Friday, May 22, 2009

Anything You Ask the Father In My Name He Will Give You

In a dream, the Lord spoke to Paul: “Don’t be afraid. Don’t stop preaching, and don’t remain silent. No one is going to attack you or harm you, for I am with you, and I have many friends in this city.” So, Paul remained in Corinth for a year and a half, teaching the people the word of God.

Later, when Gallio became the governor of Achaia, the Jews there made a concerted attack on Paul, and brought him before the court. “This man is trying to convince people to worship God in ways that are against the law.”

Just as Paul was about to speak in his own defense, Gallio spoke to his accusers: “If you Jews were complaining about a serious crime, or even some misdemeanor, I would be willing to listen to you. But since the question is about words, and names, and about your own religious statutes, then settle the matter among yourselves. I’m not going to get involved in making judgments about such things.” He had them ejected from the court.

Paul remained in Corinth for quite some time. Then he left the brethren there, and sailed for Syria, together with Priscilla and Aquila.
(Acts 18:9-18)

Jesus spoke to his disciples: “I tell you truly, that you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy. When a woman is giving birth, she feels pain because her time has come; but when the child is born, she forgets the pain because of her joy that a child has been born into the world. It is the same for you: Now is the time of your grief, but I will see you again; then, you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy. When that day comes, you will not longer ask anything of me. I tell you truly, my Father will give you anything you ask for in my name.”
(John 16:20-23)

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Although Paul was being reassured by God in Acts 18 because of his own doubts and concerns, his experience can be reassuring for us, as well. Fear is often a part of our lives, even though we know Jesus taught that fear is incompatible with faith. We are not alone: Saint Paul also struggled with fear. God’s word to him speaks directly to his need: “Don’t be afraid. Don’t stop preaching, and don’t remain silent, for I am with you.”

It is unusual for Christians in this country to be attached whether verbally or physically for what we say or what we believe. But recent events have reminded us of the price to be paid for holding fast to the truth. Some weeks ago, Miss California made a bold statement in favor of traditional marriage (and thereby, in opposition to same sex unions). As a consequence, she became the subject of vicious personal attacks by those who disagreed with her viewpoint, apparently designed to deter others from standing up and bearing witness to the truth. So, the present situation is really not so different from Paul’s. Fear and intimidation abound, but faith is at work as well.

Today’s Gospel also reminds us that practicing our faith often means being at odds with the spirit of the times. Those who do not love God, or choose not to follow in his way may rejoice over things that cause us sorrow and pain. Yet, we are encouraged to persevere, and are promised that the day will come when our grief will be turned into joy. Jesus illustrates this truth with the analogy of a woman in labor, who swiftly forgets the pain of childbirth in the joy of new life. Some of you have heard before that I have two brothers and three sisters, thirty three nieces and nephews, and fifteen grandnieces and nephews. I have shared as a family member in the joy that a new child has been born, but I am well aware that my happiness does not match the elation of the mother.

One last comment, on the conclusion of today’s gospel reading: When that day comes, you will not longer ask anything of me. I tell you truly, my Father will give you anything you ask for in my name.” In English translation, two different Greek verbs are translated as “ask”. One, erotao is used for making inquiries – asking questions; the other, aiteo, is used for making petitions – asking for favors. Paraphrasing the gospel to bring it closer to the Greek – and clearer in meaning – we might say, “When you see me (Jesus) again, you won’t be full of questions; instead, you will be interceding with the Father in my name.” Please God, you and I will be there with Jesus, pleading on behalf of our families and friends in Jesus’ name.

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ex-minister1 said...
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