Rambling for Kirwan Uniting Church Keep in Touch pew sheet 19 May
Little Johny hadn’t spoken a word in all his six years of life. Finally, one morning at breakfast, he cried out, “Mum, the toast’s burnt!”
His amazed and delighted mother hugged him joyfully and asked, “Johny, why haven’t you spoken before?”
“Well”, replied our budding chauvinist, “Everything’s been all right up until now”.
Just as there are people (not only little Johny) who wait until there’s something to complain about before they speak, so many folk wait to pray until there’s a crisis which they can’t fix themselves. My Jesuit colleague at The Wesley Hospital described “Submarine Catholics”. You don’t know that they’re Catholic, they sail along undetected beneath life’s waves until illness or bereavement or some other catastrophe strikes, then up pops their periscope while they look around for a priest to pray or perform a fortifying rite of the church. Then, crisis over, their illness cured or loved one anointed and buried, down they go to stay submerged until the next threatening event.
He didn’t mind, of course, it is a privilege to play a part at such a crucial time, and anyway, they were more likely to spend more time on the church’s surface in the future if they had love and welcome shown to them than if they had been brusquely told, “Haven’t seen you at Mass before”. And God doesn’t mind. Grace doesn’t have a sell-by date, it’s not a Use-it-or-Lose-it commodity. Instance after instance in the gospels, someone would come to Jesus in desperation, a Centurion, a prostitute, a collaborator with Rome, whom we hadn’t seen mentioned until the moment of healing or forgiveness or restoration.
But it would have been nice for Johny’s mum to have heard him speak at 12 or 18 months, words of love and gratitude. 1 Thessalonians 5: ‘Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.’ “Continually” is better translated “Repeatedly”. Giving thanks is good, but prayer request, asking God for something, is fine by Him too. You can’t ask Him too often is Paul’s point. “Take it to the Lord in prayer”.