Spiritual surrender

GOD’S WORD TODAY - Ruben M. Tanseco S.J. -

God’s unconditional love calls for our response of unconditional faith, together with our daily life of love-in-action, as a result of our constant prayer of discernment, rather than prayer of petition. A listening to God, rather than petitioning God to listen to us. This is the message of the deeply challenging Gospel reading for today (Mt. 14: 22-23).

Our favorite apostle, Simon Peter, is the anti-hero in this very meaningful incident. It was not his sincere dedication to follow Christ that failed. Neither was his love for Him. Rather, it was his faith that failed. His human instinct to control his life was stronger than his spiritual surrender to God’s design for his life. Just because the wind became strong, and he started to sink as he walked on the water, Peter lost faith in what Jesus had told him: “Come.” How often this also happens to us, in times of danger, threat, or failure.

“O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” These were the words of Jesus as recorded in the Gospel reading. He was practically saying to Peter: “Even if you actually drowned and died  — so be it! You would even be closer to me than when you were alive. In other words, if we give our human best in whatever we are in control of, the rest is in God's hands. And according to His own time, and in His own way, it will be for our ultimate good.

Now, all this is definitely not passive resignation. “Bahala na ang Diyos. Mag-antay ka na lang. . .” Neither is it religious fundamentalism. “Basta matatag ang paniniwala mo sa Diyos, ibibigay Niya sa iyo ang hinihingi mo sa kanya.” This is the danger of focusing more on prayer of petition, rather than prayer of discernment  — a listening to God's will and carrying it out in your life, in the best way that you can. This will give you inner peace. Whereas simplistic prayer of petition can lead us to psycho-emotional disaster.

Take this example: The husband of a middle-aged, well-educated woman was suffering from a terminal illness. It was just a matter of time, the doctors said. Even if she was not a deeply religious person, the wife was resigned in surrendering her husband to the Lord. Until a small charismatic group, led by an acquaintance of the wife, visited the dying husband and prayed over him. The charismatic leader assured the wife that if she would have total faith in God for the cure of her husband, he would certainly recover. “Claim it from the Lord,” they insisted. So the wife did what she was told. But some days after the praying over by the group, her husband died. You can imagine the pain and resentment of the wife, not only against that charismatic group, but against God Himself. Her faith was shaken, and it took her quite sometime to recover from all that.

Going back to Simon Peter: Perhaps the reason why his faith failed when he started to doubt was because his prayerlife was not yet discerning and contemplative enough. The first part of today's Gospel incident describes Jesus going up to the mountain to pray in quiet and solitude  — so He could listen to what the Father would say. Prayer of discernment, and whatever the Father's will was, this was what He would do. Jesus as our role-model in becoming contemplatives-in-action.

Let us not misinterpret, as many do, the often-quoted passage from St. Luke's Gospel: “Ask and you shall receive; seek and you shall find; knock and it shall be opened to you. For whoever asks, receives; whoever seeks, finds; whoever knocks, is admitted” (Lk. 11: 9-13). Note the absence of direct objects. Jesus did not say: “Ask and you shall receive exactly what you are asking for; seek and you shall find exactly what you are looking for . . . etc.”  The punchline is two verses later:  “If you, with all your sins, know how to give your children good things, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him” (v. 13). Jesus is thus telling us:  “Ask and you shall receive Me; seek and you shall find Me; knock and I will open to you. For whoever asks, receives Me; whoever seeks, finds Me; whoever knocks will be admitted by Me.”

This is the promise of the ever-loving, compassionate Jesus. This is the reward of spiritual surrender, as we do this in loving action, not in passivity or inaction. I do my best and the rest is in God’s hands, not only in our personal lives, but also in our life as a nation, if we respond to Him as a people.

For as long as our leaders, together with us, wake up and learn to discern God's will and carry this out in action, the rest is in God's hands. In His own time and way, our beloved nation will live on in love, justice, and peace.






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