The Readings for the 22nd Thursday, Tempus per Annum (C2)
Put out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch.Luke 5:4
SO ONCE AGAIN, the CFRs are on point, talking about Dryness in Prayer in their latest Podcast. The full episode is embedded below, but listening, I was struck suddenly with the image of “arranged marriage”. It comes up again in the Gospel today.
Modern relationships are about romance and “love”. This is a very recent invention: 12 Century, at best, and French (naturally). Prior to that the notion that “I feel this, ergo…” was not part of the cultural conversation. Since it’s French we should say, the idea was that “I feel this therefore I should surrender to it”. Of course the French were not the first to teach us to surrender to our passions: Satan’s been doing that for a while, but at least in the area of marriage, the French ruined it. Prior to that time (and in much of the world, still) romance has nothing to do with it.
Thus, in our French-ruined world, we’re inclined to ask “Do I still love him/her?” and if the answer is no, then we leave the relationship.
Yes, we’re all called into the relationship with God on a personal and intimate level, most of us are started out, at least, by default, with our parents’ (and/or our culture’s) ideas about and awareness of God. At a certain point we have to own the responsibility for our side of the relationship but there’s a way in which we had no choice. And, trust me on this, even looking for other deities is a failure: if you’re born into a Jewish or Christian culture, you have no choice at all except to try to relate to God the way Jews and Christians related to the All-Holy Creator of the Universe, Blessed Be He. That idea and relationship is so all-pervasive that we either end up pretending that the deity we’re courting IS the Holy One, or else we change – entirely – our way of relating to deity. There is no way to relate to any other deity in the same way as YHVH. Nor can you relate to YHVH in any other way. And to say this in a different way, YHVH – the ground of all being – is so solid, so real, so heavy as to draw all reality to himself: any real relationship and real love tends towards God. Any non-relationship or non-love tends away.
Is the issue the French Disease? Do we have dryness in prayer because we think it should be about how we feel? Do we feel that the Religious Relationship should be like the Romantic one?
The scriptures – as considered by Jews and also by Christians – repeatedly use the image of marriage to express the relationship of God to People and to the individual person. The relationship is, exactly, person-to-person, but since there is no one person alone, it’s God-to-People as well. We are born into this covenant (as Jews) or baptized into it (as Christians) and, for most of it, no choice at all was involved. Choice only comes later – “do I decide to own this?”
Even in the world of arranged marriages it’s possible to wake up in the middle of the night and ask yourself – or your spouse – do you love me?
God is our arranged marriage. Yet he courts us. We know that Jesus says, “you did not choose me, I chose you.” But he woos, he seduces. He asks, do you love me? In times of dryness you ask, too, and it’s fair for you to do so – as it is fair for him to ask you. We know there are times when it feels like God is not there. We know there are times when it feels like we needn’t bother any more.
And when that happens, what should we do?
Jesus says, row out into the deep water and cast your nets.The blessing of obedience: to do what Jesus says even though you know it won’t work – Lord we’ve been fishing all night, but you told us to so we will again. Fish.
And then suddenly the dryness goes away – not because we feel better, but because we obeyed anyway. To act in accord with your faith even when you feel otherwise is not hypocrisy, but rather integrity.