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Thursday of the First Week of Lent
Jesus said to his disciples: “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. Which one of you would hand his son a stone when he asked for a loaf of bread, or a snake when he asked for a fish? If you then, who are wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good things to those who ask him. Do to others whatever you would have them do to you. This is the law and the prophets.”
Opening Prayer: Lord, I have many concerns. I need help, and I want to trust you. How do I remain faithful when it seems like you are not listening? How do I remain confident in you while experiencing spiritual deserts?
- Ask and It Will Be Given to You: How often have we heard this Gospel passage and said to ourselves, “God did not give me what I asked for. He did not answer my prayer for (fill in the blank).” Notice that Jesus did not just say, “Ask and it will be given to you,” as if God is a supernatural vending machine. Jesus taught us to add to our asking, “Seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” In our asking, we also seek and knock. We seek God’s will because God is omniscient, seeing further and deeper than we can into our finite and limited understanding of things. When we knock, we act with confident expectation that our request will be welcomed by God and will be answered. Jesus assures us here that God keeps his promise. He hears our prayer. He answers us. It may take a while because he is the master of time, or the circumstances of our request may demand it, or we may first need a healing to be able to hear his answer. He is trusting us to remain faithful, watchful, and persevering. This is where fasting can help. Fasting is not only about denying ourselves to suffer with Christ. By fasting, we empty ourselves so as to provide a space for God to enter. Fasting gives us the capability to hear God’s knock and open ourselves to him.
- Stones and Snakes: “Which one of you would hand his son a stone when he asked for a loaf of bread, or a snake when he asked for a fish?” When we’re asking for something and losing our patience, or seeking and feeling lost, or knocking but losing hope, Jesus reminds us to consider the nature of our Father. God–Love–has only our best interests at heart. He will never hand us a stone, even if we’re mistakenly begging for it. He will never send us a snake because a good God is incapable of trickery or intimidation. We can ask, seek, and knock because we believe wholeheartedly that Our Lord is all good and all loving. It can be hard, when life’s trials weigh us down, to remember this, because our understanding of God has been corrupted by original sin. “As a result of original sin, human nature is weakened in its powers; subject to ignorance, suffering, and the domination of death; and inclined to sin” (CCC 418). As we build a relationship with God in prayer, our faith can reassure us of his goodness and we can more readily believe that he desires to answer our prayers according to what is best for us.
- Good Gifts: “If you then, who are wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good things to those who ask him.” Jesus is teaching his disciples that God never “misses the mark.” God is a good father and, as it says in Romans 8:28, “We know that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.” When we get discouraged, wondering if God is acting in our lives, spiritual writers, mystics, and saints recommend that we “double down” on our prayer, on our fasting, and on our other devotions. This is the asking, seeking, and knocking that Jesus teaches us.
Conversing with Christ: Lord, you teach us that we have a good Father and that he keeps his promises to us. You teach us that God hears our prayers and answers them if we ask, seek, and knock. Thank you, Jesus. Praise you, Jesus. You came so we would not remain lost in our ignorance and sin. You came to save us. May I grow in faith so that I never doubt your love for me.
Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will repeat what St. Faustina said, “Jesus, I trust in you,” when I am tempted to doubt your goodness and personal care for me. I will also make an effort to pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet daily at the 3 p.m. Hour of Mercy.
For Further Reflection: A Father Who Keeps His Promises: God’s Covenant Love in Scripture by Scott Hahn.
Nan Balfour is a grateful Catholic who seeks to make Jesus more loved through her vocation to womanhood, marriage, and motherhood, and as a writer, speaker, and events coordinator for Pilgrim Center of Hope, a Catholic evangelization ministry located in San Antonio, Texas.