The Healing of the Ruler’s Son

Father Girardey offers, for our consideration, a fifth narrative, The Healing of the Ruler’s Son (John 4:46-53): “There was a certain ruler whose son was sick at Capharnaum. Having heard that Jesus was come from Judea into Galilee, he went to Him and prayed Him to come down and heal his son, for he was at the point of death. Jesus therefore said to him: Unless you see signs and wonders, you believe not. The ruler saith to Him: Lord, come down before that my son die. Jesus saith to him: Go thy way, thy son liveth. The man believed the word that Jesus said to him, and went his way. And as he was going down, his servants met him; and they brought word, saying that his son lived.”

Father Girardey notes: “We see that the ruler’s power and wealth could not avert sickness or death from his son, and that youth is not secure and possesses no privilege against disease and death.” Moreover, “it was misfortune that brought him to Jesus. . . . An apparent serious misfortune is a true benefit, a real blessing. . . . All physical evils may, in God’s providence, become real blessings and promote and even be necessary for our salvation.”

“He first met with a rebuke from our Lord on account of his very imperfect faith, and probably also of his wavering confidence in Jesus, for he thought that Jesus, like physicians, could cure only the sick they had seen and diagnosed. . . . He, like many Christians of our times, believed that Jesus could help him, but only in his own way, by going with him to his sick son. But Jesus soon made him aware that he was mistaken, for He said to him: ‘Go thy way, for thy son liveth,’ that is, thy son is now cured. The ruler believed Jesus, and at once set out for his home. . . . The dangerous illness of his son proved a real blessing for himself and family.”

“Whenever we ask some favor, some benefit, some grace, someone’s conversion from God, we usually expect God to grant it to us in a certain way, within a certain time, and we feel great disappointment if He does not; we do not consider that God is able to grant the favor to us in many other ways, and that He is the best judge of the way most appropriate, most beneficial to us. Let us imitate the ruler, who having heard the declaration of Jesus that his son was cured, believed Him and at once returned home.”

Quotations from Ferreol Girardey, Prayer: Its Necessity, Its Power, Its Conditions (St. Louis: B. Herder, 1916).

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The Healing of the Paralytic

Father Girardey recounts a fourth narrative, The Healing of the Paralytic (Matt 9:2-8; Mark 2:2-12; Luke 5:18-26): “They came to Him, bringing one sick of the palsy, who was carried in a bed by four men. . . . They went upon the roof, uncovered it, and let him down through the tiles with his bed into the midst before Jesus. And when Jesus had seen their faith (and that of the sick man), He said to him: Man, thy sins are forgiven thee. There were some scribes and Pharisees sitting there; they began to think in their hearts: Who is this that speaketh blasphemies? Who, but God alone, can forgive sins? And Jesus, knowing their thoughts, saith to them: Why do you think evil in your hearts? Which is easier to say to this man sick of the palsy: Thy sins are forgiven thee, or to say: Arise, take up thy bed and go into thy house? But that you may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins, He saith to the sick of the palsy: I say to thee: Arise, take up thy bed and go into thy house. And immediately he arose before them, took up his bed on which he lay, and went away in the sight of all to his own house, glorifying God.”

Father Girardey writes: “Let us admire the charity of these four men towards their suffering, helpless fellow-man, and leaving their own work and giving their time to the hard and laborious task of bringing him and placing him before Jesus, as well as their ingenuity and great faith and confidence in the power and goodness of our Saviour.”

“It was their great faith as well as that of the paralytic which moved Jesus to cure the helpless sufferer. But before curing his body, Jesus wished to cure his soul, which was probably in a more deplorable condition than his body. It frequently happens that sin is the cause of men’s diseases; physicians testify that the gratification of the passions causes a large percentage of the diseases that afflict mankind. Hence many commentators on the Gospel hold that this paralytic was suffering on account of his sins. Jesus seeing his faith and his hearty sorrow for his sins which had brought on his disease, said to him: ‘Thy sins are forgiven thee’; thus He first removed the cause of his disease, that is, his sins, before removing their effect.”

