August 9, 2015 – Nineteenth Sunday in ordinary time
1 Kings 19:4-8; Ephesians 4:30–5:2; John 6:41-51
Gerry Pierce, CSSR
Mother Teresa of Calcutta tells of how she came across a Hindu family in India that had not eaten for days. She took them a small amount of rice. She was very surprised at what happened when she did so. Very quickly the mother of the family had divided the rice into two halves. Then she took half of it to the family next door, which happened to be a Moslem family. Mother Teresa asked, “How could you have any left over? There are many of you.” The woman simply replied, “But they have not eaten for days either!” “That,” says Mother, “takes greatness. Her greatness consisted in her ability to transcend her own need, a greatness that is often found in the most extraordinary places.”
Transcendence demands space, a suspending of the urge for immediate satisfaction. This, I think, is as true in the spiritual level as it is in the material level. The person who spends 100% of his or her income on needs can never grow out of poverty. In fact, such a person will go deeper into poverty because they will probably invest resources that they do not have in trying to hide their poverty from themselves and from others. The same happens on the psychological level. The person who is insecure invests almost all of his/her energies in covering up their insecurity and avoiding imagined pain. The pain of avoiding the imagined pain invariably becomes greater than the pain that it was originally designed to avoid.
If the person is to get out of poverty a space must be created. Some portion of their income must be taken out and used for some form of production rather than for needs. As this is done the person will have more income for production and more production gives even more to spend on needs. The proportion of the whole income going directly into needs will be getting less and less. While the poor person may be spending 100% on needs, the rich person may be spending much more but spending only 10% of their income on needs.
I believe that the same can be said about prayer. If 100% of our prayer is directed to our needs we will never grow out of a “give me” type of prayer and get beyond the prayer of wanting. I think everyone begins to pray primarily because of wanting of one kind or another. This wanting may be for things or money, or success or power or, even for spiritual riches like being holy or celibate. But if one is to become free and grow a space must be created in which one can just be before God. As one becomes comfortable in that space one will need less and less and be happy with what one has.