17th Sunday Year A
July 27, 2014


I take my cue from last week’s second reading from St. Paul … “We really do not know how to pray and what to pray for,” he wrote. But thanks be to God, he goes on: “The Spirit himself prays for us in sighs and groans that words cannot express.”

I do not know how to pray … even now, up till now. I do pray, but, to be honest with you, many times, I don’t know what to ask for. I don’t know what is best for me. I don’t know what is God’s plan for me on the short term. I do know, in faith and in hope, that He wants what is good for me and for others, but, at any given time, I don’t know what is best for he, here and now and in the foreseeable future.

I was crying (as usual) reading the report about the families of the doomed MH 17 flight en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur. They all had premonitions. One even was sorry to “miss” the bus to the airport, but ended up not missing the flight. But that which brought a torrent of tears was the story of an 11-year old boy who clung to Mama, saying “I will really miss you,” and “What happens if the plane crashes?”  There were some who prayed to be allowed a seat in flight, and those who, while hoping to get a seat, were not favored with one.

What would I have prayed for if I were in their shoes? Do I really know what is best for me? Am I really entitled to tell God what He should give me granted that I really knew what was best for me?

I turn to today’s readings for guidance. I look to God’s Word for consolation, for after reading those stories, including that of the three Pinoys who were excitedly going home for a family reunion in Pagbilao, Quezon, I am in grief myself … for all those who perished, and for those they left behind to make sense of something so utterly senseless in the first place.

Solomon seemed to know what was best for him then … He asked to be given “an understanding heart to judge the people and to distinguish right from wrong.” The Lord was pleased. The Lord granted him his request, “et sapientiam dedit illi” … he was given wisdom.

He was given that, not selfish requests. He was granted wisdom, “not a long life for himself, nor for riches, nor for the life of his enemies.”

He asked for what really mattered in the end. He asked for what would redound to the good of others. He asked for things that went beyond his person, his needs, his wants and his cares.

I don’t know what to ask for. I am saddled right now with so many concerns, finding myself in a post that would required the energy and focus of a much younger man. The times have changed. The culture has gone from bad to worse, and the existence of a sub-culture in the organization makes it even more daunting and forbidding. I don’t know what to ask for!

All I can say at times is what the psalmist prays for today: “Lord, I love your commands.” I do, but let me add: “Let your kindness comfort me according to your promise to your servants. Let your compassion come to me that I may live, for your law is my delight.” (Responsorial Psalm).

I may not know what to ask for, but God knows. This is the good news that I see and hear today! God knows. God loves. And God cares. “We all know that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.” (2nd Reading).

We may not know what to ask for either, but God knows our needs, and “our” here does not mean “my own alone,” for here, for now. It also means the needs of the suffering and persecuted Christians in Iraq, whose lives are in danger right now, and who, like all the rest of us, do not deserve to suffer.

My heart goes out to the families of the bereaved from the loss of MH 17, most especially the relatives of those who could not have known, and who are wondering how could they have not known (or how could some of them have known in their premonitions!). My heart goes out to the suffering Christians in Iraq who could die martyrs’ deaths anytime even as I write.

But most of all, my heart goes out to God. My hands reach out to Him in faith, in hope, and in love, beseeching Him to lead me where it matters most, to lead me to do what matters most, and to help me do that which means most to people who most need me and my puny little services and little capacities.

God promises not just any cheap grace. God promises costly grace, precious grace, life-giving grace, and that grace leads not just to physical well-being of the temporal kind, or happiness that goes with the swaying of the wind, or with the sudden explosion of a missile fired by wicked and depraved men and groups of men.

That costly grace is called by other names. Today, He calls it the Kingdom of heaven. And it is like a treasure buried in the field, which we ought to work for. It is like a merchant searching for fine pearls, and those pears are not laid on a silver platter. One has to work for them. That treasure, too, is like a net thrown into the sea.

I don’t know what is coming up ahead. I don’t know whether my wishes and prayers will be granted, but I do know one thing … From God’s storehouse comes both the new and the old, and for the really prayerful man or woman, what He gives is good enough. What He gives is best for me and you. Need I try to know now what is best for me? Need I pester God to give me what I think  is best for me?

Blessed are you Father, Lord of heaven and earth: for you have revealed to little ones the mysteries of the kingdom! That little boy of 11 years old who died after repeatedly hugging his mother is probably one to whom that mystery has been revealed. And I dare not judge now what is really the best for him and for his grieving parents!