“What have you to do with us, O Son of God? Have you come here to torment us before the time?” (Matthew 8:29)
Our first reading this morning explains the popular, yet very controversial quote that “the prayer of a sinner is an abomination in the sight of God.” Does God abhor the prayer of a sinner? How then do we explain the prayer of the tax collector in the parable of Jesus who without looking up to heaven prayed? “God, be merciful to me a sinner.” (Luke 18:13).
To say the prayer of the sinner is an abomination to God is to say only half of the whole truth. God loves sinners but hates sin. God says: “I hate, I despise your festivals… even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them; and the offerings of well-being of your fatted animals I will not look upon… But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” (Amos 5:21-24).
Worshipping God is not just a matter of avoiding sin, it is more importantly about doing good deeds. Seek the good, love what is good, establish justice in your gates and let righteousness flow from your actions. As Jesus says: “You are my friends if you do what I command you.” (John 15:14). We cannot claim to love God and love sin at the same time. If truly we love God, we must have a zero-tolerance for sin and all forms of evil so much so that like Jesus, our very presence becomes a threat to demons. We must hate sin so much that evil people become completely uncomfortable in our midst.
Let us pray: Lord Jesus, you cured the demoniacs, cure me of my sinfulness. Amen. Bible Study: Amos 5:14-24, Psalm 50:7-17, Matthew 8:28-34).
Little Faith; Large Fears
“Why are you afraid, O men of little faith?” (Matthew 8:26)
Behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by the waves, but Jesus was asleep. Just as the disciples were shocked to find Jesus sleeping while they were facing a great storm, many of us today just cannot understand where God is in the midst of this pandemic that is threatening almost all life on earth.
Is it possible that Jesus was not aware of the storm and the fact that the boat was at the point of sinking? Of course, as a man Jesus was truly asleep but as God, being all-knowing and all-powerful, Jesus allowed the storm to test the disciples’ faith. As St. James puts it: “Count it all joy, my brethren, when you meet various trials, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” (James 1:2-4).
The question is not whether or not we face trials and difficulties, the question is: “How do we react or respond when we face such moments?” Being human, the most reasonable thing to do when faced with such situations is to become afraid (that is, to expect the worst). In the words of the disciples: “Save us, Lord; we are perishing.” Do you notice the contradiction in this prayer? They acknowledged that Jesus is Lord but within that same breath, they talked about perishing.
If they truly believed that Jesus is Lord, why would they be having negative thoughts of perishing? Surely, like these disciples, we believe that Jesus is Lord and we have some level of faith to pray but even while we pray, we remain overwhelmed by fear; we call on God not necessarily because we expect a better outcome but just out of habit. At times, we pray without even considering the amount of negativity issuing from within. We have faith but it is just too little.
Are you facing a storm? I am sure you have prayed about it already but you don’t feel too confident that your prayers will work. Right? Calm down now and imagine the best, hold on your imagination for as long as you can. Visualize your future just as you have prayed. Know that it will happen. The next step is to use the power of gratitude to boost your faith. Start singing praises to God. Count your blessings. Recall how God helped you in the past. Don’t allow any complaint formulate in your heart, it is the devil trying to make you think less of God. Be positive and all you will see are possibilities.
Let us pray: Lord Jesus, when I fear, teach me to be calm and expect the best. Amen. Bible Study: Amos 3:1-8; 4:11-12, Psalm 5, Matthew 8:23-27).