Sunday, June 29, 2014

Why The Church Is Better Than Facebook

(Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul 2014: This homily was given on June 29, 2014 at St. Pius X Church, Westerly, R.I., by Fr. Raymond Suriani.  Read 2 Timothy 4: 6-8, 17-18; Matthew 16: 13-19.)

[For the audio version of this homily, click here: Peter and Paul 2014]

The title of my homily today is, “Why the Church is better than Facebook.”

Let me begin by making it clear that I have nothing, per se, against Facebook and people who are on it.  I’m not on Facebook, personally, mostly because of time constraints.  I have enough to keep me occupied, technologically speaking, with my blog and email and text messaging.

Any more than that would result in what you might call “technological overdose,” which I definitely don’t need.

That having been said, why do I say that the Church is better than Facebook?

Well it’s because of an article someone sent me the other day by a man named John Horvat II.  The article was entitled, “Unfriending Facebook.”

When I read the title, the first thought that occurred to me was, “This must be about Facebook users who’ve dropped the service for various reasons.”

But I was wrong.

The article was actually about Facebook employees who have left the company because of the way it’s run.  And the irony is that “the way it’s run” is precisely what attracted many of them to the company in the first place!

You see, Facebook is an organization that, as Horvatt puts it, “breaks all the rules, smashes traditional hierarchies and lets its employees exercise their creativity without all the restrictions of times past.”

The rules and policies, in other words (like set hours and clear job descriptions), that guide most employees in most places of employment do not apply, for the most part, to the men and women who work at Facebook.

Now you would think that this would be something they all loved, but in many cases it’s precisely what has driven them away from the company.

In addressing the question of what former Facebook employees complain about, Mr. Horvatt writes the following:

Curiously, [they complain mostly about] those “fun” things that are heralded as cutting edge in the new postmodern workplace: the lack of organization, focus and rules.

Working for Facebook can be exhausting since this is not your normal 9-to-5 job that plays by the old rules. Everything goes. Employees can be subjected to long 12-14 hour workdays under stressful conditions. Engineers complained of being on call 24/7 for weeks at a time to keep service up and running. Employees are absorbed by the fast pace and intensity of their work.

The no-walls free-flow atmosphere that is supposed to foster creativity is also stressful to workers who complain of a complete lack of privacy whatsoever at the social media giant.

“At most companies, you put up a wall between a work personality and a personal one, which ends up with a professional workspace,” wrote one former employee. “This wall does not exist at Facebook which can lead to some uncomfortable situations.”

Yet another popular complaint was the laid-back attitude that left everything undefined and unfocused. Employees sensed a lack of infrastructure to provide guidance or support. There are constant guessing games where workers are expected to intuit what is happening in their departments and what is expected of them. The result is a “lack of professionalism” and “stability” where instructions are not clear and organization is lacking, which leads, in turn to stressful situations.

This leads Mr. Horvatt to draw the following conclusions:

These and other complaints underscore the importance of human relationships and leadership in the workplace. It is not surprising that, despite high wages, perks and the prestige of being part of an over-hyped company, there are those who opt out of working in a pressure cooker. People are not made to live in an atmosphere where a reckless spirit of unrestraint and instant gratification dominates. They need guidance, infrastructure and leadership to give them support. As a result, frenetic intemperance takes its toll upon the psyche causing burnout and disillusionment.

Facebook needs to face the fact that life is not a Facebook page consisting of superficial posts of fun and games. Until the social media giant learns this important lesson, it can expect to see itself increasingly “unliked” and “unfriended” by its disillusioned employees.

So why is the Church better than Facebook?

Well, ironically enough, the Church is better precisely for the reason that some people complain about her!  To use the terms found in this article, it’s because the Church has a clear organization—and a clear focus—and defined rules (which we call “commandments”).  It’s because the Church gives us guidance and support.  It’s because the Church preaches against unrestraint and instant gratification, and because the Church clearly teaches us what God expects of us, and what we need to do to get on—and to stay on—the road to heaven!

