February 26, 2015

The Gospel Today

Thursday of the First Week of Lent

Matthew 7:7-12

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.”

Reflection (Sem. Emmanuel Calumpong):

The season of Lent gives us many grace-filled opportunities to deepen our understanding and our practice of prayer. The prayer that Jesus taught us, The Lord’s Prayer, reminds us that our Father knows what we need even before we ask for it. Nevertheless, He encourages us to keep asking not so that we will receive more from the Father, but so that our relationship with Him will grow stronger. The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC 2739) teaches us that the first benefit we receive from praying, including the prayer of petition or asking God for what we need,  “is the transformation of our own hearts, as we are drawn closer to the Father.”

Our own experience of parents and children is a good starting point for understanding our relationship with God. We know something about children because we have all begun life as children, and many of us have children of our own or have experiences with children.  In today’s Gospel, Jesus acknowledges that we know how to give good things to children. Our love for them moves us to provide what is good, even at the cost of great sacrifice on our part.  When they make requests, we listen to them.  However, we do not always give them what they ask for, because sometimes what they ask for is not good for them. At times it happens that when we refuse the request of children, they interpret our decision as a lack of love.  They sometimes would say “If you really loved me, you would do this for me.”  Depending on how strong-willed they are, and on how strongly attached they are to what they request, they can even begin to hate us for saying no. They simply cannot understand why we are causing them such pain.

Children are not the only ones who find this kind of misunderstanding painful. It is also very painful to us. We understand their reasons for thinking as they do, but if we love  them, we do not change our minds and give them what is harmful. Giving in to their demands might win us their affection for a while, but is not an expression of love. To give a son a loaf if he asks for a stone, that is love, but it is not love to give him a stone if he asks for a loaf.

Reflecting on how we respond to children helps us understand why our Father in heaven promises that we will receive what we ask for and find what we seek, but at the same time He does not give to some of what we ask for. He is not breaking His promise, He is being a good Father. If we do this with our own children, how much more will our heavenly Father not give good things to anyone who asks from Him?  Prayer after all is much more a matter of growing in our relationship with Him than of getting things from Him.

Finally, in today’s Gospel, Jesus also encourages His disciples to ask.  In asking we are turning to God and we are opening our arms and our hearts to receive the grace that God is offering us at all times.  We may not have the wisdom to  know what is good for us, but if we ask with our eyes fixed firmly on the Father, we will certainly get what we need. It may not be what we ask for but it will be what is best for us..

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