Today we Lectio the Liturgy with the Collect for the 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time.
Almighty ever-living God, who in the abundance of your kindness surpass the merits and the desires of those who entreat you, pour out your mercy upon us to pardon what conscience dreads and to give what prayer does not dare to ask. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, for ever and ever.
It’s really a toss-up when deciding which part of the prayer is most important - the description of God or what we’re asking him to do. To me, the answer is both or maybe, neither is more important because one relies quite heavily on the other.
In the “Who” of the prayer, we are reminded of the abundance of God’s kindness. His mercy goes beyond what we deserve and even what we could desire. His mercy is given to those who “entreat” him.
In the Latin prayer, the word for entreat is supplex, or supplication. In ancient times, supplication was the official request for help, vengeance, protection, or mercy.
Perhaps you’ve seen supplication in a movie: The supplicant kneels down and throws their arms around the knees of the supplicated one. The one on their knees is completely humble, they’ve abandoned their pride, they’re ready to submit to the mercy of the supplicated one. The act of supplication even created a bond between the two individuals and put a responsibility on the part of the supplicated one. In this case, the supplicated one is God.
That’s how we are called to come to God, completely humble, completely submissive to him.
Next, we ask God to pour out his mercy to forgive all our sins, and to give what we’re afraid to ask. This is a unique petition. On one hand, instead of suffering punishment, we ask God to forgive us of our sins. On the other hand, we, as his children, ask God to supply us with what we have not dared to ask for.
Have you ever been afraid to ask God for something? I have. As I thought about it, the number one reason I’m afraid to ask God for something is that I’m afraid that God won’t answer the prayer like I want it answered. God might want me to give up something or someone that I’m not willing to give up.
Yet.... I say "yet" because when I eventually come around to the other view, it is because I’ve come to remember and to realize that everything which God desires for me is for my own good.
Someone might also be afraid that God wouldn’t want them as they realize that that they’ve sinned and perhaps they feel that they’re not good enough. Which ultimately leads to the thought of "what if God would reject me?” I’ve met someone like that.
A few years ago, I stopped at a gas station for a Diet Coke on my way home from a Target run. My closest Target is 45 minutes away so you know why I needed refreshment for the drive home. I have no idea why I didn’t buy a Diet Coke at Target, I guess it was the Holy Spirit. While in the checkout line, something made my hand reach down and pick up a pack of mints. Buying that pack of mints started a conversation with the woman at the check-out about remembering when we were little girls who were hungry in church. Very quickly she told her kids wanted her to take them to church, but she told them that she had been so bad God wouldn’t want her back.
I told her that it was almost Easter, that Jesus died for her, and he desperately wanted her back and here’s the stumbling block in this whole prayer: trusting in the abundance of God’s kindness.
This week as we Lectio the Liturgy, think about something that you are or have been afraid to ask for from God. Maybe it’s for forgiveness, or for healing, or for a specific solution to a situation. What is the reason you’re afraid to ask for God’s resolution? Does learning the meaning of entreaty (supplex, supplication) change the way you go to God for his mercy? If you need further proof of his love for you, listen for these words at mass this weekend, “This is my Body, this is my Blood, that was given up for you.”
Thank you for praying with me,