Father, Whom You know Yourself to be:
At first I am embarrassed to come to You right now. After getting selfishly testy with my wife over a small offense, thinking unkind thoughts about a neighbor, looking a little too long at a woman’s picture with thoughts I know to be displeasing to You, it feels completely inappropriate coming to my knees to ask You about my friend’s prayer request.
But then, when have I ever earned the right to come to You as though I am acceptable based on how good I’ve been or what I have become? Isn’t it always on Your own merits, simply by Your grace, by what You did for me, that allows me to even approach this “throne of grace?” So here I am, starting as always, with repentance, asking first for Your forgiveness for all that is in me that falls short of the mark, forgiveness for simply being who I am because of so many wrong choices I’ve made, starting with ones before I even realized I was making them; simply for being one of Adam’s race and having inherited his nature, so unequipped and unacceptable to such a Holy One as You. But, yet, here I am, by Your mercy, found equipped and acceptable because of Christ inside me; not that I am, but He is!
And so I ask for Your mercy for my brother, who is facing a mountainous task today. Now why would You, who can span billions of light years with photons before even making the stars from which we assume the light comes, care about our little troubles? You who speak worlds into existence and with just as little effort can annihilate them? And with six and a half billion of us on this planet, a tiny blue ball in a vast sea of dark matter, why would You care about one little guy in Chicago this morning working through his brother’s death and the family’s grief?
But there it is, You said You cared!! So much that You accounted for the hair’s on his head as he brushed another couple of them away this morning; You said he was worth more than thousands of birds that died today, and yet You had noted each one of those deaths as well! So surely You noted this death in Chicago last week and grieved more than his wife or brother, felt more deeply the empty place at the dinner table, missed more than his wife the warmth of his body in the bed bedside her. And You loved him more than anyone on earth ever dreamed of loving him! Probably the only love he ever knew that even approached Your’s was his mother’s, and even hers was often mixed with selfishness that is part and parcel of being a daughter of Eve.
And so as it is nearing 10:30 in Chicago, I pray for my friend and those with him at Mass today, that You will reach around the church with Your loving arms, and preach to every heart a sermon around the vicar’s attempts at kindness. Use the words of scripture that will be read, even if from unbelieving lips, to inspire faith. Use the icons, though foreign to Your commands, to remind them of real people who trusted You with more than their very lives. Use the liturgy, so steeped in tradition and superstition, to instruct any open heart, just by the contrast of what is vital and real, of the truth that there will be a day of reckoning where every eye will see Jesus and every knee will bow before Him. Use the glass windows to show how you can bring beauty from brokenness and glory through stains!
LORD, whom You know Yourself to be, remind each heart of his or her frailty and mortality with this brother’s death. Reveal by Your Holy Spirit the truth that he has not ceased existing, but that he is now alive in another realm, separated from us by such a thin and wispy veil that it is only a breath’s thickness; that now he has entered one of two futures we all face: either one of light and joy and satisfaction and wonder hardly even imaginable here, or one of darkness, despair and emptiness such that no one ever would imagine if You had not warned us of it; that each of us is destined for the same when we gasp for a breath that does not come. Suddenly the air we breathe in is not the grey crisp air of Chicago, but it will be air thick with life or death.
If it is life we breathe after we leave this shadowland, it will be richer than anything we can consider; eye has not seen nor ear heard, nor has it even entered the heart of man what You have prepared for those who have trusted You for salvation, but You have revealed hints of it by Your Spirit and in Your word. Communion with friends and lovers of our souls, trust undisappointed, light that requires no sun, no separations by impassable seas, nourishment that is constantly available and complete for a body that is perfect, that won’t ever wear out, fellowship with Him who loved us more than His own life, “and so we shall be with the Lord forever.”
But if it is death we breathe after we leave this shadowland, it will be darker than anything we have ever considered. A place of outer darkness, the only ‘communion’ being the noise of weeping and gnashing of teeth, the laments of lives wasted and unforgiven, the torment of selfish choices denied, and even worse sometimes realized, the anger of blame and the bitterness of ‘why, me?’ Alone and existing, but without a renewed body, lacking connection to anyone else, and without a renewed soul, lacking what matters most, connection to a loving Lord. Oh, LORD, have mercy on us!
And now, while these assembling with my friend have time, extend that mercy through his words. Let Your wisdom fill his mind more than the grief of wondering about a brother’s eternity. Let Your life in him become so evident that others will ask about the hope and peace he has! Let his hope and peace be anchored to You, and serve as a shore to which others can swim for safety out of a turbulent sea of frustration, disappointment, fear, and grief. Fill him with Your Holy Spirit and like You promised Your first disciples, it would not be us speaking, but Your Spirit through us. So I commit my friend into Your hands, knowing fully that the Judge of all the earth will do what is right, and the Savior of men will do what is most loving.
I ask all this as if I was Jesus (what an absurd thought!) but You said to “Ask anything in My name . . .” and so, in Jesus name, let it be (amen)!