So often those outside the Church—and sometimes even certain people INSIDE the Church—criticize her for these very things.  But, as the experience of many former Facebook employees makes clear, we need guidelines and rules and structures in order to be happy and to reach our full potential as human beings!

This is why Jesus gave us a hierarchical Church and instituted the papacy.  Jesus created us; he knows how we operate and he knows what we need.  Jesus called himself “the Truth” in John 14, and in John 8 he promised that his truth—his teaching—would set his followers “free”: free from sin; free from Satan; free from eternal death; free from fear and hopelessness.

But Jesus was not na├»ve!  He knew that his truth needed a guardian: a chief guardian who would work in conjunction with other guardians to preserve and teach and defend his truth from the time he ascended into heaven until the end of the world.

Without such an authority Jesus knew his people would very quickly and very easily fall into error and become divided from one another (which is precisely what has happened, historically, in Protestantism).

And so, one day during his ministry—when he was with his apostles at Caesarea Philippi—Jesus singled out one man to be that first guardian—that first spiritual father—for his future spiritual family: “You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.”

Now some of our non-Catholic brothers and sisters will object to this idea and say, “No, no—Jesus wasn’t establishing the papacy here.  He wasn’t establishing an office.  Yes, he was making Peter the head of the apostles, but Peter’s authority ended when he died.  There’s no provision for his authority to be passed on to anyone else.”

Oh yes there is!  Here’s where “the keys” come into the picture.  Jesus said to Peter, “I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven.  Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”

The symbolism of “the keys” goes back to the 22nd chapter of the book of the prophet Isaiah.  There a man named Shebna (who was something like the Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Judah at the time) is removed from office and replaced by a man named Eliakim. 

And to indicate the change in power God says these words:  “I will place the key of the House of David on [Eliakim’s] shoulder; what he opens, no one will shut, what he shuts, no one will open.”

The “key” there in that verse symbolizes dynastic authority—that is to say, the authority of an office: an authority that was meant to be passed on from one person to another.

Jesus, therefore, gave Peter “the keys” to make it clear to him (and to all of us) that he was establishing something PERMANENT: an office that would continue to exist long, long after Peter died.

And it has—Pope Francis being the 265th man after St. Peter to occupy the office of spiritual father (i.e., pope) in the Lord’s spiritual family, the Church.

Some people (especially in the secular media) are waiting for Pope Francis to change the teaching of the Church on certain matters of faith and morals.

We all know what those issues are; no need to list them here.

Well, they’ll be waiting for a long time, because it isn’t going to happen!

Yes, he may change certain disciplines and policies in the Church; he may change certain aspects of the bureaucratic structure of the Church; he may focus on certain aspects of Church teaching that previous popes haven’t emphasized as much.

True enough.  But he will NOT change the defined teachings of the Catechism—because he can’t!  He can only guard and protect and teach those things.

That’s all he has the power to do!

Notice that St. Paul says in today’s second reading, “I have kept THE FAITH.”  It wasn’t his own opinions that he was faithful to; it wasn’t his own version of Christianity that he followed.  He kept THE FAITH—THE ONE TRUE FAITH, of which St. Peter was the chief guardian.

You see, unlike the officials at Facebook, the Church doesn’t leave her people without direction and guidance and the help and assistance they need.

That’s why we have a Pope; and that’s one of the biggest reasons why the Church is—and always will be—better than Facebook.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Eucharistic Miracles And Their Purpose

The Eucharistic Miracles of Lanciano (top) and Santarem.

(Corpus Christi 2014 (A): This homily was given on June 22, 2014 at St. Pius X Church, Westerly, R.I. by Fr. Raymond Suriani.  Read 1 Corinthians 11: 17-34; John 6: 51-58.)

