Gospel: Mark 1:40 – 45
Do we have the boldness to ask God to do great and miraculous things? Some years ago in one of my parish assignments a young parishioner whose husband and children were involved in the parish was involved in a serious automobile accident. I vividly remember standing in the ICU unit with her husband praying for her healing. I prayed with confidence that she would be healed, and returned later with the expectation that her eyes would be open, they weren’t, and so I prayed again. The next morning I received the call that she had died. I was devastated. I had prayed with Faith, why didn’t God answer my prayer? A short time later I received a call to anoint an elderly woman who had been in and out of the hospital with a condition that the doctor’s said would not improve. When I went into her room, I remember her smiling, thanking me for coming, and telling me that she probably wasn’t going to make the night, but she was prepared. She wanted me to pray for a peaceful death. At the end of the anointing of the sick I prayed a spontaneous prayer for her to peacefully enter into eternal life. When I left she thanked me. A few days later she was discharged later, and lived another three or four years. So I wondered why the person I prayed for to be healed wasn’t, and the person I prayed for a happy death continued to live on.
These experiences made me a little hesitant to pray boldly for particular intentions. I found myself praying “safe” prayers in which I prayed for a particular intention, but not with that a miracle could happen. It took me awhile to realize that I needed to fully surrender to God’s will. The struggle is that we don’t always understand God’s will, and to surrender ourselves to it is to let go of our will and to accept his will, whatever it might be. It means taking seriously that phrase we say so often in the Lord’s Prayer, “Thy will be done…..” in such a way that we don’t lose faith when God’s will doesn’t match our will.
The leper in the Gospel shows us how to surrender. He had the boldness to directly approach Jesus and in doing so he humbled himself by kneeling down before him. He began is request by acknowledging that he would accept whatever Jesus did, “if you wish…” then made his request, “…you can make me clean.” He believed that Jesus could heal him, he asked Jesus to heal him, but only if it was Jesus’ wish. Putting it another way, “Thy will be done.”
As we prepare for the observance of Ash Wednesday and the Lenten Season, it might benefit us to surrender, or to surrender anew, our lives to the Lord. The surrender that has us being able to sincerely pray, “Thy will be done,” or to echo the words of the leper, “if you wish ,you can…….” and to follow that by boldly and humbly placing our needs before the Lord. Jesus can literally open the eyes of the blind, the ears of the deaf, and the minds of our ignorance. Jesus can also do this in a figurative way that would allow us to see him, hear him and understand him with our hearts. What is important is to follow the example of the leper and surrender to the will of God so as to be open to however he wills to answer our prayers.
Father Killian Loch, O.S.B.