God is present to us, but are we present to Him?

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April 9/Fifth Tuesday of Lent

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O Lord, hear my prayer, and let me cry come to you. Hide not your face from me in the day of my distress. incline your ear to me; in the day when I call, answer me speedily. ~Ps 102:1-2

When the road gets rough, or we don’t get our way—or as the psalmist puts it, “on the day of our distress”—we often blame God for being absent. The job falls through, or the relationship sours, or the results disappoint us, and we immediately cry, “Where are you, God? Why aren’t you looking out for me?” Here we are making an altogether human—and altogether false—equivalence between the presence of God in our lives and the absence of suffering. “If only God had been paying attention and hearing my prayers, I wouldn’t be ill, or unemployed, or on the outs with my spouse.” Perhaps we, not God, are the ones who have gone missing, distracted by a thousand urgent details and unable to focus for even five minutes on what is truly important. Or as the British-born American poet Denise Levertov put it, “Lord, not you,/ it is I who am absent . . . / I have long since uttered your name/ but now/ I elude your presence.” Beset by these distractions, we neglect to set aside regular time to cultivate a relationship with our God—also known as time for prayer—then we complain when he doesn’t seem to be at our beck and call. Perhaps we should ask, with the Russian Orthodox monk and theologian Anthony Bloom, “When we think of the absence of God, is it not worthwhile to ask ourselves whom we blame for it?” Perhaps before we point the finger at God, we could check our own attentiveness, ensuring that we are present to God every day, asking his guidance and accepting his direction for our lives, knowing that whatever befalls us, he will hear our prayer.

Attentive and ever-faithful God, may I strive to be as faithful to you as you are to me. Amen.

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[Editors’ note: This is part of a daily Lenten reflection series. Sign up for our America Today newsletter to receive each reflection every day in your inbox.]

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