Thursday of the First Week in Lent

Lectionary: 227

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. 

Apparently the author of the New Testament "Letter of Saint James" was familiar with these words from the Gospel of Matthew. He responded to those who had asked and not received: 

You do not possess because you do not ask. You ask but do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.
The Lord taught his disciples to pray, and to pray both persistently and confidently. We should go before God boldly because we know and personally experience the suffering, disappointment and abandonment of human nature. Nothing that is human, as the Church of the Second Vatican Council declared, is foreign to us. 

When we pray we pray as his disciples and that is why we're confident. We are impelled by the same Holy Spirit which drove Jesus into the desert to fast, into solitude to pray, into the villages to heal and into Jerusalem to die. When we pray we speak for ourselves and we speak for others because we're all in this together. 

Our urgency must be that of God's own spirit. Recently, at the VA hospital, I was sent by one part of a feuding patient's family to negotiate with other members of the family. I went in confident and cocky and came out with my tail between my legs. 

As soon as I got in there I knew I was in trouble. My behavior was downright bizarre. At one moment I was sympathetic; the next, I was rude. I realized I had not been sent by God but by angry souls who only wanted what they wanted when and as they wanted it. I was acting not like a priest but like a hero! I also suspected the dying patient had set up this game, playing one side against the other for reasons I would never comprehend. I reported back to the family, "There are always things left undone when a patient dies." For sure I was not going to be the hero who resolved their vendetta.  

We can expect many of our petitions to be rejected by the Lord, and we can hope to learn from the experience. If "you ask but do not receive", (it's) "because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions." In my case it was to feed my egoistic self-image as hero. 

We do well to study the prayer of Esther. Like Jesus and all the martyrs, she was willing to lay her life on the line. Our prayers must be driven by the same Spirit. Cleansed of ego, we want only what God wants and only when God wants it, be it now or a thousand years hence. 

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I love to write. This blog helps me to meditate on the Word of God, and I hope to make some contribution to our contemplations of God's Mighty Works.

Ordinarily, I write these reflections two or three weeks in advance of their publication. I do not intend to comment on current events.

I understand many people prefer gender-neutral references to "God." I don't disagree with them but find that language impersonal, unappealing and tasteless. When I refer to "God" I think of the One whom Jesus called "Abba" and "Father", and I would not attempt to improve on Jesus' language.

You're welcome to add a thought or raise a question.