(CNN)It's been an overwhelming week. I am again having a hard time focusing.
The pages of Matthew are half text and half footnotes. The words of Jesus are in red. Every statement has a double or triple meaning. Each footnote contains more information than is needed to write a Ph.D. thesis.
In order to write this week, I am trying to translate the notes.
I am just going to focus on the Word.
I concede that it is important for me to know what Jesus really intended when he stated proclamations like this, "Again, I say to you, it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of God." (Matthew 19:24).
All these years, I really thought they were talking about a sewing needle. But Jesus probably had in mind a small gate. That's good information. But then the footnote cautions that that meaning shouldn't "mitigate" the importance of what is being said. OK, I get the gist of the metaphor. But there's a big difference between a gate and a needle. So, maybe some translators should clear that up?
Now that I have vented that out like a petulant child, I read a story that really got me thinking.
After the tumultuous visit to the Temple in Jerusalem, Jesus proclaims, "My house shall be a house of prayer, but you are making it a den of thieves." He's a little angry, seeing commerce and not prayer in the Temple. Or maybe he's hangry.
Jesus goes looking for fruit on a tree. He gets mad at a fig tree that has no fruit and says, "May no fruit ever come from you again," and the tree withers. (I later learned this passage is the source of the satirical signs counter-protesters brandished at anti-gay rallies, "God hates figs.")
Like me, the disciples were amazed. They were fearful. I am still amazed because I always think of Jesus as not spiteful to trees. This is not the Jesus that I am as familiar with from my Sunday worship. It's interesting that this story hasn't made it into the weekly Gospel readings at Mass.
When the disciples proclaim their version of amazement, Jesus explains faith in a way that I hadn't thought about before:
"Amen, I say to you, if you have faith and do not waver, not only will you do what has been done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, 'be lifted up and thrown into the sea,' it will be done. Whatever you ask for in prayer with faith, you will receive."
I have asked for things in life while praying and it hasn't happened. What does this mean?
I realized in that moment that I have occasionally treated my prayers like making a wish on a genie in a bottle. For example, I can't count the number of times I prayed to God that my father would be cured of his cancer. While I didn't bargain or offered any sort of sacrifice, I just begged.
That wasn't faith.
It's through this project that I have really had the chance to look at my faith and how I talk to God differently.
If my Dad were going through his illness now, I would like to think that my prayers would not be different. Since his death, I have also asked for acceptance of the loss and the strength to be like him. Those are the parts of my faith that I have felt like it has grown.
And one last thing: I will never look at a fig the same way again.