Thursday of the First Week in Ordinary Time
(Esther C:12.14-16.23-25; Matthew 7:7-12)
Rabbi’s Harold Kushner best-seller When Bad Things Happen to Good People pictures an almost impotent God who helps people by inspiring them to work together. Prayer to such a deity, it claims, gives one occasion to think about what must be done to improve the situation herself. The book seems to say that any hope that the situation may be modified that goes beyond human will and perhaps chance is wishful thinking. Is there any way to reconcile such thinking to the Scripture readings today?
Jesus assures his disciples in today’s gospel that God listens to prayers like an indulgent father attends to the pleas of his children. Queen Esther in the Old Testament selection demonstrates the proper stance vis-à-vis the Lord as she throws herself to the ground in supplication. In both cases God is considered as the real cause of change. Both readings claim that God can be counted on for assistance.
“Then why are not all prayers answered?” some will retort. This is an earnest question which may be called “the mystery of God’s silence.” Its answer is steeped in tradition although it will not satisfy everyone. It insists that we must acknowledge God in faith even though we will never understand all His ways. Just as He has been actively present to us countless times, He can withhold any recognizable response. Still we can be sure that He has heard our plea and will act on our behalf although when and how may not be forthcoming.