suggested he start tithing: giving 10% of the parish’s collection to charity and people in need. But the priest said, “I can’t pay the bills as it is, and you want me to give ten percent away? You’re crazy.” His friend said, “It seems you trust your money more than you trust God.” “This stung the priest right to the core, and over the next several weeks he struggled with the idea. One day he went over to the church… and just sat in front of the tabernacle for a long time. Finally he decided that he would lead the parish to become a tithing parish. On Monday after the Sunday collections had been counted, he went to the bank, opened a new account, and deposited 10 percent of the collections… Each month for twenty years now, he has distributed 10 percent of the parish’s income… to those in need. Little by little, the people of the parish were also won over to the idea of tithing. Today that parish is a vibrant spiritual community with excellent facilities and fantastic programs. It supports many ministries locally and beyond, and has a couple million dollars in the bank” (Matthew Kelly, The Four Signs of a Dynamic Catholic, 132). That’s a miracle.
May I ask: how many people here would be open to the possibility of our parish giving 10% of our collection to charities and those in need? Can I see a show of hands, please? It’s something to pray about, and sounds like a beautiful thing to do. And how many people would be willing to donate 10% of their salary to charities and those in need? 🙂
2) Two of my friends have always prayed for a strong marriage. They work on it and are proactive. But, for a while, they’ve felt their lives were so busy, so focused on the kids that they stopped enjoying things together. While they were totally on the same page with regards to God, the faith, and how to raise the girls, something was missing from their marriage. And they prayed about it.
You know what was missing? Could it be affection, tenderness, listening? What was missing was jujitsu. That’s right. The husband loves this sport because it’s good to be with other guys, good for his health, and the spirit at the club is really good-natured. He tried a few years ago to get his wife involved. She tried it and didn’t like it.
But for Christmas this year, she decided to get him a present. She secretly trained for a month, kept a journal of what she was learning along with pictures, and on Christmas day, she got dressed up in her jujitsu uniform and surprised her husband. Best Christmas present ever for him! Why? Because not only are they still on the same page about the most important things in life, they now share a hobby together, and that’s helped their relationship. Her openness to what God was suggesting, even if it seemed strange, allowed Him to help them.
I’m always offering suggestions here and there about how to grow spiritually. I wonder how open we are these. Pay attention to your resistance.
Resistance towards God is deadly. The famous rich young man in the Gospel, who was seeking true life, to know how to enter heaven, but then resisted Jesus’ invitation to let go of his wealth, was never heard from again. That’s crazy, isn’t it? He encountered God in the flesh, got a direct answer from God Himself, and then refused to follow. His resistance was deadly.
Take Confession. It’s crazy how we all resist going to the one place that consistently gives us life, forgiveness, and grace. We’ve all experienced the power of Confession, but we’re still resistant. We wait until we commit a mortal sin to go back. We wait until Lent. We wait forever until we can overcome our sins.
Matthew Kelly tells a story about a man who changed his life. Because something was missing in Matthew’s life, the man suggested that he start visiting a church everyday for 10 minutes, but he resisted. When he finally started doing it, he loved it and said he never knew how he lived without it. Then the man suggested daily Mass. Matthew resisted, then loved it. Then he suggested reading the Bible everyday for 15 minutes. Mattew resisted, then loved it. Then he suggested visiting a nursing home once a month. When he resisted this, the man said, “I’ve asked you to do three things. Have those three things made you a happier person, a better person, moved you closer to God?” “Yeah.” “Why are you so resistant?” (Matthew Kelly, A Call to Joy, Track 9, 3:11).
There’s a part of us that always expects God’s suggestions to be easy, enjoyable, and of amazing quality. So we’re naturally resistant to what’s hard, unpleasant, and of ordinary quality—that’s deadly.
Is there something in our life, that we’re not entirely convinced of, that we could see if God’s calling us to it?
Bl. Mother Teresa famously said, “Give God permission.” Let’s give Him permission by trying things that are good. I’m not saying trying things that are bad (E.g. “Let’s try getting drunk!”). No, when we’re suggested something good by God, a friend or a priest, what do we have to lose? We can try it and, if we don’t find it fruitful, we don’t have to continue. But it’s the openness to these good things that’s important. Great things happen when we’re open to what Jesus wants.