Not the famous one by Kipling, but the Bible’s
“but if you can do anything, have pity on us and help us.” And Jesus said to him, “If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.” [THE GOSPEL The Reading from the Holy Gospel according to St. Mark. (9:17-31)–4th Sunday of Lent]
If, αν, если, dacă is a very small word but it has a large range of interpretations from the negative desperation of hopeless regret “If only”- to positive intention, intervention and the releasing potential. “If” – “If we do this her life will be saved.” If “ is a word upon which faith can be strengthened or weakened.
The Athenians send a message to the Spartans: “If we come to your city, we will burn it to the ground” to which the stoic Spartans replied just one word “If”! Such can be the tenacious force of the word. If is one of the saddest words too- “If only I had acted sooner“: “ if only I had not said those unkind words.”
Martha and Mary on the falling asleep of their brother Lazarus said to Jesus “If only you had been here, our brother would not have died!”
“If” is one of satan’s favourite words. When the devil tempted Our Lord in the wilderness he prefixed each temptation with the word” if”:
If you are the Son of God prove it!!
If you are the Son of God turn these stones into bread
If you are the Son of God throw yourself down …. “and the angels will bear you up lest you hit your foot against the stone.” Yes even Satan can quote scripture Psalm 90
If you fall down and worship me I will give you all these kingdoms.
“If only” are words which are full of regret but it is not necessarily full of repentance. Repentance means moving and trying again and moving forward not looking back.
We have within us deeply rooted weaknesses, passions, and defects. This can not all be cut out with one sharp motion, but patience, persistence, care and attention. The path leading to perfection is long. Pray to God so that he will strengthen you. Patiently accept your falls and, having stood up, immediately run to God, not remaining in that place where you have fallen. Do not despair if you keep falling into your old sins. Many of them are strong because they have received the force of habit. Only with the passage of time and with fervour will they be conquered. Don’t let anything deprive you of hope.
(St. Nectarios of Aegina, Path to Happiness, 3)
This is the If that we find in the Bible, in the Psalms and the Prophets and in the Gospels. “If God is for us, who is against us?” Rom 8:30
“If a man loves me, he will keep my word, and my father will love him…” John 14:23
The man in today’s Gospel brought his child and said to Jesus “If you can do anything….” This cry was an “if” born from despair and voiced against the power of the One who works miracles. Our Lord turns this round and God addresses the man’s lack of faith; not if I can, but if you can believe. If only we can believe all things are possible. The positive if lies not with God, of course, He can do anything but it lies with us. God’s everlasting love and power are boundless. Like the man whose tears showed his repentance, we may find ourselves saying likewise:” Lord I believe, help my unbelief.”
Do we see a mother with her child in her arms and bending to give the child a kiss, her heart overflowing with emotion? Do we notice how her face lights up as she holds her little angel? These things do not escape a person with the love of God. He sees them and is impressed by them and he says, ‘If only I had those emotions towards my God, towards my Holy Lady and our saints!’ Look, that’s how we must love Christ our God. You desire it, you want it, and with the grace of God you acquire it.”
― Elder Porphyrios, Wounded by Love
In these difficult and testing times we must and again become people of prayer, people of perseverance, people of hope, people of zeal, people of faith, people of God; we must again become Christians.
4th Sunday of Lent Homily — Fr. Jonathan Hemmings