As a kid, I used to always love to walk through the toy aisles whenever my parents took us shopping. Occasionally they would let us buy something, but more often than not, the answer was “not right now”, or “you don’t need it”, or even “you have plenty of toys at home!” I would often feel disappointed by this answer, but looking back, it always amazes me how that disappointment would be short lived. Sometimes, it was because I received that toy I wanted for a birthday, or for Christmas. Other times, it was because I realized that my parents were right, and I didn’t really need that toy after all.
Even though I may not have recognized it at the time, my parents were teaching me a valuable lesson- a lesson that is echoed in today’s Gospel. My parents knew that giving me whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted it was not a recipe for success. They knew that I needed to learn the difference between wants and needs, and to understand that you can’t always have everything that you want. I think that’s one of the reasons why I can appreciate it now when my parents want to buy me a new pair of shoes for Christmas or for a birthday- because they are giving me something that I truly need, and that won’t end up broken and forgotten on a shelf in just a couple of weeks.
God often works in the same way. Jesus tells us in today’s Gospel that our prayers are always heard and answered. However, he also makes it clear that they are not always answered in the way that we expect. Jesus does not promise that God will give us whatever we want. He does, however, promise us that just as parents know how to give good gifts to children, God will give the gift of the Holy Spirit to those that ask for it.
Understanding how God answers prayer can be difficult, especially when our prayers are focused around heavy issues. Praying for the recovery of a loved one who is ill, and having that person succumb to their illness can leave us with questions and doubts about God’s presence in our lives. It’s important to remember, though, that we can’t always see how God is at work in the present moment. Sometimes, we have to take a step back, and place our trust in God, even when things don’t make sense. Doing so will help us to see how God continues to give us his blessings through the Holy Spirit, even when things do not seem to be going our way in the present moment.
Sincerely in Christ,
Fr. Steven Huber, CSB