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A sermon on Mark 5:21-43

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Fr. Mike Paraniuk

By Fr. Mike Paraniuk
St. Mary Catholic Church
St. Benignus Catholic Church 
St. Mary Queen of Heaven
and Holy Trinity Catholic Church

What is faith? 

God defines faith in Hebrews 11:1: "Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see." 

This is how I describe faith. "Reaching out to God with empty hands and believing He will fill them."

Jairus reached out to Jesus with his empty hands of a dying daughter. "My daughter is at the point of death. Please come lay your hands on her that she may get well and live." (Mark 5:23.) A woman reached out her empty hands of uncontrolled bleeding, desiring to merely touched the clothes of Jesus. In both cases, Jesus filled their empty hands with new life and healing. God granted their request because they believed. 

Here is the problem. I have encountered many people who trust in God, who believe in God, who have faith much bigger than a mustard seed that could move a mountain, yet their hands remained empty. Their sick child did not get well. Their affliction was not healed. Their request to spare the life of another went ungranted. They had the faith but did not get the reward. 

They ask themselves, "Did I not have enough faith for my prayer to be answered?" "Does God not love me?" 

How do we believers in Jesus help them to understand what faith is? 

There is a misconception that God does not grant my prayer request because I do not have enough faith. This misunderstanding causes many Christians needless guilt. Having enough faith in God doesn't mean we can force God to do what we want.  

Faith in God means to "let God be God" and do what He wants, even if it goes against my heart's desire, even if my request seems so right. Do you realize that even God Himself did not grant His own request? Remember what Jesus, the Son of God, requested of His Father God at the Garden of Gethsemane? "My Father, if it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from." (Matthew 26:39.)

Jesus God was reaching out to Father God with His empty hands of intense suffering, asking His Father to fill them with another way to stop His painful torture. Father God did not grant this request of His Son. Yet, Jesus remained firm in His Faith. "Not my will but your will be done." (Matthew 26:39.) 

The prayer request of Jesus seemed so good. But if Father God granted that request, there would be no reason for us to be in church today because we would not be saved. Sometimes God does not grant your requests because He has a greater blessing to bestow. Jesus understood this when He uttered His last words, "Father into thy hands I commend my spirit." (Luke 23:46.)

I have thanked God for not answering all my prayers. Hindsight has brought me the clarity to see if God granted all my requests, I would have been miserable, stuck away in a lonely monastery. 

Garth Brooks wrote a hit song about this called "Unanswered Prayers." Garth realized what he once wanted would not have been the best. In the song, he relates how years later he reconnected with an old childhood sweetheart. But after spending some time together, he came to understand this relationship would never have worked. He would have been miserable. Garth was glad his prayer to reconcile went unanswered.

Garth wrote: 

Sometimes I thank God for unanswered prayers
Remember when you're talking with the man upstairs
And just because He doesn't answer doesn't mean He don't care
Cause some of God's greatest gifts are unanswered prayers.

Max Lucado expresses beautifully the essence of faith. "Faith is not the belief that God will do what you want. It is the belief that God will do what is right." 

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