How often have you heard that phrase “God helps those who help themselves”? I’ve heard it many times and I’ve used it many times. Technically, it is not Biblically accurate, but it does reveal the power we have been given by God.
I recently saw a great post with a picture of Michael Corleone captioned by “I asked God for a bicycle, but I know he doesn’t work like that so I robbed one.” My first reaction was to laugh because back in the day in Brooklyn, there were a lot of guys who had that attitude. Now I’m not suggesting breaking Commandments to fulfill a desire, or giving up on prayer and taking things into your own hands, but I am suggesting that we take another look at how we pray.
God’s Power in Us
We have power in Christ. We can do amazing things with our actions, our demeanor, our works, our thoughts and our emotions. Scripture tells us we can tell a tree to uproot itself and cast itself into the sea if we have faith. We are told we can cast out demons, heal the sick, raise the dead and even obtain what we seek from God. If that is not power, I really can’t imagine what is. Thanks to the generosity of our Lord, we lowly sinful Christians have that power. Jesus said so.
We also have power to confront and overcome the things that threaten to overwhelm us. I was just diagnosed with Prostate Cancer. I didn’t get upset or fearful; I joked about it. I’m not mentally unbalanced, nor do I have a death wish; I simply have faith, faith that no matter what, God has my back.
Like faith, laughter is a gift from God. It takes the sting away from tragedy and robs it of its power. The bottom line is that something is going to kill each and every one of us one day, but Sister Death, as St. Francis would call it, is nothing to fear. I believe that there is a Heaven and it is better than this life. Jesus promised us mansions up above (cf. John 14:2). He was clear on that. I have no fear. I live for the now and enjoy the moment.
Meanwhile, confident that we are not alone and buoyed by this spirit of faith, we are taking action against the problem confronting us. My friends and family are praying for me. My wife is making me go to several doctors. And I’m using the power of my words in the name of Jesus to heal. It’s all in His hands, but I must do my part. God helps those who help themselves—and perhaps, when we hear those words, we should dare to imagine more. Jesus told us through the Disciples who saw His works that they, and by extension we, were to do even greater things (John 14:12). Imagine that—Jesus commissioned us to do even greater things.
Faith in Action
Jesus knows the power we have and that we fail to understand that we have it. We have it and we don’t know how to use it. The best example is the feeding of the 5,000 people in the wilderness. Matthew 14:16 records that Jesus replied, “They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.” The Disciples were perplexed; they started doing calculations in their heads. How many people, how much would it cost and where would they get it all from even if they had the money? But as we all know, Jesus multiplied what was there. Jesus provided. But he told the Disciples to provide. They could not provide because rather than listen and trust in the Lord, they looked at things from the ground level, not the heavenly level.
When we find ourselves in similar situations or circumstances that seem to have no rational solution, do we start doing calculations? When the crowd is large and the cupboards are bare, when we are face to face with evil and there doesn’t appear to be a way out, then what do we do? Praying is a good first step, but then when heaven seems quiet and there are no lightning bolts or immediate miracles, then what do we do?
I think that is exactly the time to unite with Jesus in prayer and ask, “Lord, how do You want me to handle this?” That is the time for quiet contemplation before the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. It is the time for listening and discernment. Then, armed with the power of God, it is a time to act—to steal the bike, so to speak.
Faith and Joy in the Spiritual Battle
In addition to forming the power source for our activity, this attitude of faith and confidence is a great source of strength in our spiritual lives. Prayers of adoration and thanksgiving are wonderful gifts to God—sacrifices of praise and thanksgiving—but also powerful weapons. You see, in praying with gratitude and joy for all things and in all circumstances, you arm yourself, pour opprobrium on the enemy and give glory to God. When we worship God sincerely with praise and thanksgiving, in good times and bad, we embarrass the enemy. We shame him. We make a fool of him and God receives the glory, His rightful glory.
St. John Vianney referred to the enemy as the Grappin. The word means a hook but the way I felt while reading about St. John was that his name for the enemy was really a mockery—he was calling him more of a clown. How apropos, considering Stephen King’s “It” character, an evil clown, was the embodiment of the devil. The devil is in fact a clown. A very dangerous clown that is only permitted to act according to God’s good will. We rob him of victory in praising, thanking and adoring the Lord God who made us and loves us. St. John Vianney would expel demons with the Name of Jesus and Mary, with the sign of the Cross or another seemingly simple word or action. How powerful are our simple words and actions.
We Share in God’s Divinity
When the priest adds three drops of water to the wine before consecration, he prays, “By the mystery of this water and wine may we come to share in the divinity of Christ who humbled himself to share in our humanity.” Have you ever contemplated those words? Could you ever have imagined that the entire point of the Salvation Mystery was that God became man so that we, though mere creatures, could become like God, by sharing in His Divinity? Do you realize the power you have as a baptized Catholic Christian?
The Holy Spirit dwells in us if we are in the State of Grace. We become Holy Temples, mini Churches, Holy Tabernacles. We have power in Christ. We are powerful and we can allow God to help us when we help ourselves.
I challenge you this Lent to steal the bike (not literally)—to look at what you now perceive as a mountain in your life and to chip it down to size. Tell your problem how big your God is, how surmountable it is with God’s help. Curse it in Jesus’ Holy Name. Bind it in Jesus’ Holy Name. Command it to die in Jesus’ Holy Name and then enthrone Jesus upon your heart, mind and life. Watch what happens. You have the power in Jesus. Use it. Remember, God helps those who help themselves. You can do it—you are destined to share in the Divinity of Christ. Amen.