“The principal object our divine Saviour had in view in curing the paralytic was to prove that He could as truly forgive sins as He could cure corporal diseases by a mere word, for He expressly said so: ‘That you may know that the Son of man (that is, Jesus Christ as man, in His human nature), hath power on earth to forgive sins.'”

“When He first appeared to His apostles after His resurrection, He breathed on them, saying, ‘Receive ye the Holy Ghost, whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them, and whose sins you shall retain, they are retained’ (John 20:22-23), He thereby actually transmitted to them His power of forgiving men’s sins.”

“Let us learn from the paralytic to thank and glorify God every time He answers our prayers. He who is ungrateful, shows he is unworthy of further favors.”

Quotations from Ferreol Girardey, Prayer: Its Necessity, Its Power, Its Conditions (St. Louis: B. Herder, 1916).

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The Stilling of the Storm

Father Girardey recounts a third narrative, The Stilling of the Storm (Matt 8:23-27; Mark 4:35-41; Luke 8:22-25): “When evening was come, Jesus said to His disciples: Let us pass over to the other side (of the sea). And sending away the multitude, they take Him even as He was in the ship; and there were other ships with Him. And there arose a great storm of wind, and the waves beat into the ship, so that the ship was filled. And He was in the hinder part of the ship, sleeping upon a pillow, and they awake Him, and say to Him: Master, doth it not concern Thee that we perish? And rising up, He rebuked the wind, and said to the sea: Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was made a great calm. And He said to them: Why are you fearful? Have you not faith yet? And they feared exceedingly; and they said to one another: Who is this (thinkest thou) that both wind and sea obey Him?”

Father Girardey comments: “The stormy sea represents the world with its temptations and trials. The voyage on the sea is a figure of our life through the world on the way to our home, heaven. Being placed in the frail bark of our body exposed to the stormy elements of dangers both corporal and spiritual, we are sailing towards our destined harbor, heaven. Happy we, if Jesus is with us in our hearts. He is our Captain; His Providence is our Pilot; His words, His teaching, our compass; faith is our sail; its profession, our flag; hope and confidence in Jesus Christ, our anchor; prayer, holy Communion, our provision; the cross, our mast; heaven, which we should ever keep in view, our destiny and harbor of rest and enjoyment.”

Jesus set sail, knowing that a terrible storm would gather, “to show His apostles how greatly they were dependent on Him and should rely upon Him and have recourse to Him with confidence in all their wants, in all their dangers, in every distress. Although Jesus was asleep, He nevertheless was watching over them, but He wished to teach them to have recourse to Him with confidence in their dangers, in their needs.”

“All physical evils, storms, diseases, sufferings, as well as dangerous temptations are the result of the entrance of sin into the world. And ever since then man has to struggle, combat and suffer to reach his destined place in heaven. Moreover, we are of ourselves weak and helpless amid these storms more or less furious, and we cannot expect to reach heaven by a smooth road devoid of obstacles. Hence our path is beset by crosses and trials, by combats more or less severe with the devil, the world and even our own selves, our inordinate inclinations. . . . Sometimes these storms become violent and protracted and threaten us with destruction, and Jesus seems to be asleep and have no care of us; but not so, for if we show our faith and confidence by fervent and persistent recourse to Him to save us, to keep us from sin, He will at once come to our assistance and help us to weather the storm. . . . He says to us: ‘Cry to Me, and I will hear thee’ (Jer 33:3); ‘Call on Me, and I will deliver thee’ (Ps 49:15). The more we have to combat and suffer, the greater will be our merit and our reward.”

Quotations from Ferreol Girardey, Prayer: Its Necessity, Its Power, Its Conditions (St. Louis: B. Herder, 1916).

