“If we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.”

We have been blessed to work through John’s first letter since two days after Christmas.  Today’s first reading completes the fifth chapter and thus the entire letter (1 Jn 5:14-21).  The passage’s first verse contains the words above.  John then speaks about the worthiness of praying for the sinner, although he doesn’t require that one should pray for those who have fallen into deadly sin.  One begotten by God does not sin yet the world is under the power of evil.  Yet Jesus has given us the power to discern truth so we should not make idols of anything or anyone.

The Father very much wants to give us every good thing.  But He respects our free will, which is also His gift.  God is truly free and He grants this to us as well.  But true freedom only comes when sin is avoided.  God cannot sin, yet He is free.  Are there things that God cannot do?  Yes — anything that goes against His nature.  Sin is against His nature — completely incompatible with infinite goodness.  Unfortunately, the world tells us that true freedom is the ability to do whatever we want.  This is license, not freedom.  Just because we have the physical ability to perform a certain act does not mean we should.  Overflowing jails are the only evidence needed here.  God made man “very good” as we are in His “image and likeness” (Gen 1:27-31).  When we sin, we mar that image and likeness.  Only by returning to God with contrite spirit and firm purpose of amendment can we be healed, that is, made whole.  God’s love (we call it grace) is always waiting for us in abundance.  We just need to open ourselves to it by eliminating sin and vice.  The Virgin Mary was full of grace because no sin of any kind ever was part of her.  Should we not strive to empty the container of our souls of all dirt and make it sparkling clean for this gratuitous gift?  We can be sure, getting back to the headline, that it is God’s will to give us the gift of Himself.  Constantly ask for help to overcome sin and vice, thus being open to His will for us.  He knows what is best for us.  He just needs us to come to recognize it as well.  A mutual love is never forced, so God will not impose it.  But wanting what is best for us, He wants us to come to that realization out of love.  Should we make petitions in prayer.  Of course!  But a good practice is to always add this suffix: “…if it is your will, O Lord.”  If we pray to win the lottery, we probably can figure out why God might not grant this desire.  It is more difficult, however, to understand when our pleading for a sick loved one does not yield the result for which we desperately hoped.  Does it mean God is not listening?  Of course not.  Do we necessarily understand God’s thinking or plans?  We don’t (just read the Book of Job).  That in which we must have confidence is summed up well by St. Paul: “We know that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose” (Rom 8:28).  The operative word is trust.  Our difficulty in finding that trait here on earth does not mean that we shouldn’t expect it from heaven: “If you then, who are wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the Father in heaven give the holy Spirit to those who ask him?” (Lk 11:13)

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