"For he stands at the right hand of the needy..."

Boston, MA

After a long bus ride, we arrived safely in Boston yesterday. Mike O'Grady, a Jesuit here who is taking classes and helping with the street church in Cambridge, met us and has made us feel right at home. We cooked dinner together last night with fresh vegetables from his garden. And he's very encouraging about our walk and our future retreat ministry at Plow Creek (he previously worked with the Jesuits we know in Chicago doing the ISP retreats).

I also had an interesting discussion with another Jesuit in the house this morning. Responding to my thoughts about radical dependence on God, he mentioned the well-known adage, "Pray as if everything depends on God, and work as if everything depends on you." A line I've heard often before and wondered about. I know it's meant to encourage people to act, to work as hard as they can. But is "work as if everything depends on you" really good spiritual advice? How is that different from how most people work, those who have no trust in a loving Father, those who have no one to rely on but themselves? For quite a while I've been discouraged that most Christians also work this way, and so their actions tend to contradict their words about trusting God's strength rather than their own strength.

And I mentioned this morning that Jesus' way of working did not seem to be "as if everything depends on me." His active work was not contradictory to his dependence on God, but was in itself also an act of dependence. He spoke what his Father told him to speak and did what his Father inspired him to do. Jesus described it in terms of complete dependence: "Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing; for whatever he does, that the Son does likewise." (Jn 5.19) And he spoke in a similar way about our dependence on him: "I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in me, and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing." (Jn 15.5) This is not working as if everything depends on us, but praying and working as if everything depends on God.

On the same theme of dependence on God, I read these lines at the end of Psalm 109 this morning, and they offer a good focus for this pilgrimage (when the challenges in the months and years ahead seem very great, the likelihood of failure very great, and we seem very weak):

With my mouth I will give great thanks to the Lord;
I will praise him in the midst of the throng.
For he stands at the right hand of the needy,
to save him from those who condemn him to death. (Ps 109.30-31)