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The Centurion’s Servant

Father Girardey calls our attention to a second narrative, The Healing of the Centurion’s Servant (Matt 8:5-13; Luke 7:2-10): “The servant of a centurion who was dear to him, being sick, was about to die. When the centurion had heard of Jesus, he sent unto Him the ancients of the Jews, desiring Him to come and heal his servant. When they came to Jesus, they besought Him earnestly, saying to Him: He is worthy that Thou shouldst do this to him, for he loveth our nation, and he hath built us a synagogue. And Jesus said: I will come and heal him. And Jesus went with them. And when He was not far from the house, the centurion sent his friends to say to Him in his name: Lord, trouble not Thyself, for I am not worthy that Thou shouldst enter under my roof. For which cause neither did I think myself worthy to come to Thee; but only say the word, and my servant shall be healed. . . . And they who were sent, having returned to the house, found the servant whole (well) who had been sick.”

Father Girardey says of the centurion: “He seems to have been a very worthy man, kind and generous to the Jews, a conquered people, and to their religion, as well as a model officer and master full of a kind charity towards his soldiers and subordinates and servant. His first request to Jesus through the ancients of the Jews and his second through special messengers prove him to have possessed faith and confidence in Jesus in a very high degree joined to a humility until then unparalleled. He did not consider himself, a pagan, to be worthy to approach and speak to Jesus or to have Him enter his house and be honored with His presence therein. He showed his extraordinary faith in the power of Jesus, in expressing his belief that Jesus could cure his servant with a single word or act of His will, without either seeing or approaching the servant. . . . His great confidence in the power and goodness of Jesus is clearly apparent from his request to Jesus to heal his servant who, being at the point of death was beyond all hope of cure.”

“His petition for the cure of his servant should serve as a model for our petitions to God. As he considered his prayer for the cure of his servant a matter of great importance to both himself and his servant, he strengthened it by availing himself of the intercession of the chief Jews of the city, whom he believed to possess some influence over Jesus. In like manner, whenever we have some important petition or favor to ask of God, let us call in the saints, who are God’s friends and favorites, or the Blessed Virgin Mary, ‘the Mother of our Lord,’ to intercede for us by their prayers in our favor. In the second place, let us always pray with a great faith in God’s power, a firm confidence in Him who is goodness itself and our most loving Father and Benefactor, and especially with a deep and sincere humility like that of the centurion.”

Quotations from Ferreol Girardey, Prayer: Its Necessity, Its Power, Its Conditions (St. Louis: B. Herder, 1916).

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The Pharisee and the Publican

The Redemptorist Father Ferreol Girardey illustrates in the following twelve Gospel narratives the proper dispositions which should accompany our prayers.

The first narrative he cites is the Parable of the Pharisee and the Publican (Luke 18:10-14): “Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, the other a publican. The Pharisee, standing, prayed thus within himself: O God, I give Thee thanks that I am not as the rest of men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, as also is this publican. I fast twice in a week; I give tithes of all I possess to the poor. And the publican, standing afar off, would not so much as lift up his eyes towards heaven, but struck his breast, saying: O God, be merciful to me, a sinner. I say to you, this man went down into his house justified, rather than the other; because everyone that exalteth himself, shall be humbled; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.”

Father Girardey comments: “Here are two persons performing the same action, praying to God. But how different before God are these acts! . . . The Pharisee aims at publicity, at being considered holy by his fellow-men.” . . . But the publican “is a model of a penitential humility. The humility of his posture, attitude, bearing and words attest his sincerity. His words are few but evince the deep earnestness and emotion of a truly contrite heart. He thinks not of others, but only of his own failings, in order to bewail them and implore their forgiveness. His is a prayer full of humility, confidence and of the spirit of penance. He is sure to obtain forgiveness, for ‘God does not despise a contrite and humble heart’ (Ps 50).”

“God does not judge from appearances, but from our interior dispositions, for He sees our heart, our inmost thoughts, and can never be deceived. ‘He is therefore moved to show mercy only by a heart full of compunction,’ says St. Bernard. ‘He resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble’ (1 Pet 5:5). Hence, in heaven only the humble are found. Let us, then, take to heart the admonition of St. Peter: ‘Be you humbled therefore under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in the time of visitation’ (1 Pet 5:6).”

Quotations from Ferreol Girardey, Prayer: Its Necessity, Its Power, Its Conditions (St. Louis: B. Herder, 1916).