[For the audio version of this homily, click here: Corpus Christi 2014]

I have been blessed to see two Eucharistic miracles in my life.  I saw the first one eleven years ago in the Church of St. Stephen, in Santarem, Portugal.
The story of that particular miracle, which some of you have probably heard before, involves events that go back to the mid-13th century. A woman who lived in Santarem at the time was greatly troubled by her husband’s adulterous behavior—as she should have been!  Unfortunately, however, she made the mistake of going to the local sorceress—the local witch—to find a solution to her problem.  The witch promised the woman that her husband would change his ways and become faithful to her again—if the woman obtained for the witch a consecrated host from the local church.  (In case you’re not aware of it, certain people involved in the occult—especially those in satanic cults—love to get hold of consecrated hosts in order to desecrate them.) 

So the woman pretended to be ill and went to see the local priest at St. Stephen’s, asking him for prayers and for Holy Communion.  The priest innocently gave her the Eucharist, which the woman took out of her mouth (obviously when the priest wasn’t looking) and put into the veil she was wearing on her head.  But she never made it to the witch’s house.  As the woman left the church, the host began to bleed!  She panicked (which is quite understandable!), ran home with the bleeding host, and put it into the cedar trunk where she kept her clean linens.  During the night, however, the woman and her husband were awakened by bright rays of light coming from the trunk.  At that point, she confessed to her husband what she had done.  Not surprisingly, both were converted on the spot!  The two spent the entire night in adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.  Some neighbors also saw the light that evening, and they began coming to the house the next day.  Finally the parish priest was told.  He took the Eucharistic miracle back to the Church of St. Stephen, where it’s been ever since—and where I saw it in 2003.

The other miracle, which I have preached about on several occasions in the past—and which is one of the most extraordinary Eucharistic miracles of all—I finally got to see in person on our recent pilgrimage to Italy.
I’m talking about the Eucharistic Miracle of Lanciano.  It happened back in the 8th century, when a priest of Lanciano was having doubts about the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist.  Not surprisingly, he prayed to have those doubts removed.  Well one day, as he was celebrating Mass, God answered his request in miraculous fashion by literally changing the bread and wine into flesh and blood at the consecration.  The elements were never consumed; they’ve been preserved for 13 centuries at a shrine in Lanciano.  In 1971, the Church decided to have the elements analyzed by a team of scientists.  Their testing led them to the following conclusions:

  1. The blood of the Eucharistic Miracle is real blood and the flesh is real flesh.  Both belong to the human species.
  2. The flesh consists of the muscular tissue of the heart.
  3. The flesh and blood have the same blood type (AB positive).
  4. The proteins in the blood are in the same proportions as those found in normal, fresh human blood.
  5. There is no trace whatsoever of any materials or agents having been used to preserve the elements.
This is probably the most famous of all the miracles that have occurred since Jesus instituted the sacrament of the Eucharist at the Last Supper.

Now you may be surprised to learn that one of the lesser known Eucharistic miracles took place just a couple of decades ago—in the 1990s—and it involved our present Holy Father, Pope Francis, when he was a bishop in Buenos Aires.

I read about this one just the other day.

Here’s how writer Alicia Colon described the miracle in an article she wrote last year for The American Thinker web site:

On August 18, 1996 in Buenos Aires, Argentina, at Holy mass, a woman discovered a discarded host on a candleholder and brought it to Fr. Alejandro Pezet who placed it in a container of water inside the tabernacle of the chapel of the Blessed Sacrament. The following Monday, August 26, upon opening the tabernacle, the priest was astonished to find that the Host had become a bloody substance and he notified his Bishop Jorge Bergoglio [now Pope Francis], who gave instructions that the bloodied flesh be photographed. When the photographs were taken on September 6, the bloodied flesh had grown significantly in size. After it had been kept in the tabernacle for a few years the Bishop decided to have it scientifically analyzed since it had not suffered any visible decomposition. …

