Last week, I lead a priest retreat for about 35 priests from the Diocese of Orlando. It went very well and, of course, the weather was beautiful. The weather in Cleveland has taken on it’s rainy, cloudy, cold and dark fall look. I remember flying back from Orlando, as it was clear and sunny. As we neared Cleveland, they notified us that there might be a little weather-related turbulence. Looking down, below the sunny blue sky, I could see the solid, dark clouds. The plane began to descend. The windows turned from bright and sunny to a dark grey rain. Then it was pitch black for a few moments until we got below the thick clouds. There was some rumbling and bumping and, pretty soon, we made it below the clouds. As I looked up and out, it was surreal to think that just above us was the bright sun and clear blue sky. The clouds were so thick that they were blocking the sun.
Sometimes in our lives, it seems like this is our connection with God. It is like there is this layer of dark clouds between us. Maybe we can’t hear his voice, or we can’t see him, or we struggle with dryness in our prayers, or we are upset or anxious, or there is turbulence in our own lives.
The prophet Sirach proclaims:
“The prayer of the lowly pierces the clouds. It does not rest until it reaches its goal, nor will it withdraw until the Most High responds, judges justly and affirms the right, and the Lord will not delay.”
I think there are a couple amazing things about this. First of all, that the prayer of the lowly pierces the clouds! So that means no matter how thick the clouds seem, or how dark the sky may be, or how distant it seems God is from us, our prayer “pierces the clouds.” It’s able to penetrate and get through the clouds. Just as a plane can make it through to the other side, so do our prayers.
Secondly, that it “does not rest until it reaches its goal.” This is what it means to pray without ceasing. That we continue to pray for whatever it is that we are praying for and don’t feel like we have to stop until “the Most High responds.” Our prayer does not rest until it reaches its goal. Our prayer will pierce through the clouds. It’s not going to rest until it reaches its goal, and the Most High responds.
Finally, I love this because it says, “The Lord will not delay. He will speak to us.”
Then, we hear in another book from the Prophet Isiah. It’s not in the readings for this Sunday, but it says, “So shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth. It shall not return to me void, but shall do what pleases me, achieving the end for which I sent it.”
God’s Word that he speaks is also going to be effective. God’s Word is not going to come to us and be ineffective. It’s not going to be void. It’s going to do what he pleases and achieve the end for which he sends his Word.
So, there you have it. Though at times it seems like our communication with God is distant, or fuzzy, or even disconnected or cut off, the truth is that it’s not. If we pray from a humble, lowly perspective, our prayers pierce the clouds. They do not rest until they reach the goal. They will not stop until the Most High responds. When the Most High responds, his Word will not return void but shall complete its purpose achieving the end for which he sent it.
Especially as we celebrate this mass, know and believe that our prayers do reach him. It is able to pierce through the clouds more easily than a plane through the clouds of Cleveland. The best part is that he will respond! When he responds, his word is effective. In reality, we have a pretty clear, powerful way of communicating with God. That is the way of prayer.