I see two very important and interesting messages in today's readings. The first has to do with how our prayers get answered. The second has to do with contrasting human perspectives relative to God's perspective when our problems are placed into the context of history.
It seems that many times our prayers are answered by God in a way that requires some sort of action on our own part. Once we see that, He provides us with the strength and courage which we require in order to do the work that is needed to fulfill His will. In other words, the solutions to our problems may not be delivered to us directly without first applying our minds, hands, and feet in a way that helps transform the spiritual energy from heaven above into the bodily energy here on earth which meets the needs of a physical world. In today's reading there is a detailed description of wide-spread famine, and the faithful no doubt pray for food to relieve their hunger and to end their suffering. Yet the answer to Jacob's prayers was not food, but instead knowledge that there was grain in Egypt and he had to relocate his seventy-five family members and ancestors to save them. This sustains them for a time, but eventually they died and their bodies are returned to be buried at Shechem in the tombs provided by Abraham. This leads us to the second message.
My father, age 76, recently told me that "nothing is ever as big a deal as it seems in real time" which is sort of a variation on the theme about how time seems to heal our problems, or at the very least seems to change the nature and intensity of them. Anybody can say these sorts of things, but in his case it was somewhat extraordinary since his father (my grandfather) was murdered in 1972 and his wife (my mother) died from brain cancer in 2002. We know death is inevitable, but a strong faith makes us more ready to accept it and much less afraid of it. So we ask for God's help, run the good race, and maybe win our place in history by contributing to His will.
During Spring Break this year, my daughter Emily and I camped inside the Grand Canyon, and as we looked up at the millions of stars that were billions of miles away it occurred to me that much of the light we were seeing actually started traveling before the Grand Canyon was ever formed. It is from this sort of perspective that the seemingly difficult situations of everyday life become quite insignificant when placed into the context of our own mortality and time. The challenge for us then becomes to make sure we pray for the right things.