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Consequences of Judging Others

Father Faber observes: “A man is very much himself what he thinks of others. . . . When you hear a man attribute meanness to another, you may be sure, not only that the critic is an ill-natured man, but that he has got a similar element of meanness in himself, or is fast sinking to it. A man is always capable himself of a sin which he thinks another is capable of, or which he himself is capable of imputing to another.”

“Furthermore, our hidden judgments of others are, almost with a show of special and miraculous interference, visited upon ourselves. Virtue grows in us under the influence of kindly judgments, as if they were its nutriment. But in the case of harsh judgments we find we often fall into the sin of which we have judged another guilty, although it is not perhaps a sin at all common to ourselves. Or, if matters do not go so far as this, we find ourselves suddenly overwhelmed with a tempest of unusual temptations, and on reflection conscience is ready to remind us that the sin to which we are thus violently and unexpectedly tempted is one which we have of late been uncharitably attributing to others. Sometimes also we are ourselves falsely accused and widely believed to be guilty of some fault of which we are quite innocent; but it is a fault of which we have recently, in our mind at least, accused another.”

“Moreover, the truth or falsehood of our judgments seem to have very little to do with the matter. The truth of them does not protect us from their unpleasant consequences; just as the truth of a libel is no sufficient defence of it. It is the uncharitableness of the judgment, or the judging at all, to which this self-avenging power is fastened. It works itself out like a law, quietly but infallibly.”

“The practice of kind thoughts is our main help to that complete government of the tongue which we all so much covet, and without which the Apostle says that our religion is vain. The interior beauty of a soul through habitual kindliness of thought is greater than our words can tell. To such a man life is a perpetual bright evening, with all things calm and fragrant and restful. The dust of life is laid, and its fever cool. All sounds are softer, as in the way of evening, and all sights are fairer, and the golden light makes our enjoyment of earth a happily pensive preparation for heaven.”

Quotations from Frederick William Faber, Kindness (London: R. & T. Washbourne, 1901).

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Judging Others

Father Faber writes: “The standard of the last judgment is absolute. It is this—the measure which we have meted to others. Our present humour in judging others reveals to us what our sentence would be if we died now. . . . We ought, therefore, to cultivate most sedulously the habit of kind interpretations.” Unfortunately, “the habit of not judging others is one which it is very difficult to acquire, and which is generally not acquired till late on in the spiritual life.”

“Men’s actions are very difficult to judge. Their real character depends in a great measure on the motives which prompt them, and those motives are invisible to us. . . . Nobody can judge men but God, and we can hardly obtain a higher or more reverent view of God than that which represents Him to us as judging men with perfect knowledge, unperplexed certainty, and undisturbed compassion. Now, kind interpretations are imitations of the merciful ingenuity of the Creator finding excuses for His creatures.”

“The habit of judging is so nearly incurable, and its cure is such an almost interminable process, that we must concentrate ourselves for a long while on keeping it in check, and this check is to be found in kind interpretations. We must come to esteem very lightly our sharp eye for evil, on which, perhaps, we once prided ourselves as cleverness. It has been to us a fountain of sarcasm; and how seldom since Adam was created has sarcasm fallen short of being a sin! We must look at our talent for analysis of character as a dreadful possibility of huge uncharitableness. We should have been much better without it from the first. It is the hardest talent of all to manage, because it is so difficult to make any glory for God out of it. . . . Of course, we are not to grow blind to evil, for thus we should speedily become unreal; but we must grow to something higher, and something truer, than a quickness in detecting evil.”

“Have we not always found in our past experience that on the whole our kind interpretations were truer than our harsh ones? What mistakes have we not made in judging others! But have they not almost always been on the side of harshness? Every day some phenomenon of this kind occurs. We have seen a thing as clear as day. It could have but one meaning. We have already taken measures. We have roused our righteous indignation. All at once the whole matter is differently explained, and that in some most simple way, so simple that we are lost in astonishment that we should never have thought of it ourselves. Always distrust very plain cases, says a legal writer.”

Quotations from Frederick William Faber, Kindness (London: R. & T. Washbourne, 1901).

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