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A sermon on Matthew 18:15-20

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Fr. Mike Paraniuk

By Fr. Mike Paraniuk
St. Mary Catholic Church (Hillsboro,
St. Benignus Catholic Church (Greenfield),
Saint Mary Queen of Heaven Catholic Church (Peebles)
Holy Trinity Catholic Church (West Union)

These two verses from Matthew are often misinterpreted, causing hurt to someone needing help from God. 

"Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” (Matthew 18:19-20.) 

It appears to say that God requires two people to agree on something in prayer before He will grant their request and God needs at least two people before He will be present. God always hears the prayer of any one person who cries out to Him in need. God says in Jer. 29:12, "Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you." Note that God says "you" (one person) not "they" (small group). 

Also, God does not need a small group to make Himself present. God makes Himself present to anyone who desires Him with faith. God says, "Come near to God, and he will come near to you."(James 4:8.) If you want Him, you got Him.

So what do these two verses mean? Jesus is saying that when church members gather together and agree in asking God's help about church discipline or church teachings, this shall be done for them. We are not talking about asking for God's help to heal my son's brain tumor or cure my leukemia or mend a broken marriage or walk with me as I grieve the loss of someone I dearly loved. 

The heartfelt prayer of one person crying out to God in pain will move Him to come near to you. I am in awe of the power God gives to a believer to summon His presence. We do this at every Mass when we summon the Holy Spirit to come down to the altar and sanctify our offering to God. The question must be asked, "God hears me, but does He answer me?" "Does God grant my request?"

There is a Bible verse from John 14:14 that I have spent years trying to fully understand. It reads, "If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it." 

I have seen so many people who love God get their hopes dashed when their prayers were not granted. For 27 years at Children's Hospital, I have witnessed the pain of a parent who faithfully prayed to God to spare their child, but to no avail. The cry of so many parents yelling "why" still haunts me today. How many times did I hear, "I asked God for something so good, the healing of my child's disease, but He didn't do it."

In those moments, I never tried to defend God because their pain was so great they wouldn't be able to hear. There was no way I would say God said "No" to their child's healing or in any way suggest their faith was not strong enough. I simply sat by their side and grieved with them.

Later on, when I would talk again with these parents, I did my best to offer a word of comfort, to address the "why."

When you pray healing for your loved one, you are really praying that God take away the suffering, to restore them to health. Sometimes the only way that prayer can be answered is for God to bring them home to Him. I assured those parents that though their prayer was not answered in the way they hoped, this did not mean God abandoned them. 

Jesus felt abandoned on His cross, "My God, My God why have you abandoned me?" (Matthew 27:46.) Yet, Jesus could still cry out His last words, "Into your hands I commend my spirit." (Luke 23:46.) 

Jesus kept the faith.

The greatest faith is to keep believing God loves you when everything says He doesn't. I remember the scene of a child alone with only me and his mother. The child asked, "When I get to heaven, can I eat chocolate chip cookies again, all that I want?" 

Mom answered, "Yes, all you want, dear." 

He replied, "I will send some down to you." 

Several weeks after the funeral, the mom called me. She received a box with no return address filled with chocolate chip cookies. Love never dies. (I want oatmeal raisin. I will eat them all.) 

Blessings, Fr. Mike.

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