Saturday, August 16, 2014

Vending Machine Theology

There is a new priest at one of our local parishes. A priest who is a breath of fresh air in terms of orthodoxy and reverence with regard to how he says the Mass. The first time the older boys served at a funeral with him, they came home so happy about the new priest because even they can see a difference. Because even they want to see things the way they should be rather than the way that just makes people feel happy.

The priest gave an amazing homily last night and used one of my favorite phrases: vending machine theology. I'm sure this is a trap many children fall into but it is also one I've seen many adults falling into in recent years. Vending machine theology. That idea that all you have to do is pray for what you want and God will automatically give it to you.  Needless to say, God just does not work that way. Prayer was never meant to change God. It is meant to change us. But so many people just don't seem to get that.

I'm going to admit that one of the most insulting, offensive conversations I had with someone after Isabel died was when someone called and insisted/demanded that I have the children pray for something. They used the phrase "I know when your kids pray for something, they get what they want" which led to a conversation on just this topic. Vending machine theology. I said God doesn't work that way. He's not a machine you put a quarter in and get what you want. This person actually argued with me and said it was how things worked. You just have to pray and you do get what you ask for. Do I need to state the obvious of if that were the way things worked, my life would be different. I know my boys were praying like crazy but it just was not God's will. God always answers our prayers but more often than not, that answer is no. And we need to accept that. Prayer is never intended to change God. It is meant to change us.

Vending machine theology might be fine for a 2-year-old but I challenge you to push beyond it because it was never how we were meant to look at our faith.

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