In 1999, in the presence of then Cardinal Bergoglio, Dr. Ricardo Castanon, an atheist at the time, sent the fragment to New York for analysis, but did not inform the team of scientists its origin so as not to prejudice the study.  One scientist, Dr. Frederic Zugiba, a cardiologist and forensic pathologist, determined that the substance was real flesh and contained human DNA, and furthermore he concluded was a piece of heart muscle. …

Here is some of his testimony:

“The analyzed material is a fragment of the heart muscle found in the wall of the left ventricle close to the valves. This muscle is responsible for the contraction of the heart. It should be borne in mind that the left cardiac ventricle pumps blood to all parts of the body. The heart muscle is in an inflammatory condition and contains a large number of white blood cells. This indicates that the heart was alive at the time the sample was taken. It is my contention that the heart was alive, since white blood cells die outside a living organism. They require a living organism to sustain them. . . . What is more, these white blood cells had penetrated the tissue, which further indicates that the heart had been under severe stress, as if the owner had been beaten severely about the chest.”

Oh yes, one more interesting fact about the flesh in Buenos Aires: DNA tests revealed an exact match with the flesh at Lanciano, along with the same blood type (AB positive)—which indicates that the two pieces of flesh came from the very same person, even though the miracles that produced them were separated by more than a thousand years!

Why am I not surprised?

I tell you these three stories today because it’s very easy for all of us (including us priests!) to lose our awareness of the miracle that happens at every Mass!  Because the Mass is such an ordinary part of our lives as Catholics, the constant temptation is for us to begin to look at the Eucharist as something “ordinary.”

And it’s not!

In fact, I believe that’s why the Lord has given us these special Eucharistic miracles over the years: to make clear to us that the Eucharist is anything but “ordinary.”  In paragraph 1376, the Catechism says this: “Because Christ our Redeemer said that it was truly his body that he was offering under the species of bread, it has always been the conviction of the Church of God . . . that by the consecration of the bread and wine there takes place a change of the whole substance of the bread into the substance of the body of Christ our Lord and of the whole substance of the wine into the substance of his blood. This change the holy Catholic Church has fittingly and properly called transubstantiation.”  As St. Paul puts it in today’s second reading, “The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ?  The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ?”

And yet, as we all know, 99.99999% of the time the accidents (i.e., the physical properties) of the bread and wine don’t change along with the substance.  Even after the consecration, the host still looks like bread and feels like bread and tastes like bread; and the consecrated wine still has the physical properties it had before the Eucharistic prayer was said over it.

So Jesus has given us these miracles to help us to trust in his word and to look beyond what our human senses tell us.  Notice that in today’s gospel from John 6, when the people object after Jesus tells them he’s going to give them his flesh to eat and his blood to drink, our Lord doesn’t back off!  He doesn’t say, “Well, I didn’t mean it literally!  I meant it symbolically.”

No!  He gets even more emphatic about it!  He says, “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you.”

Lord Jesus, today we thank you for loving us by giving your life for us on the cross—and by humbling yourself in this way and becoming our spiritual food.  Help us to be more aware of your presence in the Holy Eucharist in the future—so that we will always be concerned to be reverent and properly disposed when we receive, and so that we will be open to all the graces you want to give us in and through your holy Body and Blood.  Amen. 

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Earthly Fathers Who Live In Imitation Of The Heavenly Father

(Trinity Sunday 2014 (A): This homily was given on June 15, 2014, at St. Pius X Church, Westerly, R.I., by Fr. Raymond Suriani.  Read John 3: 16-18.)

[For the audio version of this homily, click here: Trinity Sunday 2014]

All male parents are fathers, but only some of those fathers live in imitation of God, our heavenly Father.

That’s sad; that’s not the way it should be; that’s certainly not the way God wants it—but it’s true nonetheless.

And what’s also true is that those earthly fathers who do live in imitation of the heavenly Father do so in varying degrees.

