Mrs. O’Reilly received news that one of her neighbors, Mrs. O’Toole, was seriously ill. She said to the person who gave her the news, “Tell Coleen I will be praying for her – and that I hope she’ll soon be feeling better.”
And Mrs. O’Reilly was as good as her word. That same night as she said her customary night prayers, she prayed very sincerely and fervently for her sick neighbor, Coleen O’Toole.
She said to God, “Lord, I want to entrust my neighbor, Mrs. Coleen O’Toole to you. She’s very seriously ill. She needs a lot of help and a lot of support. But, you already know all of this – just letting you know— that I know.”
When she finished her prayers, Mrs. O’Reilly felt better. And yet, something was bothering her. She sat down to think about it – and the next thing you know, she fell asleep – and began dreaming.
In her dream she heard God saying to her, “I can see that you’re very concerned about your neighbor.”
“Yes, Lord. I really am,” Mrs. O’Reilly responded to God in her dream.
“And I understand your neighbor is in great need of help,” said God.
“So I’ve been told,” said Mrs. O’Reilly.
“You know what she needs most – is someone to spend a little time with her,” said the Lord.
“You’re absolutely right Lord. I was thinking that myself,” Mrs. O’Reilly answered.
“Now when you were asking me to help her in your prayers, you weren’t exactly expecting me to come down from heaven to visit her, were you?”
“No Lord, I would not expect you to do that. Nor would my neighbor expect that either – in fact, that would probably frighten her quite a bit. The shock might even make her worse.”
“But she does need someone to call on her, doesn’t she?”
“She does, Lord.”
“Who can I send?”
After a long pause, Mrs. O’Reilly said, “Send me Lord!”
When she woke up from her dream, Mrs. O’Reilly knew exactly what she had to do.
St. James says, “If someone comes to you who is lacking food or clothing, it’s not good enough just to say to them, ‘I wish you well,’ and leave it at that.
It’s not enough to say to a needy person, “I’ll pray for you.” We must not think that we have done our part once we have referred the matter to God. When we pray for another person we are in effect saying to God, “Here I am lord. Send me.”
Our prayer should commit us to some positive action, no matter how small that might be. But even a small act, such as a visit to someone who is sick, could prove to be a costly gesture – because it might put us out of our comfort zone. And it will open us up to that person’s pain – and we will inevitably absorb some of that pain. . .
To pray for people, or to wish them well, is a good thing. It gives them the comfort of knowing that they are not alone. But it is not enough. That is dead faith. If our faith is alive we will express our concern in action also.
In the Gospel, Peter got the identity of Jesus absolutely right. His faith was perfect as far as his words went. But when the time came for action – he was woefully lacking:
When he told the twelve he was going to have to suffer and die – Peter objected – instead of saying he would be right there with him.
When Jesus asked him to watch with him during his agony in the Garden of Gethesmene – he fell asleep.
And later that same night Peter would deny that he had even known Jesus.
There is faith that consists only of words. And there is faith that flows from deeds. We need God’s grace, not only to profess our faith – but also to live it!