This morning we gather in the presence of a merciful and compassionate God, not a dishonest judge. We gather in prayer knowing that those prayers are heard and answered in God’s way, in God’s time. The exercise of perseverance in prayer is not so much to change God’s will as it is for us to come to know God’s will and to further our relationship with him. People of faith get answers to their prayers all the time: maybe not the answers they expected, but always the answers that are for their good, in the long run.
Today we celebrate the feast of Saint Josaphat, a sixteenth century Basilian monk and Orthodox bishop of the church in what is present-day Belarus. He joined five other bishops in a cause seeking reunion with Rome. Other Orthodox monks, however, did not want union with Rome; they feared interference in liturgy and customs. But over time, using synods and other instruction, he was able to win many of the Orthodox in that area to the union. But the fight was far from over. A dissident faction of the church was formed, and they fomented opposition to Josaphat. Eventually the mob murdered him and threw his body into a river. The body was recovered and is now buried in St. Peter’s basilica. Josaphat is the first saint of the Eastern Church to be canonized by Rome.
So Josaphat’s mission of unity in the Church continues to this day. This task requires open dialogue and discussion, but also persistence in prayer. Every day more and more doors are being opened, and we continue to have faith that one day, Josaphat’s mission, and the mission of so many others, will finally achieve unity and will re-establish the one Church that Jesus came to establish.
Today, on our Day of Service, we take our persistent prayer and manifest it in our work. As we come together to visit the nursing home or Ronald McDonald House, or make cards for those in military service, or make rosaries for the sick, our presence and concern may be the way God is answering someone’s prayers. As we engage in whatever we have signed up to do today, God may give us gifts that answer prayers we didn’t even know we had in our hearts. One thing is certain: when we pray persistently and work for the kingdom of God, God can take our faith and do great things with it. He did with Saint Josaphat, and he will with us.