instruere...inlustrare...delectare Disputations

Tuesday, February 03, 2004

That's all?

Peter Nixon writes, of two prisoners he knows:
All I have to offer Ray and Mark right now are my prayers.
I think we can generalize this to:
All we ever have to offer each other is God's love.
True, there are plenty of times when we can, when we must, offer someone some material aid. But what is the spirit with which we search for ways to help another in his need? Do I rummage about my collection of means, and only pull out my shabby old prayers, apologetically, if I can't find anything better? Do I feel like I'm doing more if I can give a person in need some money, or a job, instead of only prayers?

There are several aspects to this. First is the value of prayer relative to material assistance.

Even considering material assistance, though, there is the question of who provides it. In my pride (and my tax returns) I claim that I am the one who provides. But of course, no one can give what he doesn't have, and everything I have comes from God. What I provide -- in the way of prayers as well as material assistance -- was given to me by God for the express purpose of giving to others. The only pride I should take from any of this is that I happen not to be too foolish or too sinful at this moment to resist God's will.

Finally, what is material assistance provided by God through me but a sign of God's love? It's the definition of love to give good things to someone, and it does no one any good to draw false distinctions between spiritual and material goods. Material goods do serve spiritual goods, but both have the same end of participation in God's eternal life.

We should guard against improperly deprecating either the material or spiritual goods God has given us to give away. In our fallen state, hoarding material goods makes a certain perverse sense. But "I went off and buried your talent in the ground. Here it is back," makes no sense at all when the talent is prayer for others. What's the point of keeping that to yourself?

So do pray for Ray and Mark, and for Peter and those who work with him in prison ministry, and for whatever other intentions come your way. Speaking of which, the Pope's intentions for this month are "For Peaceful Coexistence among Christians, Jews and Muslims in the Holy Land" (general) and That in Oceania priestly and religious vocations for evangelization in the local Churches may receive special care" (missionary).

Your prayer may be as shabby as mine, but if we cultivate the habit of prayer for others, who would dare to say what good God won't give through them?