The flag outside my window is taking a beating today. Hurricane Sandy is whipping it so hard I can even hear it over the sound of the wind. I wonder why they (the American Legion Post) raised the flag today knowing it would be subjected to such abuse.
As I say, it sounds like a whip. The sound of a whip always reminds me of Jesus, how he was whipped and crowned with thorns on a day that evidently turned stormy. Such unnecessary abuse (not that abuse is ever necessary). Torture before killing. Depravity.
What happened to the soldiers who whipped Jesus? Were their lives destroyed by what they were told to do? Did they suffer from PTSD like soldiers today? Or were they chosen for the job because they liked inflicting pain? I don't know.
Jesus forgave them. Can I?
It really is beyond us to even imagine what God can do. Do you think that the Hebrew slaves expected God to part the Red Sea so that they could walk across and get away from Pharaoh? Do you think Moses even expected it?
When they crossed into the desert, they would not have kept telling Moses that they wanted to go back to Egypt where they had plenty to eat if they expected God to feed them. Somehow they imagined that God would miraculously deliver them from Egypt and then leave them to die in the desert.
Do you think the apostles expected Jesus to feed 5,000 people with a few loaves of bread and some fish? No, they wanted to send the people into the town to buy food. Even though they knew God had fed their ancestors in the desert, they didn't expect God to feed the people in front of them.
So what about us today? Are we expecting God to work miracles in our lives when we need them? Are we limiting God to working within whatever we can ask or imagine? I know my imagination is not that fertile. I am naturally inclined to be more like the apostles - looking for the obvious answer. But I try not to limit the way God can answer my prayers.
Jesus, help us to keep our minds open, with eyes and ears attunded to the unexpected.
Many years ago, after praying for some days, a young man decided to become a priest and to devote himself to the area of central Africa. Some six or seven years later, he accomplished that goal, and three years after that he was sent to the area of central Africa as a missionary. He and his companions fell ill and eventually had to return home. But his dream did not die. Daniel Comboni persevered. He founded a new male religious order and went back to Africa. Even today the Comboni missionaries are known for their work in Africa.
What does this say to us about prayer? Fifteen-year-old Daniel prayed and made a promise to God about his life. He saw that promise through to initial completion with his first assignment to Africa. Although he suffered a setback with his illness and the illness of his companions, he did not let his return home quench the desire and the promise of his life. He persevered in prayer and in action. He found a new group of men, inspired them with his goal, and ventured forth once again.
Our promises to God may not seem as lofty as Fr. Comboni's. They may not require going to another country to bring the Good News. For most of us our mission territory is our family - spouse, children, brothers and sisters. In the territory of our homes, we suffer setbacks, illness and rejections. Sometimes we have to fall back and regroup, vowing to do better another day.
Prayer helps us to keep the end in mind - our salvation and the salvation of others. Prayer helps us to persevere and it keeps us in touch with our source of strength. Perseverance in prayer is powerful.
I started this website and blog on May 1, 2012. I am a Catholic who has been in ministry for many years. I first developed what I would call a close relationship with Jesus in the early 1970s. Ever since then I have been praying with people for healing and other needs. It is because I have seen so many of these prayers answered that I am so bold as to offer to pray for you individually through this website and phone line.