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ASK WITH FAITH AND PERSEVERANCE FOR WHAT YOU REALLY NEED, AND YOU SHALL RECEIVE
Fr. Steven Scherrer, MM, Th.D.
Homily of Monday, Fourth Week of Lent, March 12, 2018
Isaiah 65:17-21, Psalm 29, John 4:43-54


Scripture quotations are from the Revised Standard Version unless otherwise noted.

 

"The official said to him [Jesus], ‘Sir, come down before my child dies.' Jesus said to him, ‘Go; your son will live.' The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and went his way. As he was going down, his servants met him and told him that his son was living. So he asked them the hour when he began to mend, and they said to him, ‘Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him.' The father knew that was the hour when Jesus had said to him, ‘Your son will live'; and he himself believed, and all his household" (John 4:49-53).


Today a royal official pleads with Jesus to come to his house in Capernaum to cure his son who is dying. Jesus is in Cana, so this would be a day's journey. Jesus does not go, but he tells the child's father that his son will live. The man believes him, and taking him at his word, he returns home to Capernaum, content that Jesus would heal his son, since he promised that he would.


While on his way home, his servants meet him and report that his son is alive. This man knows that at the seventh hour Jesus had told him that his son would live, so he inquires of his servants when his boy got better, and they, without knowing the hour when Jesus had told him that his son would get well, tell him that he got better at the seventh hour - the very hour that Jesus had told him that his son would live. On hearing that, "he himself believed, and all his household" (John 4:53).


What Jesus really seeks from us is our faith in him. He doesn't just want someone who is only interested in his miracles or only interested in some material benefit from him, like the physical healing of his son. It is the same for us. Yet we are usually like this father. We usually pray very fervently when we are in trouble, or when we really need something. For example, a few days ago my computer stopped working, and so I have been praying fervently that God will enable the repairman, who is coming to fix it this morning, to be successful, for how else will I be able to continue this sermons ministry that I spend so much of my time on each day? Without a functioning computer, I will not be able to type up this sermon that I am now writing and I will not be able to put it on my website or send it out by bulk email. So I am still praying very fervently that the technician will be able to fix it.


But I realize that Jesus wants something more from me than just my concern for myself and my work and ministry. He only healed a few people in Israel, and he doesn't miraculously heal very many people today, but he will justify, forgive, sanctify, and save all who come to him with true faith and genuine repentance for their sins. This should be our main concern and our main request that we make to him. This is the kind of faith that he is looking for in us.


It may happen that my computer won't be fixable, and so you will never read this sermon, and neither will anyone else. I certainly hope that that will not be the case; but if it is, I will have to accept it and take it as God's will for me for some good reason. But whether it is fixable or not, my main focus and concern should be on my relationship with Jesus and the newness of life that he has given me and his desire that I should spend myself in his service.


So this being said and the matter of making requests of God with faith being set in its proper perspective of a life of faith in Christ, let us return to the specific issue of today's gospel reading, which is the making of specific requests to God for the concrete things that we really need to continue our life and ministry for the Lord.


How should we ask for what we need, and with what kind of an attitude should we ask? Jesus teaches us how he wants us to pray for what we need. We should pray, "Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven, give us this day our daily bread." First comes the general context. First and foremost we must align ourselves with God's will. Lord, whatever is your most perfect will for me, may it be done, and I conform myself to it. Nonetheless, please grant me my request, "Give us this day our daily bread."


So while praying that God's will be done and that we might accept it, we are also to pray for what we really need, in this case a functioning computer so that I can continue my sermons ministry for the Lord. So I should pray for specific things that I need. And how are we to pray for what we need? We are to pray with the certainty of faith that God can do what we ask for. We should simply ask that he do it.


In a similar account in St. Matthew's gospel, a centurion asks that Jesus heal his servant from a distance, since, as he says, "Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof; but only say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I am a man under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to one, ‘Go,' and he goes, and to another, ‘Come,' and he comes, and to my slave, ‘Do this,' and he does it" (Matthew 8:8-9). So we should just ask Jesus to do what we want and need him to do for us, without doubting that he can do it.


This man's faith greatly pleased Jesus. "When Jesus heard him, he marveled, and said to those who followed him, ‘Truly, I say to you, not even in Israel have I found such faith. I tell you, many will come from east and west and sit at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, while the sons of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness; there men will weep and gnash their teeth'" (Matthew 8:10-12).


So Jesus is pleased when we make such requests with faith. We then leave it to the Lord to answer. If we ask for forgiveness of sins and justification, and if we ask with faith and genuine repentance, abandoning our sins, we know that he will always answer us and grant us our request, for that is why he came into the world. About other necessary things that we need to live and serve the Lord, we should just ask, and he will be pleased by our faith and by our request, and he will grant us what is best for us.


But we should also be persistent in our prayers for the specific things that we really need to live and serve the Lord, like the widow who keeps coming to the unjust judge seeking vindication against her adversary, while the judge refuses; but since she is persistent, he finally gives in and vindicates her to stop her from bothering him. "And the Lord said, ‘Hear what the unrighteous judge says. And will not God vindicate his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? I tell you, he will vindicate them speedily'" (Luke 18:6-8).


The Syrophoenician woman who asks Jesus to cast a demon out of her daughter is another good example. At first Jesus refuses, saying, "‘Let the children first be fed, for it is not right to take the children's bread and throw it to the dogs' but she answered him, ‘Yes, Lord; yet even the dogs under the table eat the children's crumbs.' And he said to her, ‘For this saying you may go your way; the demon has left your daughter.' And she went home, and found the child lying in bed, and the demon gone" (Mark 7:27-30). Her persistence with humility and faith won the day, and Jesus grants her request. We should make our requests with the same humility, faith, and persistence as this woman, and as did the widow with the unjust judge.


We should be persistent, as was the man who came to his friend at midnight to ask for three loaves of bread to feed a guest who had just arrived. His friend refused to get up and give it to him. But Jesus says, "I tell you, though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his importunity he will rise and give him whatever he needs. And I tell you, ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For every one who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened" (Luke 11:8-10).


By the way, the technician just came to my room about fifteen minutes ago and fixed my computer. Thanks be to God! Maybe God wanted me to have this problem so that I would write a sermon on how we should persistently ask God for the things that we really need to live and to serve him. And then we should thank him when we receive them! Thanks be to God!

 

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