[Copyright TAN Books, reproduced with permission.]
O Jesus, make me understand that my prayer is of no avail unless it is made in Your Name; that my faith is vain unless I convert it into works.
1. In today's Gospel, taken again from the discourse of Jesus after the Last Supper (John 16,23-30), the Church continues to prepare us for the Ascension and Pentecost. "I came forth from the Father and am come into the world," Jesus said, "again I leave the world, and I go to the Father." Thus He announces His approaching Ascension. Having reached the end of His ministry on earth, Jesus presents it in synthesis as a long journey from the Father to the world and from the world to the Father. These words repeat the idea of "pilgrimage", which every Christian should apply to his own life, considering it as "a night spent in a bad inn" (St Teresa of Jesus, Way of Perfection, 40), a "night" during which his heart is turned toward the radiant tomorrow of eternal life.
"The hour cometh when I will no more speak to you in proverbs, but will show you plainly of the Father." Jesus is now referring to Pentecost, to the intervention of the Holy Spirit by whom Jesus will enlighten His Apostles, giving them a clear understanding of the divine mysteries, so that the Father will no longer be unknown to them. All that we can study and learn about the things of God is a dead letter if the Holy Spirit does not enlighten us concerning them. Our need for Him is absolute; our desire for His coming should be unbounded.
Yet another subject is brought to our attention in today's Gospel. Jesus had spoken to the Apostles many times about prayer and the way they should pray; today He reveals the secret of efficacious prayer: "If you ask the Father anything in My Name, He will give it to you." Jesus is going, but He leaves the Apostles an unfailing means of approach to the Father: to present themselves in His own Name, the Name of the God-Man who, because He sacrificed Himself for the glory of His Father and for our salvation, deserves to be "heard for His reverence" (Hebrews 5,7).
2. To pray "in the Name of Jesus" establishes the conviction that our prayers, as well as all our good works, have no value unless they are founded on the infinite merits of Jesus. We must be persuaded that, however much we do or pray, we are always "unprofitable servants" (Luke 17, 10); we have no sufficiency in ourselves, but all our sufficiency comes from the Crucified. Consequently, the first condition of prayer made "in the Name of Jesus" is humility, an ever deeper and more realistic sense of our nothingness. It must be complemented by the second condition, a boundless confidence in the merits of Jesus, which surpasses all our poverty, misery, necessities, needs. In view of Jesus' infinite merits, we can never ask too much in His Name; we can never be too bold in imploring the plenitude of divine grace for our souls, in aspiring to that sanctity which is hidden, perhaps, but genuine. There is no fault, no want of fidelity, no evil tendency, no sin, which, if sincerely detested, cannot be cleansed, purified, and pardoned by the Blood of Jesus; there is no weakness which He cannot cure, strengthen and transform. Moreover, there is no creature of good will, no matter how weak and insignificant, who, in the Name of Jesus, cannot aspire to sanctity.
However, in order to make our prayer effective, a third condition is required: our life must correspond to our prayer, our faith must be translated into good works. "Be ye doers of the word and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. For if a man be a hearer of the word and not a doer, he shall be compared to a man beholding his own countenance in a glass. For he beheld himself, and went his way, and presently forgot what manner of man he was." This strong exhortation of St James, which is found in today's Epistle (1, 22-27), is an urgent reminder of the practical character of the Christian life. Vain is our prayer, vain our confidence in God, if we do not add our generous efforts to perform all our duties, to live up to our high vocation. We can, and we should, hope for everything in the Name of Jesus, but He expects a constant effort on our part to be entirely faithful to Him.
"Almighty God, Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, You who are so merciful, be merciful to me, for whatever I can find that is most precious, I devoutly offer You; I present in humble supplication all that is dear to me. I have nothing that I have not offered to Your Majesty; I have nothing more to add, since I have sent You my Hope, my Advocate: Your beloved Son. I have sent Your glorious Son as a Mediator between You and me; I have sent Him as an Intercessor, by whom I hope to obtain pardon. I have sent that Word whom You sent to atone for my guilt, and I show You the Passion which Your Son suffered for me. He is the Sacred Victim whom I offer to appease You, so that You will look favourably upon me. Great, indeed, is my wrongdoing, but my Saviour's justice is much greater. Even as God is superior to man, so is my wickedness inferior to His goodness, in quality as well as in quantity.
"What fault committed by man has not been expiated by the Son of God made man? What pride can be so immeasurably inflated that it could not be brought down by such humility? Truly, O my God, if we were to weigh both the offences committed by sinners and the grace of God the Redeemer, we would find that the difference equalled not only the distance between east and west, but the distance between hell and the highest heaven. O wonderful Creator of light, by the terrible sorrows of Your Son, pardon my sins! Grant, O God, that His goodness may overcome my wickedness, that His meekness may atone for my perversity, that His mildness may dominate my irascibility. May His humility make amends for my pride; His patience for my impatience; His benignity for my harshness; His obedience for my disobedience; His tranquillity for my anxiety; His sweetness for my bitterness; may His charity blot out my cruelty!" (St Augustine)