In other words, some are a lot more like the heavenly Father than others are.

Now what exactly does it mean to be a father to live “in imitation of the heavenly Father”? 

Well believe it or not that question can be answered, in part, on this Father’s Day, by reflecting on the very famous line of Scripture that we heard in our gospel reading a few moments ago.  I’m talking about John 3: 16:

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.”

It’s amazing how much we learn about God—and especially about the Fatherhood of God—from that one short verse of the Bible.

This line, for example, was spoken by Jesus (the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity made man), and it’s found in Sacred Scripture (the primary author of which is the Holy Spirit, the Third Person of the Blessed Trinity). 

So here we have God the Son and God the Holy Spirit, TESTIFYING TO THE LOVE OF GOD THE FATHER FOR US!

Obviously God the Father is not afraid to tell us explicitly how he feels about us.  This means that an earthly father who lives in imitation of the heavenly Father will not be afraid or hesitant about telling his children that he loves them.

He’ll give them that message because they need to hear it (as they need to hear that God, the heavenly Father, loves them).

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.”

There was nothing more precious that God the Father could have given us than Jesus, his only begotten Son.

This means that an earthly Father who lives in imitation of the heavenly Father will give his wife and children the best he has to give.  That’s another quality he will possess.  And that “giving” will include more than just the material necessities of life.  Archbishop William Lori wrote a great article on fatherhood in the Columbia Magazine this month in which he talks about some of the things that dads are called to give to their families.  At one point in that article he says this: “What else can fathers give their families . . . ?  I suggest a strengthened resolve to show a deeper interest in what is important to their wives and children.  That means putting down the paper, shutting off the television, and turning off the smart phone, computer and other electronic devices.  Only in this way can a husband and father really interact with his family and show them that he is deeply and personally interested in the ups and downs of family life—with what goes on at his children’s school, with the challenges and opportunities his wife is experiencing at work, with the questions his adolescent child may have.”

I guess that’s one way of saying that “the best a father has to give” includes the precious gift of time—as in quality time!

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.”

Obviously that verse makes it clear that the heavenly Father thought that our eternal salvation was worth the sacrifice of his divine Son.

In his eyes—in spite of our sins—we were worth dying for!

We were—and are—that precious to him.

This means that if an earthly father is to live in imitation of the heavenly Father he must never, ever convey the idea to his children that they are worthless and “good for nothing.”

And some, as we all know, do that.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.”

The whole reason that the Father gave us his Son was to reconcile us to himself.  That is to say, he gave us his Son for the forgiveness of our sins!

And so a father who lives in imitation of the heavenly Father will be one who always offers his children—and his wife—forgiveness. 

Of course, he may have to punish and discipline his children at times—that’s true—but he will always do so in a spirit of love and not in a spirit of vindictiveness.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.”

This verse also reminds us of the fact that God the Father plays no favorites with respect to his children!  John 3: 16 tells us that God gave his Son for the salvation of EVERYONE!   No one is excluded from the Lord’s salvific plan.  He wants ALL his children in heaven with him, not just his divine Son.  In Christ and through Baptism, we are God’s adopted sons and daughters.   And so, as Jesus said in John 14, each of us has a “dwelling place” reserved for us in the kingdom.  Yes, we can reject it if we choose to, but that’s not what God wants.

Since this is the case—since God the Father plays no favorites and wants all his children with him in his kingdom someday—a father who lives in imitation of the heavenly Father here on earth will make every effort to love all his children EQUALLY.

Even the wayward ones!

Not easy—but not impossible either.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.”

The final truth about God the Father that I’ll mention today in some sense summarizes all the others.  Here it is: the greatest concern the heavenly Father has is for the ETERNAL SALVATION of his children.
That should be perfectly clear from everything else I’ve said in this homily.

