The promise of Jesus

Daily Reading for May 25 • The Venerable Bede, Priest, and Monk of Jarrow, 735

It can disturb hearers with weak [faith] that, at the beginning of this reading from the gospel, the Savior promises his disciples, “If you ask anything of the Father in my name, he will give it to you.” Not only do people like us not receive many things they seem to ask of the Father in Christ’s name, but even the apostle Paul himself asked the Lord three times that the angel of Satan with which he was tormented might depart from him, and he was not able to obtain what he asked. . . .

Whenever we are not listened to when we ask, it happens either because we are asking [for something] contrary to what would aid our salvation, and for this reason the grace of his kindness is denied us by our merciful Father because we are unsuitably asking . . . or we are asking things that are indeed useful for and connected with true salvation, but we ourselves, by our evil lives, divert away from us the voice of the just Judge, falling into what was said by Solomon, “The person who turns away his ear from hearing the law, his prayer will be an abomination”; or [it happens because] when we pray for certain sinners, that they may recover their senses and return to themselves, that although we are asking [for something] pertaining to salvation, and we deserve to be heard for our own merit, yet their obstinacy stands in the way of our obtaining what we ask.

It also sometimes happens that we seek things entirely related to salvation with our eager petitions and devoted actions, and yet we do not immediately obtain what we ask. The result of our petition is postponed to some future time, as when we daily ask the Father on bended knees, saying, “Your kingdom come,” and nevertheless we are not going to receive the kingdom as soon as our prayer is finished, but at the proper time. It is a fact that this is often done with benevolent foresight by our Maker, so that the desires [inspired by] our devotion may increase by deferment. When they had advanced more and more by daily growth, at length they embrace perfectly the joys they are seeking.

From Homily 11.12 on John 16:23-30, in Homilies on the Gospels, Book Two: Lent to the Dedication of the Church by Bede the Venerable, translated by Lawrence T. Martin and David Hurst OSB (Kalamazoo, Mich.: Cistercian Publications, 1991).

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