Friday, January 07, 2005

Time For Evening Prayers

In an article called, Angry with God , Jeff Jacoby comments on the God's role in the tsunami disaster. He includes this insightful tale by Elie Wiesel.

Elie Wiesel tells the haunting story of three rabbis in Auschwitz who convened a court of law and put God on trial for allowing His children to be slaughtered. At the end of the trial, which stretched over several days, they pronounced Him guilty of crimes against humanity. Then one of the rabbis glanced at the darkening sky. And now, he said, it is time for our evening prayers.

Jacoby says that getting angry with God has valid roots tradition in the Judeo- Christian tradition. This may be true, but my sense of it is that arguing with God (as a practice) may be more Jewish than Christian.

In my younger days I came to the conclusion that God was calling me to respond to a vocation to be a Catholic priest. After visiting my local bishop and having some discussions with him about this matter he agreed and set the process in motion for me to become a seminarian.

This process seemed to take forever and obstacle after obstacle was placed in my path. I remember visiting the seminary in late July in an unsuccessful attempt to address some of the academic obstacles. The visit did not go well, and I stopped by the chapel on the way out to visit with the real presence of Our Lord in the chapel tabernacle.

Although I did not intend to do it, I found myself, in my great frustration, arguing heatedly with God. It was a humdinger of a one way verbal commentary, with me demanding answers from Him and commenting caustically on His failure to smooth the way. After all, I reasoned, the vocation was His idea, not mine. I finished off by challenged Him to straighten things out right away if that was what He wanted me to do. Anyway, after my tirade I knelt, said a prayer(my personal equivalent of the evening prayers above)and left.

I remember being quite shocked at my vehemence and attitude. You have to understand that shouting at God, particualrly before the tabernacle, was not included in the list of permissible things in my Irish/Scots Canadian Catholic upbringing.

I fully expected to miss a year of seminary training as matters were not going well. Two days later I received a very nice letter from my bishop saying he had removed all the barriers and I could start at the major seminary that September.

To this day, I believe that my angry tantrum was well received in Heaven. I think He liked my complete honesty and granted my demands. (After all, it really was His idea.) I also learned, through the experience that He has a real sense of humour. I think He had a good laugh at my stupified reaction on opening my bishop's letter.

In the end, I did not become a priest. That too is okay by Him (... I think). I don't regret the experience in the seminary, although at the time I left I was very angry with the liberal, anti-Vatican tenor the of the place. But that's a story for another time.


As for God's role in the tsunami disaster, I can only say as a man with faith that we cannot know His ways fully. How does one square God's love and compassion with so much obvious suffering, so unequally shared? I see folks arguing now that the tsunami is proof that God is either heartless, or lacking in omniscience, omnipresence, or omnipotence.

A superficial contemplation may suggest these ideas have merit, but I ask you to look deeper. I suggest to you that pain and suffering are inextricably part of the human experience and are somehow closely tied up with God's great gift of free will and our reluctance to choose to live entirely in Him.

This is hard to understand and harder to accept, as our understanding of the matter is constrained by our finite nature. We earthlings are necessarily people of the moment because we are not (yet) people of the heavenly peaks. We cannot understand fully because we cannot see things as He sees things.

That is the reason God took on His creation's nature, so we can learn from His time among us. Accordingly, I believe that the answer to the problem of pain and suffering lies in contemplation of the bloody cross of Calvary and the loving man-God that died on it, only to rise again from the tomb. Just as He now views things from a transcendental summit, He once viewed things from that cross. That is part of His eternal experience.

So be angry with God over ther tsunami disaster if you wish. I fully recommend you tell Him you're angry and why. Shout, scream and yell at Him. Denounce Him for what you believe to be His shortcomings as God. Then, once you've had your say, kneel and say your evening prayers. He knows what it's like to suffer and has shown to us how good can come from our pain.


At 3:19 am, January 08, 2005 , Blogger Rebecca said...

I've had only a handful of exposure to seminarians, either those who have become priests or those who have taken a different path, but they all have a certain something - I thought I recognized it in your writing :)

I have difficulty getting angry with God; my biggest weakness is giving my thoughts over to depression, which I guess is directing anger and sadness inward instead of upward. Once upon a time I might have asked why. Now I ask what? What can I do? After some of the things I've been through, I'm learning not to ask why of God too much - he'll let me know in His time.

At 8:55 pm, January 08, 2005 , Blogger John the Mad said...

I find it remarkable that you would recognize in my writing something of the seminarian. You now have me pondering what that charactoristic might be exactly. I know that Jesus has revealed Himself to me in a direct way that I could (and sometimes do), ignore. But I cannot, in honesty, deny Him. He is real, loving and Lord of all. Perhaps that marks me in a way that shows, depite my lazy, sinful ways.

You're absolutely right. His time is not our time.

I did not mean to imply that it was easy, or even prudent, to be angry with God. But Truth wants us to be truthful. He tells us that it is the truth that sets us free. In His presence our first inclination is (or ought to be) to fall on our faces. But He wants us to walk upright eternally as His brothers and sisters. Even angels will give way to the elect.

I think this, to a degree is what purgatory is about. A status above the angels. Imagine how hard it might be to accept this. In a good person this will cause some degree of denial and pain. St. Peter went through it when Our Lord washed His feet and when He forgave him three times for denying Him three times.

It is when we accept our forgiven and fully renewed spirit and open ourselves to Him completely that the great exchange of love can begin in earnest. "...And the father will dance, as on a day of joy, He will rejoice over you and renew you by His love."


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