Sir Alec Guinness, the famous actor, made what he called a “negative bargain” with God when his eleven-year old son contracted polio. If his son recovered, Guinness promised, he wouldn’t stand in his son’s way to become Catholic. The boy did recover, and his father kept his promise. A few years later, Alec Guinness became Catholic himself.
Some might take a rather cynical view of Guinness’ attempt to lure God to the bargaining table. After all, he only turned to God when he had no one else to turn to! Yet that’s been the experience of many people, not just Alec Guinness. So often it’s only when we have our backs pressed against the wall that we give God any real consideration. But God can work with that. He knows that it’s when we’ve hit rock bottom that we’re the most open to receiving his grace.
We can see this in today’s gospel. The royal official approached Jesus in desperation, with no other motive than to secure the healing of his dying son. Jesus knew this. “Unless you people see signs and wonders,” he complained, “you do not believe.” The royal official didn’t contest the point. He simply continued to beg Jesus. And Jesus did heal his son, whereupon the official’s entire household became believers.
All this goes to show that God will meet us wherever we are, because even more that we might desire to be with God, God desires to be with us!
Readings for today’s Mass: http://www.usccb.org/nab/040411.shtml