8 Pentecost, July 30
Every Sunday is Easter, every day the Eucharist, every moment the kingdom at hand. Faith sees this amid contradicting evidence and frequent confusion. Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the denial of nothing that is seen. Faith is present hope amid present trial and the tricks of history, even sacred history. “It is of God to liberate from all confusion” (The Imitation of Christ), but the mystery of that liberation is veiled. It never feels like absolute certitude, it never removes risk and warning. Humility is required. “Having accepted confusion, a humble person has enough peace: because he stands in God and not in the world” (Idem, Lib. 2, cap. 2-3).
“Give thanks to the Lord, call on his name, make his deeds known among the people” (Ps. 105:1). Sing the wonders of the Lord, the miracles of God, divine and holy judgments, a covenant and command (Ps. 105:5-9). God is the giving tree. And though God is gracious in all his works, God gives and takes away. As if speaking for God, “Laban said to Jacob, ‘Because you are my kinsman, should you therefore serve me for nothing?’” (Gen. 29:15). There are two gifts: Rachel, whom Jacob loves, and Leah, the firstborn, deceitfully given in place of Rachel on the appointed wedding night. After seven years of labor, Jacob thinks, “You shall eat the fruit of the labor of your hands; you shall be happy, and it shall go well with you. Your wife will be the fruitful vine within your house” (Ps. 128:2-3). Jacob rejoices at the wedding, and praises God and the beauty of his wife at night. “When morning came it was Leah!” Parse providence, and you will curse God.
There is so much we do not know. The God we know is the God of Unknowing. “Having accepted confusion, a humble person has enough peace, because he stands in God and not in the world.” This confusion reaches so deep within that we are baffled at how to approach God, how to speak truthfully, how to pray from the heart. We ask God to give and God gives otherwise than we propose. We want something or someone gracious and beautiful. God gives, by trickery, it seems, a woman whose eyes are lovely but dim. We must pray with the life we have. Not understanding our lives, we know not how to pray.
Faith comes in. “We do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words” (Rom. 8:26). “The Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God” (Rom. 8:27). The Spirit is planted within. It is the mustard seed, the yeast, the hidden treasure, the pearl of great price (Matt. 13:31-33, 44-45). This is the wordless prayer of God, God praying within us to the God who is beyond us. “You are more inward than my deepest part, higher than my highest” (Augustine, Confessio, III, vi, my trans). When you pray, pray in this way, in sighs too deep for words. Open your mouth and pant (Ps. 119:131).
In the world you have tribulation. There is hardship, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, peril, the sword (Rom. 8:35). Even amid the good, yet hidden, providence of God there is so much we cannot understand. Blessings may be hidden, and gifts may look different in the light of day. We do not have to know. God knows for us, and knows us, and knows what we need even before we ask.
There is a prayer in the heart, inward groans and outward sighing, an exhaustion and weakness that is the power of God.
Look It Up
Read Romans 8:28.
Think About It
God alone foreknows.