Bedtime in our household is usually a quasi-pleasant time – baths, reading books, telling stories, and then prayer, before approximately six hundred excuses from our kids as to why my wife and I should not turn off the light and leave the room. I like to ask my four-year-old daughter or two-year-old son which prayer they would like to say just before turning off the light. My daughter will ask for “Mommy’s Prayer!” (Hail Mary) or “Daddy’s prayer!” (Glory Be), while my son will say something like “the Green one!” (I haven’t figured that out yet). What gives me greater pleasure, though, is when I’m asked to lead “our family’s prayer,” and we all begin, “Our Father Who art in heaven…”
Throughout this year, the words “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done” have held greater weight each time I’ve recited our Lord’s Prayer. For nearly my entire life, I’ve said the words as two additional petitions; “Lord, please let your kingdom come… please let your will be done on earth…” And then I attempt to work to make it happen. I say it as if I can somehow work against the powers of the world to bring God’s Will where it is not. It’s sort of a compromise to the Creator: I “wish” for His Will and the coming of His kingdom, and then ask for things like daily bread, forgiveness, and deliverance to help us get there.
As our planet struggles with the confusion of our leaders’ responses to new scandals such as another global pandemic and the anti-human, murderous actions carried out in our country and countries abroad, how much more fervently do we plead for the coming of God’s kingdom? How much more do we pray and bargain for His Will? But now I’m wondering, what do I think God’s kingdom on earth looks like? What is His Will? What am I really asking for?
“Why hasn’t God’s will been done?”
Personally, the canceling of public attendance at Mass, canceling graduation for our senior students, canceling non-essential jobs, canceling school, and canceling the most basic human need of social gathering in almost every aspect of our lives has slowly emptied me of motivation. I tend to bring these up in my daily petitions with God Almighty. In my vain hurt, I feel spite even for those who now invite me back to physically attend Mass, as if the Kingdom of Heaven is one remaining event that hasn’t been canceled. So I drop to my spiteful knees and pray Thy Will Be Done, and Thy Kingdom Come, then stand up to have a look around, hopeful that life will return to what I think it should be. Still cancellations. Still masks and fear and confusion and spite on the faces of my friends. Still, we are confused and afraid. “Why hasn’t God’s will been done?” “Where is his kingdom?” I ask myself.
These worries come between us and our true source of life – the Mass. Often they even take the place of our daily reflection and time spent in quiet with the Holy Spirit. In retrospect, this is an absurd thought, to value our comfort instead of worship to the Lord. However, in my vanity, the two become one, and I begin screaming my prayers, “THY KINGDOM COME, THY WILL BE DONE ON EARTH,” and God’s silence becomes a scandal to me and my wants.
In my daily life, traces of despair begin to appear through April, May, June. “How can we go on with ‘all of this stuff’ happening in the world today?” The powers of the world – and our selfishness - tell us that it is too much to hold onto the Cross; to set our lives aside and follow the Lord, whatever the cost. These worries push in from every side, like an ocean rising around my home built on sand.
How much have you and I prayed for a turnaround in this year’s events, and yet God Himself is allowing the unease to occur?
Last Wednesday, I was able to go to my local parish alone to be in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament. I nearly cried seeing the monstrance on the altar and feeling the cold air and silence of awe, filling the space for the first time in months. But I also felt a shudder creep over me. Something which caused me to physically tremble and lower my head further: I felt tremendous fear. There on the floor, staring at my God on the altar, I began to feel the terror of something much more devastating than what any scornful glance from masked grocery shoppers or any deadly biological pathogen might do: the fear of God, Our Father. As a funeral director, it didn’t take long to recall that very soon, this holy building will shelter my body at my own funeral. Will I take those earthly worries to my grave, or will I nail them to the Cross as Jesus did?
How much have you and I prayed for a turnaround in this year’s events, and yet God Himself is allowing the unease to occur? We plead for ease, for relief, for health, for safety, in front of His Son nailed to the Cross. It is only through His Will that I can stand literally in front of His body and blood and worry about the comforts of my life. He holds in His Hand our specks of dust that we cling to even while praying at the foot of the Cross – and yet He loves us. How terrible a thought. “Forgive me,” I begged.
Stepping out of the church, still at a loss, but nonetheless renewed in faith by the awe and fear of God, I trace the most significant sign of the greatest love across my chest and drive home.
That evening, I kneel with my children to pray the Lord’s Prayer. I remember that the King Himself first uttered those words, “Thy kingdom come.” My thoughts turn to John the Herald crying in the desert, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” (Mt 3:2, RSV). It is here already. “It is the Lord,” echoing the words of the Beloved Apostle but a few days after his master had died.
"When I pray with my children, “…Thy will be done…” it is not just a petition..."
I remember how Jesus of Nazareth asked the Father for relief and ease in the garden; “Father, all things are possible to thee: remove this chalice from me…” (Mk 14:36, Douay Rheims). How much do I beg God to remove these “awful” times from us? In reality, nothing that I might endure is comparable to the injustice brought upon Christ in His Passion. Jesus continued his prayer in the garden of Gethsemane, fully aware of the torture he was to endure: “…but not what I will; but what thou wilt” (Mk 14:36, Douay Rheims). God’s will is not just a future thought, but also a present reality, and it does not necessarily mean our comfort. His will is being done, whether I like it or not. We are not waiting without hope. This is not a godless hour.
When I pray with my children, “…Thy will be done…” it is not just a petition that God brings forth his will on earth, but also an affirmation that I participate in His will and let it live in my heart, regardless of what I want. And when I conclude “deliver us from evil,” how much of that evil is the pride filling my own heart, taking up space owed to the will of God?
“Amen,” say, my children, tucked into bed. My daughter makes the sign of the Cross as my son tries to follow. I tell them I love them and close the door. They sleep peacefully, and yet they have no idea what is going on in the world. A thought grabs me: it doesn’t matter. They sleep because they trust their dad, and that is enough for these little ones whose “angels behold the face of my Father in heaven” (Mt 18:10). From His silence had come God’s answer. May we all trust in Our Father, and that will bring us peace.