An earthly father who lives in imitation of the heavenly Father will have the same ultimate concern for his children.  Yes, he will want them to be physically healthy; yes, he will want them to become responsible and productive members of society; yes, he will want them to get good educations and good jobs; yes, he will want them to develop their gifts and talents “to the max.”  But more than anything else, he will want them to know, love and serve God here on this earth, so that they will live with him forever someday in the kingdom of heaven.

And every decision that father makes in this life—from taking his family to church on Sunday to setting family priorities—will be made with THAT GOAL in view!

Let me conclude now by saying what should be obvious: It’s not easy to be a father who lives in imitation of God the heavenly Father!  (And, by the way that’s true of spiritual fathers just as much as it’s true of natural fathers.)

In this regard, we all need prayers—lots of them.

At the beginning of my homily I noted that those earthly fathers who do succeed in living in imitation of the heavenly Father do so in varying degrees.

That means, quite simply, that we can all improve.

May God our heavenly Father, by his powerful grace, help all the fathers here present (including yours truly) to do that in the future.

Sunday, June 01, 2014

They Prayed—and They “PUSHed.”

(Seventh Sunday of Easter (A): This homily was given on June 1, 2014 at St. Pius X Church, Westerly, R.I. by Fr. Raymond Suriani.  Read Acts 1: 12-14.)

[For the audio version of this homily, click here: Seventh Sunday of Easter 2014]

They prayed—and they “PUSHed.”

I’m talking about Mary, the apostles and the other disciples of Jesus who were gathered together in the Upper Room from Ascension Thursday to Pentecost Sunday.

We are told in today’s first reading that after our Lord ascended into heaven on Ascension Thursday, the apostles went back to Jerusalem—to the upper room where the Last Supper had taken place—along with our Blessed Mother and some other disciples and relatives of Jesus.

The text says that they (and here I quote) “devoted themselves with one accord to prayer.”
And what exactly were they praying for?

Well, Jesus had specifically told them not to leave Jerusalem, but rather to wait for what he called “the promise of the Father.”  Exactly what that promise was, they probably didn’t fully understand; but Jesus definitely made a big deal about it, since he spoke of this promise—this gift (whom he also referred to as “the Advocate” and “the Paraclete”)—both before AND AFTER his passion, death and resurrection.

We know, of course, that this promise and gift was a Person—a divine Person—the third Person of the Blessed Trinity: the Holy Spirit, who would descend upon all of them on Pentecost Sunday and give them the power to go forth and witness to their faith in Christ and convert the world.

This, by the way, is where the sacrament of Confirmation comes from.  This is what the sacrament of Confirmation is all about.  If someone asks you, “Why do you Catholics receive a second outpouring of the Holy Spirit in Confirmation when you’ve already received the Spirit in Baptism?” you should respond, “We receive the Spirit in Confirmation so that we can be effective witnesses to Jesus Christ and our Catholic faith in the world!  We receive the Spirit in Confirmation so that we can have power to (as Pope Francis would say) ‘rebel against the culture’—the godless culture in which we’re currently living.”

It’s not so that a person can get married in the Church!—that’s not the purpose of the sacrament.   It’s not so that a person can be considered “an adult in the Church.”  Please hear this: if you’re over 18 and you’re a baptized Catholic, then you’re an ADULT in the Church whether you’re confirmed or not!

My goodness, no wonder our society is so messed up!  Most of you know the current situation: we have lots and lots of confirmed Catholics out there (especially in public life) who work really hard at promoting just about everything that’s contrary to Jesus Christ and his teaching: abortion, gay marriage—you know the list.

And they see absolutely, positively nothing wrong with supporting these things.

They’re completely ignorant (perhaps willfully so) of the meaning of this very important sacrament that they once received.

And so they’re not witnesses TO Christ; they’re actually anti-witnesses to Jesus Christ in the modern world!

They need prayers.  Lots of them!—prayers that they will open their hearts to the gift they once received on the day they were confirmed.

Speaking of prayer, this is (as I said earlier) what Mary and the apostles and the other disciples were doing in the upper room after the Ascension.

