In today’s readings we see some subtle but importance differences between the Old Testament reading and the Gospel in how prayer, faith, and expectations interact in our relationship with Our Lord. Jacob sleeps at a shrine in the First Reading and God renews the promise he’d made to Jacob’s father and grandfather: the inheritance of the Promised Land. Jacob’s reply shows an immaturity of faith and expectation that will eventually be resolved just before his confrontation with his older brother Esau (see Genesis 32:22–32): God made him a promise, and Jacob puts conditions on whether he’ll accept the Lord as his God. Only if God accompanies him and cares for him on the remainder of his journey will he accept the Lord as his God; God promised him one thing and he wanted another. God in his mercy did grant the things Jacob had requested, so Jacob accepted him as his God, but just as his grandfather Abraham had a test of faith and detachment regarding Isaac, so Jacob would need his faith to be tested as well.
Today’s Gospel takes place in that very Promised Land the Lord had promised to Jacob. Jacob’s little expectations had been fulfilled, and the people of Israel had proof that God’s big promises were fulfilled as well, and had no reason to doubt that they would be fulfilled in the future. When the official and the hemorrhagic woman approach Our Lord, they know he’ll help them: the official tells Jesus that he knows Jesus “will” heal his daughter from death itself, and the woman knows even something as simple as touching his cloak “shall” cure her. This is not a language of you scratch my back, I scratch yours: they believe firmly that Our Lord can do what they ask. In our prayer we have to pray with the faith that Our Lord is listening and can answer our prayers. Sometimes it doesn’t turn out as we’d expect, but we experience moments of grace where we know we must ask him for something big and he delivers: we experience a moment of inner spiritual conviction where our desire and God’s is the same in some concrete circumstance. The important thing is not to fall into a mentality of “if God does this, only then will I do that”: he’s free to help us or not.
Let’s ask Our Lord today to help us grow in a life of faith where our prayer, faith, and expectations are mature and solid.
Readings: Genesis 28:10–22a; Psalm 91:1–4, 14–15b; Matthew 9:18–26. See also 13th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B.