The celebrated Catholic author G K Chesterton wrote: ‘We are like the penny, because we have the image of the king stamped on us, the divine king.’ Yet, the way we see God is vastly limited. His presence, his love, his intervention in our lives, is something that we simply cannot comprehend in full colour. The result is that we can barely escape the danger of perceiving God from the human perspective. And it is then that we load our own misconceptions onto God, giving him our prejudices, our lack of trust, our inner dialogue.
But the landscape of God forces us to simply stop, to trust, and to develop a relationship in which we concede that we are the little ones. Our perceptions, our preconceived ideas of God, will be confounded. As Fr Mike Schmitz puts it: “One of our favourite things to do is put God in a box. One of God’s favourite things to do is kick the heck out of the box.”
Jesus taught his disciples how to pray. We have the Our Father, of course, but there were other instances, too, for example in his parable about the need to pray continually. He said: “There was a judge in a certain town who had neither fear of God nor respect for man. In the same town there was a widow who kept on coming to him and saying, “I want justice from you against my enemy!” For a long time he refused, but at last he said to himself, “Maybe I have neither fear of God nor respect for man, but since she keeps pestering me I must give this widow her just rights, or she will persist in coming and worry me to death”.
Much of our prayer is based on petition. And this is a good form of prayer. We are coming to our creator with our needs, just as a child comes to its parent. But our lives of prayer, here at the Monastery, is based on more than petition. Ours is a life dedicated to God, through the practice of continually placing ourselves in his presence. For those who do not understand prayer and its importance in the world, this kind of life is an incomprehensible waste. Even in monastic life, it has been described as ‘wasting time for God’, being ‘idle for God’ and being ‘fools for God’. This practice of living in the silent house of God’s presence calls us to trust. Most notably, it asks us to accept that God is behind us, that we are heard, that we are responded to, even if not in the timescale or manifestation we might like.
Jesus goes on: ‘You notice what the unjust judge has to say? Now will not God see justice done to his chosen who cry to him day and night even when he delays to help them? I promise you, he will see justice done to them, and done speedily.’
What Jesus does in this parable is give us an idea of God’s justice, by referencing that even a grumbling judge gets around to helping a poor widow, if only because he is ground down by the constant requests. The ingredient that is lacking in the dialogue between the widow and the judge is infinite love. In the grumbling judge and the relentless widow, we see something of Chesterton’s penny with the King stamped on it. We see that we are made in his image; we live in a justiciable world, but our ability is nothing compared to God, who is Justice and Love.
The ‘delay’ that Jesus speaks of is not necessarily a delay in the infinite eyes of God. We have to concede that we do not understand. And the key to living in the presence of God is to trust in his love, beyond our own capacity. Praying continually does not mean that we understand more than anyone else. Sometimes, all we can do is ‘trust when we do not trust’, giving ourselves to him and praying to be enlightened. As St Paul writes: “May the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ enlighten the eyes of our mind,
so that we can see what hope his call holds for us.”
Let us ponder on those words: “…so that we can see what hope his call holds for us.” The ‘call’ is heard in the still, small voice of calm – that is, in our everyday lives, as we go about our work, as we peel the potatoes and walk through the garden, as we take off our wellies, as we iron our clothes, as we greet our neighbour with a smile. It is the longing to love him through the actions of the day, even when we feel far from his presence. The ‘seeing’ is built on trusting in the darkness of our relationship with God, on accepting that we are largely blind to the mechanics of God’s kingdom, even though we are all that penny, stamped with his likeness. In the cracks between St Paul’s words is the presence of infinite love: Love is the hope, Love is the call, Love is the ability for us to see, beyond our petitions, beyond our understanding of justice and even beyond ourselves.
And so, we live in the hope of our eyes being enlightened. We can be sure they will not open in the way we imagine, and God won’t affect this change in a prescribed way. He will surprise us.
We ask for the grace to love You, Lord, in the everyday.
We ask you for the grace to come to you each moment, to offer the most extraordinary and the most mundane parts of our lives to you.
We ask you for the grace to trust beyond ourselves, to be open to your ways, to be open to your call.
And we thank you, Lord. We thank you for our own justice system in our country. We ask you to comfort those who have been wrongly treated. We ask you to be there in the cracks of our own mechanisms of justice, guiding those who lead, inspiring them to remember your infinite love, giving strength to those who have done wrong, and reminding us all that we are built to become part of this love. Amen.