But, as I also said a few moments ago, they didn’t simply pray, they “PUSHed.”

And in that, they are great role models for all of us.

“Fr. Ray, what are you talking about?  Are you telling us that they pushed each other around and had a rumble in the upper room?”

No, of course not.

“PUSH” here is an acronym—an acronym that I’m sure at least some of you are familiar with.  The letters in the acronym stand for the following: Pray Until Something Happens.


The followers of Jesus who were gathered in that upper room didn’t just pray, they prayed UNTIL SOMETHING HAPPENED!

If they had not done that—if they had not PUSHed as they did—there would have been no Pentecost!
If they had said, “Well, we’ll give it 3 days.  If Jesus doesn’t give us the gift he promised us by then, we’ll just go back to our families and our old jobs and our old way of life,” then they would have missed the Spirit when he came!  The same is true if they had stopped praying after 4 days—or 5, or 6 or 7 or even 8!

Now, because it’s 2,000 years after the fact, we all know that it ended up being 9 days—which, by the way, means that it was the first “novena” ever prayed!  The Spirit descended on them all on Pentecost Sunday (the 10th day after the Ascension).

But they didn’t know it would happen that way!  Jesus hadn’t given them a schedule in advance.  He simply told them to pray until the promise was fulfilled.

Which is what they did.

And I believe they would have done that even if the Lord had made them wait 100 days—or more!

The reason I mention this today should be obvious.  We all pray for God to bless and help us (and other people) in various ways, but when the Lord doesn’t seem to respond immediately to our prayers we can be tempted to “throw in the towel”.

We pray, in other words, but we don’t always “PUSH.”

Which is a big mistake, because even when God doesn’t say yes immediately to what we ask for, I believe that he still wants to give us something—something that we have a greater need for at that particular moment.

I’ll give you a personal example.  Obviously, since I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease, I’ve been praying to be healed of it.

And many of you have been praying for the very same intention in your daily, personal prayers.

For that, incidentally, I sincerely thank you!

God hasn’t said “yes” to that prayer (at least not yet!).  But I intend to keep PUSHing, and I’d greatly appreciate it if you’d do the same.

But this doesn’t mean that our request for God’s help has gone unheeded.  The Lord has definitely been at work.  You know one of the most difficult things with any serious illness (and many of you know this by experience) is coming to the point of “acceptance,” and remaining positive.  It’s reconciling yourself to the fact that you have a serious condition, and you need to deal with it as best you can—with God’s help.

Well, thankfully, I’ve been able to do that.  Once I got over the initial shock of hearing the diagnosis, I was able to deal with it pretty well.  That, I believe, was the fruit of prayer.  And, although I have my moments of frustration when I’m not able to do certain things as quickly or as efficiently as I used to do them, most of the time I remain pretty positive.  That, too, is the fruit of prayer.  And in 3 ½ years the disease hasn’t progressed all that much, which is yet another great blessing.

So, even though God hasn’t healed me—yet—he has done something.  I have prayed, many of you have prayed—and something has happened.  Now we need to continue to pray, until something else happens.

And that’s the point.  Yes, we should pray our prayers of petition until something happens, but then we should keep on praying until SOMETHING ELSE happens!

Which is what Mary and the apostles did!  They prayed until the Holy Spirit came down upon them at Pentecost; but they didn’t stop praying at that point.  Rather, they continued to pray until the next “something” happened.

And so on, and so on, and so on.

Let me put it to you this way (and I’ll end with this thought):  We’ve all heard the saying, “Life is a rush.”  Well, for the Christian, for the true follower of Jesus Christ, life is also a “PUSH”!  And that PUSH (that act of “Praying Until Something Happens”) is supposed to continue until the end of our lives.  And the good news is that if it does, in all likelihood at the end of it all Jesus will literally push us—and many of the people we have prayed for—into his kingdom.