Can you imagine God appearing to you in a dream and telling you to ask for anything – that He would give you anything you want? What would you ask for?
I think I would be the first to ask for enough money to make sure I can pay my mortgage – and enough money to pay for my kids’ university. And if I had a lot of money, I could donate it to charity or do something great for the Church. And after thinking about what I want, with a tinge of guilt, I’d ask for peace in the Middle East, for a solution to the refugee crisis – for an end to this pandemic!
The truth is that we tend to think about what we want for ourselves first. And it’s not wrong. It’s not a bad thing for me to pay my mortgage or to put my kids through university. It's definitely not wrong for me to want to be safe from this virus. And it's human nature to care for our own first. This is why I may be more interested if there's an earthquake in Costa Rica than if there's an earthquake in Madagascar: I have friends in Costa Rica and family very near there, and they are Latin Americans, like me. I don't know anyone in Madagascar.
If God would appear to you and offer you anything that you want, what would you ask for?
There’s a story about St. John of the Cross – he was a Carmelite priest and a mystic. In the story, Jesus spoke to him and said, “You’ve done well; what would you like as a reward?”
And St. John of the Cross said, “To suffer and to be despised because of you.”
We should be wary of giving St. John of the Cross' answer – we have to be careful what we ask for, ‘cause we might get it.
I know a deacon who had been a seminarian and, as a young seminarian, had prayed that he wanted to one day serve a Mass with Pope John Paul II. But a couple of years later, he left the seminary and got married. Life took over, and he forgot about what he had asked for.
Twenty years later, he was a permanent deacon, and he got a call: “Do you want to be a deacon for the Closing Mass of WYD?”
So he got to serve a Mass with Pope John Paul II! Be careful what you ask for, because you may get it. God cares what you want. In the second reading this coming Sunday (Romans 8:28-30), St. Paul says that good things come to those who love God. That’s because God cares about what’s good for us, what we need – but also what we want.
When I was about eight years old, my grandmother and I were in a shopping centre. As we walked past a toy store, I saw a little toy detective set in the window. It had a little gun and a holster so you could carry the gun under your jacket and little plastic handcuffs and a magnifying glass... everything you need to be a young detective. I said out loud, “I wish I had this.” I didn’t really expect to get it. I probably didn’t really want it. I knew I didn’t need it – but I said that out loud.
The next day, my grandma called me on the phone to tell me that she got me something: She had bought me that toy detective set. I was grateful, but I felt bad. I knew that my grandma didn’t need to spend $20 on a toy that I didn’t need. I had lots of toys. My grandma knew that, but she cared about what I wanted. She wanted me to be happy.
I am the same with my kids. I care about all the little insignificant things that they want. God is the same. God cares about all the little things that we want. God cares that a newly wedded couple has wine at their wedding (see John 2:1-12). He cares that we have wine! God cares about all your little, petty, insignificant, irrelevant desires.
He also knows that we don’t know what we need or what’s good for us. We need Heaven, but we don’t understand what that is or how badly we need it, and so Jesus spends all this time trying to explain it: “The Kingdom of Heaven is like this...”
or “like that.”
The Kingdom of Heaven is like a great treasure – or a pearl of great price (see Matthew 13:44-52). And if we knew and understood that, we’d give everything we own to have it, to be there.
What do you want so badly that you would sell everything you own to have it? Is there anything that you’d give your life for?
There’s a beautiful Psalm – Psalm 42 – which says, “Like a deer longs for running streams, so I long for you.”
And Psalm 63 says, “My soul is thirsting for you my God.”
Is there anything that you long for so much, like a thirsty man in the desert thirsts for water? Psalm 27 says, “One thing I ask, this alone I seek; to dwell in the house of the Lord all my days; to behold the beauty of the Lord.”
What do you long for?
There’s another story, one about St. Thomas Aquinas, who was praying in front of the crucifix when Jesus spoke to him, “You’ve written well of me, Thomas. What would you like to be your reward?”
St. Thomas Aquinas answered what we all should answer, “Non nisi te, Domine”
. That’s what we all should respond. “Non nisi te, Domine”
means “Only you, Lord.”
Today, pray for the grace to long for, to thirst and hunger for, that great treasure, the pearl of great price, who is God, the God who cares about our little, petty desires but wants nothing more than for us to be in Heaven with Him, so that when asked, we too can respond like St. Thomas Aquinas, “Non nisi te, Domine” –
“Only you, Lord.”
Every week, Deacon Pedro takes a particular topic apart, not so much to explore or explain the subject to its fullness, but rather to provide insights that will deepen our understanding of the subject. And don’t worry, at the end of the day he always puts the pieces back together. There are no limits to deaconstructing: Write to him and ask any questions about the faith or Church teaching: [email protected]