God Knows And So We Pray

Passages: Isaiah 54:1-13; 1 Tim. 1:1-11; John 2:1-11

In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen!

“The poorest children in the world are those whose parents gave them nothing but money.” When we pray, when we open our hearts to God, should we tell him what we want? If we do, do we share with God what we want in hopes that God will give us what we pray for? Many of us often wonder why God does not answer us the way we want to be answered – why doesn’t God just give us what we want?

“If God rewarded us immediately the way we wanted, then we would be engaged in business not Godliness…pursuing profit and not piety” – St. Clement of Alexandria. In other words, my dear brothers and sisters, if God gave us what we wanted, when we want it then we would truly be impoverished similar to how if our parents only gave us money rather, then give us the tools, skills and abilities to face life’s challenges. Our relationship would be merely a transaction rather, then communion. Additionally, as the proverb states, “give a man a fish, they eat for the day, teach a man to fish, they will eat their entire life.” It is the same with our faith!

As children of God, we understand and we believe that God knows our needs and our necessities, our wants, our likes, our dislikes, even more than we could ever understand or articulate. Therefore, why even pray in such a manner? Why ask God for anything if he already knows what we need? In today’s Gospel we read the story of Christ Jesus turning the water into wine. And we love this story of Jesus miraculously making delicious wine at a wedding party. Not only do we see and read of what Christ did for his first miracle, according to the Gospel of John, but we also see how he was almost hesitant in helping at all and yet, listened to his mother, St. Mary’s, request. However my dears, something we often overlook, or maybe never thought of, is that Jesus knows, from the very beginning, that the wine is finished. Christ is aware of what is happening in the same way, that God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit know what is happening in our lives and what we need. And it isn’t St. Mary’s pestering Jesus that changes his mind, nor is it that Jesus was waiting for someone to ask – rather, it is the trust that we see that St. Mary has in Christ Jesus knowing that God will provide, God will bless and bless with not what is merely needed but with something even better. We in fact see St. Mary praying to God – in the same way we must pray.

When we pray, we don’t pray a list or present a proposal in anticipation for what we ask. God is not Santa Claus nor is He a businessman. But rather when we pray, we confess, we open ourselves and we express our emptiness and inabilities, our challenges and our goals. But we do so not out of hopelessness or defeat but with hope, trust, love and faith that God will give us exactly what we need in order to heal, to grow, to eat, to drink, to believe, to be wealthy in faith.

A trust that God will fill our emptiness not with something as plain as water, but rather, with something as satiating, and miraculous as wine. If our trust and faith in God was only evident when we get what we want, we would be truly poor in our faith. We would be like a child whose parents only give them money but never teach them about the value of work, care, dedication. We would, as the saint teaches, only come to God when we had business. We would eat for the moment but starve the rest of our lives.

However, God’s love for each of us wants much more than the momentary satisfaction of a full stomach. God’s love for us is to be always blessed and always fulfilled. This begins when we come into communion with Him through Christ Jesus. As St. Paul says, “Christ Jesus [is] our hope” (v.1). That is why the priest every Sunday lifts up the chalice with the body and blood of Christ and says, “this is life, hope, resurrection, forgiveness and remission of sins.” This is how we begin our communion with God; this is how and why we pray; this is how we trust God to turn our water into wine.

Therefore, yes, we must pray and ask God for His guidance. We must come to God and open the depths of our hearts because through humble prayer we remain in communion with God. So let us always come to God with the same trust and hope that St. Mary came to Christ Jesus at the Wedding in Cana. Let us believe when we pray that God will equip us with everything we need, more than we could ever understand. Let us pray that God will bless us with everything that will enrich our faith and never leave us impoverished and poor. So that we, together, can grow in communion with Him and together learn how to always glorify our Father in Heaven, with His Son, Christ Jesus and the Holy Spirit, Amen!

True Success

Passages: Hebrews 12:18-27; Luke 1:39-56

In the name Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen!

If someone was to see us and say we’re so successful or so lucky because of all of our accomplishments, how would we respond? Perhaps we would thank them for their compliment; Some of us may even say it’s just a matter of hard work and dedication; Other’s still might say, we are very blessed to have been so fortunate. Regardless of our initial response, we all would know that even with some luck the truth is our success lays in how much effort we invested and what kind of sacrifices we made to succeed in our work. An athlete invests time in working out and eating properly – sacrificing leisure and sweets.

A student invests time in carefully studying and preparing for their exams sacrificing social life. A doctor invests time in learning about his or her patient’s needs in order to properly diagnose them, sacrificing personal rest. A lawyer invests time to learn the case of their client, sacrificing personal time and peace. The proverbial image of an iceberg comes to mind as we think of how little is seen above the surface of the water, when so much more lays beneath the surface.

In the Gospel today, we encounter this kind of conversation with St. Mary, the Mother of God and with St. Elizabeth, the mother of St. John. St. Elizabeth proclaims to Mary, “Blessed are you among woman, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!” (v. 43) St. Mary responds with, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has regarded the low estate of his handmaiden (vv. 47-48). In other words, Elizabeth says “you are such a blessed woman” and St. Mary immediately responds with I am only blessed because I have put my trust in God. How many of us, like Mary, would give credit to God for what we have achieved in life? Yes, perhaps we would say things like “by the grace of God” or “Park Astudzo”, yet, as St. Mary does, how many of us would give credit only to God?

My dear brothers and sisters, today’s Gospel is not teaching us to give credit to God for our hard work and sacrifice. Rather, what we are being called to is an understanding that our true blessing and success comes when we place our trust in God not only in words but through action. A few years ago, while talking to some of the counselors up at Hye Camp I was asked if I had ever seen God? I began telling stories of amazing things I have been blessed to see serving in ministry – whether in hospitals, in prisons, or even the lives of parishioners. And I was asked the question, “why can’t we see those same things as it would really help with our faith?” As I thought about the why, I quickly began to understand even for me, my trust in God didn’t begin after witnessing how God is working in people’s lives but rather, I began witnessing those things when I trusted in God.

Even in the case of my own “ministry success” or in goals we set to achieve in life, yes, we are the ones who do the work but in truth it is God who guides us, gives us patience and keeps us going – God blesses the world through us. Because the truth is that God is in our lives always regardless of how much or little we believe or see. However, only when we begin to invest time and effort into our faith, only then do we in fact see God’s presence in our lives. Only then do other’s see God through us. We don’t do it to gain favor with God. Something that is often misunderstood and criticized by our brothers from the Protestant Churches is that we as Orthodox Christian’s believe that we must work for our salvation. No my dears! Christ Jesus, through his birth, life, death and resurrection has already saved each of us. Rather, we work because we have been saved through Christ. We invest time in our faith, we pray, we confess, we repent, we love, we hope, we forgive, we donate, we show mercy, we defend, we lift up, we stand up, we teach, we volunteer, we sing, we do Badarak, etc. we put our faith into action because God already did all this and more for us. God put His love into action!

So when we begin to live in the same way, when we begin to imitate Christ as St. Paul teaches us, then like St. Mary we understand that we are truly blessed and we are truly successful, we are magnified and begin to see God only because God is in us. With our mouths we pray to God and with our hands God works through us. Therefore my dears, if we truly want to be successful, if we truly want to see God’s presence and be blessed, let us begin by trusting God not by words alone but also through our actions. Let us understand that the more we give to God, the more we will receive back. May we understand that we are only truly blessed when we allow God to bless others through us. And by blessing each other, by putting our trust and hope in God, we glorify God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit eternally, Amen!