Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
St. Dominic Church, NOLA
Jesus says to his disciples, “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you.” Whatever we want? Really? Just ask for whatever we want and it will be done? Yes, IF we remain in Christ and his words remain in us. He follows this spectacular promise with, “By this is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.” Let's break this down. How do we give glory to God? Jesus says, “...bear much fruit and become my disciples...” Alright, how do we become disciples and bear much fruit? Jesus answers, “Remain in me, as I remain in you...Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit...” But why must we remain in you, Lord, in order to bear much fruit? Jesus says, “...because without me you can do nothing.” Ahhhh, so, when we ask for whatever we want, it is really you who are asking through us b/c we cannot ask for what we want without you? Jesus says, “Bingo. You got it.” When we pray for what we want in the name of Jesus, we surrender our wants and needs to his Word, the Word remaining in us. In other words, to pray in his name is to pray with his will.
Near the top of the List of Top Ten Questions Catholics Ask Priests is the question: why doesn't God answer my prayers? Probably the most common answer is: He did answer your prayers. . .He said no. Though this answer is likely true, it isn't very satisfying. Didn't Jesus say that if we remain in him and he in us, ask for whatever we want and it will be done? Indeed, he did, and he meant it. So, why didn't I get what I wanted? There are at least two answers to this: 1). you did get what you wanted. . .you just didn't get it in the way that you wanted; or, 2). you didn't get what you wanted b/c you haven't remained in Christ. Jesus promised to do for you whatever you wanted IF you remain in him. “Remaining in Christ” means willing his will for yourself. If I want something that is not his will for me, then I am wanting outside his will and it will not be given. This why the first petition of the Our Father is “Thy will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven.” How is the Father's will done on Earth? It is done by those who remain in Christ and he in them. When we pray in Jesus' name that the Father's will be done, we commit ourselves to being instruments of His will. If Christ's words remain in us, then His will is already revealed to us. We know what He wants for us and from us. In other words, we've been pruned!
Jesus says to his disciples, “You are already pruned because of the word that I spoke to you.” If the branch of the vine is to bear much fruit, it must be pruned, stripped of its dead leaves and barren offshoots. Christ is the vine and we are the branches. His Word is the pruning knife. Love God with all your heart, all your strength. Snip. Love your neighbor as you love yourself. Snip. Repent of your disobedience and return to righteousness. Snip. Forgive every offense and leave vengeance to me. Snip. Feed the hungry, clothe the naked, heal the sick, free the captive. Snip, snip, snip, and snip. We are already pruned by Christ's Word. If his Word remains in you, pruning away dead leaves and offshoots, then your will resides in his and whatever you ask will be done. He is with us always b/c without him we can do nothing.
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