Homily for 27 October

God is in the facts and the facts are kind.

I think I find it hardest to pray when I do not want to accept what I perceive as a hard reality. I want God to change the present reality into something else, but God is only present, can only be present to me, to us in the real. Which is not to say that the present is perfect or not in need of change, but we need to start with the real.

Our Gospel from last weekend and this week’s Gospel are about the humility to pray in and about the real, the humility to accept the generosity and mercy of God.

Last weekend we heard the parable of the widow who keeps demanding that an unjust judge give her justice. We are called to pray constantly because prayer is born from and nurtures faith and hope.

This week’s Gospel is the parable of the tax collector and the Pharisee. The Pharisee is not doing bad things, but he has a sense of entitlement. He feels righteous before God. The tax collector knows that he is a sinner and deserves nothing, all he can do is ask mercy. He leaves justified, he is in right relationship with God.

As I said I find it hardest to pray when I do not want to accept present reality, when I want it to be otherwise. But as the Jesuit Spiritual writer, Gerard Hughes said, ‘God is in the facts and the facts are kind.’ More often than not when I have prayed for something, I have not received what I prayed for. But through persevering with prayer, my desire, my want has been purified and I have seen the generosity of God in prayer answered just not in the time or way of my choosing.

Which brings us back to today’s Gospel which calls us to know our dependence on God, our poverty before God, which invites us to trust, as Jesus did, in the goodness of God. We do not need to persuade God to do the good for us, to care for us; God is good. The tax collector teaches us our poverty before God and to learn to accept what his goodness gives. We all too frequently want the good on our own terms and schedule. But we can pray about this too, struggle with God about it.

As we persevere in prayer we discover the truth that God’s self-giving love in Jesus Christ ‘takes up and includes our story also, we learn that our brokenness and chaos are encompassed by God’s healing and transforming presence at the heart of our real lives – that “God is in the facts and the facts are kind.”‘ (Brendan Callaghan SJ)