I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it now – John 16:12
I was going through homily 52 on the gospel of St. Matthew by St. John Chrysostom, and this passage came up. It was one of those a-ha! moments. I thought I would talk a little bit about this passage, and how patience relates to it.
One of my greatest frustrations at times is to not understand, or comprehend clearly, all that is around me. Some of these questions that run through my mind might be:
- Why does it seem like there is so much confusion on the basic teachings of the faith?
- What is God’s particular will for me, and how do I go about putting it into action?
- Why does it feel like we have camps forming in the Church? Is one side right or wrong? Is the Holy Spirit just working in a complicated way today?
- Is the writings of this theologian safe to read? If not, why do they garner so much praise?
These are just a few of things that run through my mind, and I really wish some days I would just get the answer right away. It would almost seem that when the Lord tells us to pray for to ask for something good, that we should receive it, no?
Which one of you would hand his son a stone when he asks for a loaf of bread, or a snake when he asks for a fish? If you then, who are wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good things to those who ask him – Matthew 7:9-11
So, what is the issue? Where is the answer to my question? I am not asking for money, just understanding. Again, as we mature in faith, and begin to understand scripture in a fuller sense, and not in a narrow sense, focusing on one or two passages that fit our need, we begin to see things more clearly. Take this passage from Matthew and compare it to what our Lord says in the gospel of St. John. Yes, if you ask for something GOOD, the Lord will give it. That is the prerequisite for the prayer, something good is asked for. In the gospel of St. John, we see here that our request to understand more, given the specific situation and context, may not necessarily be a good that we are to know, at least, not now. Christ did tell them he would tell them more later because they could not bear it now. The logical conclusion that we can draw from this, and why perhaps the questions we ask are not always given immediately (or in some cases, never answered) is because it is for our good that we do not know the thing we request at that moment in time.
It does make perfect sense when you think about it, and it relates well to the need for our wills to be in uniformity with the will of God. God decides what is our good, and decides ultimately whether we receive the things we ask for or not. Either way, this should not bother us because it is God’s choice, and God’s choice is ultimately the best choice. In my particular request around gaining extra clarity, if an answer is not given to me right away, I draw three conclusions:
- My request is a good request, and the time has not yet come to know what I ask. Therefore, patience is needed
- My request is a good request, and the time will never come for me to know what I ask because it is above my pay grade to know certain things
- My request was a bad request, and will likely never be answered (such as next weeks winning lottery ticket numbers)
I think what we believe to be a perceived good for us, may often be something that the Lord does not want for us yet (or ever). Of course, when we are to pray for something that is objectively good, like an increase in graces to be more virtuous and a saint, I do not think the Lord deny such requests, however, how and when he wishes to manifest this within our life will vary wildly from person to person. We have to evaluate each particular request that we bring up, and really distinguish whether this is a good or bad request. In the end, we must have trust in the Lord that He will fulfill all good requests that come to Him, and we should be at ease with this thought:
…let us approach with a sincere heart and in absolute trust, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience… – Hebrews 10:22
Trust in the LORD with all your heart, on your own intelligence do not rely – Proverbs 3:5
The Lord is good to those who trust in him… – Lamentations 3:25
Trust in God, and he will help you – Sirach 2:6
Take one of my questions above around knowing the will of the Father. Could you imagine what would happen, if at age of 10, the Lord fully disclosed to each individual His particular will for that individual? How many, percent wise, would you think would end up following His will? Less than 1%? In many ways, it is in our best interest to not know certain things at discrete points in time, and just patiently wait for the Lord to reveal (or not) the answer to are petition. For, more often than not, by knowing a particular request, we will likely screw it up due to sin. Either way, we should not get bogged down by this, but I admit even from my own experience, this is very difficult at times. We feel that by getting that answer we will be one step closer to knowing all things, but in reality, we will never know God in His entirety.
So, let us practice patience, especially for those requests that we deem to be very important to us (but perhaps not to God). Yes, it would be nice if all this confusion will dispel, yes it would be good to know how the Holy Spirit is working, but where is the trust in all this if all is revealed? It is also a bit arrogant on our part that we should even think ourselves worthy to receive some intimate knowledge from God. Nevertheless, let us bring our good requests to the Lord, and leave the rest to Him. We can squander so many hours thinking, and brewing on these things to no avail, and in the meantime we lost 20+ opportunities to practice virtue. Do not stop requesting good from the Lord, but balance that out with the reality in front of you now, and wait patiently for the crumbs to fall from the master’s table.
Blessed Mother, pray for us!