I had a short visit with a friend yesterday. She told me about how her husband has been suffering from chronic tinnitus since April. They have tried all the suggested treatments to no avail. There is no cure. They have gone to healing Masses and have had his ears anointed with blessed oil (not the sacrament). He has yet to find relief.
Exactly why God allows suffering is a mystery, which means (in part) that we can’t completely understand it. We do know that it is redemptive. This means that we can offer it up for the salvation of souls. Our sufferings can be offered for the conversion of a hardened sinner or a soul in Purgatory.
But this letter is not about the mystery of suffering.
The Gospels tell us about a woman who was suffering from a hemorrhage for 12 years. Then one day she met Jesus:
As he went, the people pressed round him. And a woman who had had a flow of blood for twelve years and had spent all her living upon physicians, and could not be healed by anyone came up behind him, and touched the fringe of his garment; and immediately her flow of blood ceased. And Jesus said, “Who was it that touched me?” When all denied it, Peter said, “Master, the multitudes surround you and press upon you!” But Jesus said, “Some one touched me; for I perceive that power has gone forth from me.” And when the woman saw that she was not hidden, she came trembling, and falling down before him declared in the presence of all the people why she had touched him, and how she had been immediately healed. And he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace.” -Luke 8:42-48
There is a bit of humor in this miraculous story. And once again, the apostles are on the confused end. Jesus, having become very popular, is trying to get through the crowds who are pushing and reaching out for Him. All of a sudden He stops, turns around and says, “Who was it that touched me?” Imagine the poor apostles trying to figure out if it was He or them who had gone mad!
In Matthew 9:21, we are told that before she touched Jesus, the woman said to herself, “If I only touch his garment, I shall be made well.” I imagine that this woman had prayed and prayed, for 12 long years, as well as spent all her money on physicians. Why then, after 12 years, did she think touching the garment of Jesus would work?
Persistence. After 12 years of nothing, she still believed… and still prayed.
Persistence is an indispensable component of prayer that is also the most forgotten. In Chapter 18 of St. Luke’s Gospel Jesus tells a parable about an unjust judge and a widow who keeps after him to grant her vindication. Because of her persistence, the unjust judge grants her request. Jesus tell us that if the unjust judge grants the request because of persistence, how much more will our Father in Heaven grant our requests?
This lesson on prayer is even more true in our relationship with God. Often we only pray when we think we have time, or when we feel like it, or when we need something. We need to spend time with Jesus everyday. Saints and Catholic spiritual masters have told us that this is the only way to true communion with God. We must come back to Jesus each and everyday, no matter what, because we know we need Him. We can do nothing without Him. Jesus is the answer to everything.
My friend will continue to pray for her husband… and so will I.