A few Sundays ago, the opening prayer (known as the collect) really hit me between the eyes. Ever have that experience? It was as if the words of the prayer seemed louder and clearer than normal. They stopped me in my tracks and after Mass I googled them to read them again. Here is what the prayer said:
So many parts of the prayer struck me, but in particular the lines "to pardon what conscience dreads and to give what prayer does not dare ask" touched my heart in a deep way.
What, exactly, does my conscience dread, I asked myself? What makes approaching the confessional so challenging sometimes? What am I afraid of? Shame? Vulnerability? The truth that I am fallible, fallen and, most often, frustrated?
What does my prayer dare not ask? Why, in fact, if I place all my trust in the goodness and kindness of God the Father, am I still hesitant to ask for anything? I watch my children confidently ask my husband for whatever they desire, no matter how outlandish the request and I long for that degree of trust in my relationship with the Lord.
What is it in me that prefers to hang on to the false beatitude that says "blessed are they who ask for nothing for they will not be disappointed", instead of the true ones that demand full and unwavering surrender to the Lord?
I know I am not alone in these thoughts - my suspicion is that they are rather universal - after all, their sentiments have made it into the opening prayer of the entire Church. My comfort comes in the reassurance provided by the opening lines of the prayer: "Almighty and ever living God, who in the abundance of your kindness surpass the merits and desires of those who entreat you..."
The Lord's generosity outmatches my hesitation. His words speak gently into my stubborn silence. His unconditional love surpasses my sin. He longs to give far more than I can ever hope to desire.
For that greatness of mercy, I am grateful.