Father Mark, Reflections

Please and Thank You

Please and Thank You.

“What’s the magic word?” I was reminded by my mother and father as a young one.   They did well teaching me manners.  Of course it’s up to me to follow through with this. 

Asking for something, whether it’s help, assistance or to be “rescued” out of a situation involves a sense of vulnerability.   We, as human beings, have different levels of comfort with being vulnerable.   Asking another at a meal to “please pass the salt,” is a low risk experience whereas, “I’m in a financial bind, can I borrow $100, raises our anxiety level because of a dual whammy on our pride.  First, we feel “weak” or “less than” for being in the situation in the first place and our sense of worth is shaken.  Secondly, if the person denies our request, we often feel a sense of embarrassment or rejection and even worse, isolation, because we’re not sure how we’ll get out of the bind we’re in.   

In a more serious example, I can only imagine the sense of isolation of those who suffered in concentration camps in Germany or Russia during World War II and under Lenin and Stalin before and after.   Imagine praying every day to be delivered and if you made it through alive some four years later, you would be delivered as the Allies came through Europe.  It’s easy to understand why faithful people under great hardship came to the point of wondering if God existed, or worse, rejected them.

Unfortunately, we project this vulnerability of the fear of rejection or abandonment on God.  If so, we can become hesitant to ask for divine help because we fear that it may not come. 

Let’s take a look at the word, “please.”  Taken from a Hebrew Study by Chaim Bentorah, looking at Psalm 40:14, we find David in a lurch, praying, “Be pleased, O Lord to save me….”   The word, “please,” in Hebrew means to “take pleasure in, delight in or to be satisfied.”  

David approaches God, not by begging or groveling, but realizing that the nature of God is not apathetic but rather, deeply caring.   When we were young, and really wanted something we would beg for it by asking “Pretty please with sugar on top.”  David knows that God does not need to be enticed or convinced to lend a divine hand.  God’s nature is to act in our lives and that God takes pleasure (i.e. is pleased) in this.    God is not a curmudgeon.  God’s pleasure has saved my bacon more times than I can count or remember.   But it is important to remember that God is not a celestial bell hop who is to jump hither and yon to meet our demands.  

God intervenes or helps when God takes pleasure in it which means when it is in the context of God’s will.  The Hebrew word, ratsah, reveals a sense of submission to the divine will. 

Our asking God to act in a certain way may or may not give God pleasure.  There are times when God’s pleasure is to be present to us while we grow through a great difficulty that would give God greater pleasure.   I remember our seminary chaplain preaching that “God is not a God of pain relief.”   Our being formed into the image of God in which we were created to be gives God the greatest pleasure of all.   In our age of the infantile ego of wanting immediate gratification, this lesson waits to be received.   We all want God to “give me a break” so as to make things easier for us.   God loves us enough not to submit to that role or to our whims.  

Imagine what the world would be like if the population acted like God should submit to their wishes.   This is equivalent to about a two year old mentality, known in mental health fields as narcissism.   Come to think of it, look around at the state of things today and the results of this infantilism are evident.   Just watch the news—but not too much of it because it’s toxic as it’s often created by narcissists.  Focus on God instead.   

God is with us all the time.  It behooves us to check the gray matter between our ears to clear out all the misconceptions that God and life is to revolve around me which actually blocks us from experiencing the Divine Presence in the here and now.   The ultimate purpose of life is to be One with God, not to get our way.  The part of me that wants my way is the part of me Jesus is talking about when he says, “Deny the self” and “follow me.”   Following Jesus means to become One with him.   Being One with God, pleases God the most.   Come to think of it, being One with God pleases us the most as well. 

Have a “pleasing” day.

Fr. Mark