I sent you! Now, you do something!
How do you talk to God? For me I have always found it easy to talk to God and I talk to Him constantly, almost continuously. I talk to God just as I talk to people, family, parishioners, and friends. It would be true to say that God knows what I’m thinking because I tell Him. In fact, not so long ago I was complaining about God to a priest friend, Fr. Anthony Brausch, the rector of our seminary, and he stopped me and said, “hold on a second,” then he took a step away from me and said, “go on.” Don’t get me wrong, I pray, I pray the Breviary, Rosary and celebrate Mass every day. I offer my morning and night prayers, I always pray for the poor souls as I make my walk around the cemetery, I pray for those who asked me to pray for them, for our parishioners, our parish, I say the Angelus at 6am, 12noon and 6pm. I light candles at the shrine of the Sacred Heart and Our Lady every day as well as in my home in front of images of the saints and the Cross. I do a Holy Hour every day. I do a lot of praying. And I talk to God constantly, about everything, and everyone. There is no doubt that God knows my mind.
It is also true that I speak to God in the ups and downs of my life and priestly ministry. I argue with God, I complain to God about God, and I get annoyed and angry with God. Much of the time the conversation is happy, encouraging, and joyful. Nevertheless, sometimes I feel discouraged and pessimistic like the Prophet Habakkuk who we hear from this morning in the First Reading at Mass. He says: “How long, O LORD? I cry for help, but you do not listen! I cry out to you, "Violence! but you do not intervene. Why do you let me see ruin; why must I look at misery? Destruction and violence are before me; there is strife, and clamorous discord.”
A few years ago, I had a particularly hard and pessimistic day. An elderly man came to me and told me that he had absolutely no interest in living, that he felt completely alone and abandoned and that his life had no meaning or joy anymore. His very soul was sad, and you could tell. He said that he simply wanted to die and prayed that God would take him. The reason for his grief was that after 60 years of marriage his wife had died. They had known each other since before first grade. Pretty much they had known each other all their lives. They went to the same parish, the same parochial school, different high school but in the same neighborhood. The only time they were apart was when he went away to Europe to fight in World War II. When he returned, they married and had a family. She was his whole life and now she was gone, and he simply didn’t want to go on without her.
That same day I met a young mother whose toddler daughter had cancer and she and her husband were beside themselves with pain and emotional turmoil. They just didn’t know what would happen or how they would cope. How do they explain to their child what and why she was suffering? She didn’t ask why God would allow such a thing, but she did ask me to ask God to help them. Also, that same day I went to anoint a young mother in hospital who only had hours to live. Her cancer was aggressive and within three months of the diagnosis she was now on her death bed. She would leave behind a husband with two teenage daughters.
When I want to bed that night all of these people were on my mind and I began to talk, out loud, to God. I asked Him where He was in all of this. I said to God “why were these people, who were His friends, who believe in Him, who went to Mass, who prayed, who tried to live good and generous lives, why were they suffering so much.” “Why,” I said, “have you done nothing to help these people?” “Why do you (God) make life so hard for your friends?” Then I heard God say to me: “Fr. Ben,” yes even God calls me Fr. Ben, God said to me as clear as day: “I sent you into the world to help these people. I made you my priest to bring my love to these people. I sent you to make me present and to be with them.” Then He said to me: “This is what I have done. What have you done?”
All around us we might have reason to complain but that should not prevent us from making God’s love present. In fact, it should make us love even more because God’s love is what we all long for most even if we don’t know it. God does listen and it is not true to say no help came – we are the help! Complain all you want but love even more.