Lætabitur deserta et invia, et exsultabit solitudo, et florebit quasi lilium. Germinans germinabit, et lætabunda et laudans.
The land that was desolate and impassable shall be glad, and the wilderness shall rejoice, and shall flourish like the lily. It shall bud forth and blossom, and shall rejoice with joy and praise.
The Byzantine Liturgy refers to the “barren church of the Gentiles” being made fruitful by the Gentiles coming to Christ. We are the wasteland made fertile, we are the desert filled up with joy and flowers. We are the promised joy and praise. Sadly, to get here, we had to go through some rough spots: we keep fighting with Israel. Yet, since we are following Israel’s God, we are, also, followers of Israel.
They are the ones making strong our feeble hands and feet, giving us courage: yet the failure of Israel, first to evangelize as the prophets urged, and then to recognize the promised Messiah when he came, left us in reversed positions: as the Church of the Gentiles blossomed forth, it becomes the means for saving Israel. This also foretold in Isaiah, I think: for the Holy Road to God’s kingdom runs through our lands, our blossoming desert. All the redeemed of the Lord walk on this Gentile Road – not just the Gentiles. Those returning to Zion will walk there, ie, those who have gone astray, but now come home to the Messiah.
But we’re not only evangelizing verbally and with our lives: we are called to evangelize in our prayers. And that’s what the Gospel is about today.
Jesus sees the faith of the friends and says to the man on the stretcher, your sins are forgiven. Because of the faith of the friends.
Who are you bringing before Jesus? I don’t mean you need to physically drag someone to Church (but that can’t hurt!) I mean, in prayer. Who do you bring before Jesus in Eucharistic Adoration? Whom do you plop down before the feet of God himself, in silence?
Apart from our personal witness – that is, our lives, words, piety, etc, I think the two things most effective in obtaining the conversion of sinners are Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, and committing the person to the Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin. In this regard, Mary is one of the Friends with us, together we drop our friend through the roof before our Lord.
Whom do you dare bring before the Lord in this way? Whom dare you not so to do?
I think this is crucial, this element of prayer, in the conversion of our friends and family, the conversion of those whom God has placed in our path: we must place them in God’s way. It is our faith that will save our friends. It is our faith that will fill up the desert with life and manifest the blessings of God’s grace to the world.