Thursday, March 14, 2019
Season of Lent
1) Opening prayer
Lord, our God,
You are a generous Father,
who give us what is good for us
simply because You love us.
Give us grateful hearts, Lord,
that we may learn from You
to give and share without counting the cost
but simply with love and joy,
as Jesus, Your Son, did among us,
who lives with You and the Holy Spirit forever.
2) Gospel reading - 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."
• The Gospel today gives a part of the Sermon on the Mount, the new law of God which has been revealed to us by Jesus. The Sermon on the Mount has the following structure:
a) Mathew 5:1-16: The entrance door: the Beatitudes (Mt 5:1-10) and the mission of the disciples: to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world (Mt 5:12-16).
b) Mathew 5:17-18: The new relationship with God: The new justice (Mt 5:17-48) which does not expect a reward for practicing almsgiving, for praying and fasting (Mt 6:1-18).
c) Mathew 6:19-34: The new relationship with the goods of the earth (Mt 6:19-21), do not look at the world with a jaundiced eye (Mt 6:22-23), do not serve God and money (Mt 6:24), do not be concerned about food and drink (Mt 6:23-34).
d) Mathew 7:1-23: The new relationship with other people: do not look for the splinter in your brother’s eye (Mt 7:1-5); do not throw your pearls in front of pigs (Mt 7:6); the Gospel today: do not be afraid to ask things from God (Mt 7:7-11); and the Golden Rule (Mt 7:12); choose the hard and narrow roads (Mt 7:13-14), beware of false prophets (Mt 7:15-20).
e) Mathew 7:21-29: Conclusion: do not only speak but also practice (Mt 7:21-23); the community built on this basis will resist the storm (Mt 7:24-27). The result of these words is a new conscience before the scribes and the doctors (Mt 7:28-29).
• Mathew 7:7-8: Jesus’ three recommendations: to ask, to seek and to knock: “Ask and you shall receive; seek and you shall find; knock and it shall be opened to you!” A person is asked. The response depends both on the person as well as on the insistence with which it is asked (cf Lk 18:1-7). The seeking is defined by some criteria. The better the criteria, the more certainty one can have of finding what one is looking for. To knock at the door is done with the hope that there will be someone on the other side of the door at home. Jesus completes the recommendation, offering the certainty of the response: “Ask and you shall receive; seek and you shall find; knock and it will be opened; because anyone who asks receives, and anyone who seeks will find and to anyone who knocks the door will be opened”. That means that when we ask God, He listens to our petition. When we seek God, He allows Himself to be found (Isa 5: 5-6). When we knock on the door of God’s house, He opens the door for us.
• Mathew 7:9-11: Jesus’ question to the people. “Is there anyone among you who would hand his son a stone when he asked for bread? Or would hand him a snake when he asked for a fish?” Here appears the simple and direct way which Jesus has for teaching the things of God to the people. Speaking to the parents, He connects Himself to the daily experience. Between the lines of the question one can guess the response the people yelled out: “No!” because nobody gives a stone to a son who asks for bread. There is no father and no mother who would give a snake to their son when he asks for a fish. And Jesus draws the conclusion: “If you, then, evil as you are, know how to give your children what is good, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!” Jesus calls us evil to stress the certainty of being listened to by God when we ask Him for something. And this, because if we who are not saints, know how to give good things to our children, how much more is the Father in heaven. This comparison has as its objective to take away from our heart any doubt concerning the prayer addressed to God with trust. God will listen! Luke adds that God will give the Holy Spirit (Lk 11:13).
• Mathew 7:12: The Golden Rule. "So always treat others as you would like them to treat you; that is the law and the prophets.” This is the summary of the entire Old Testament, of the law and the prophets. And this is the summary of everything which God wants to tell us, the summary of all the teaching of Jesus. This Golden Rule is not found only in the teaching of Jesus, but also, in one way or other, in all religions. This responds to the most profound and more universal sentiment of humanity.
4) Personal questions
• Ask, seek, knock on the door: How do you pray and speak with God?
• Are you persistent in what you ask for, as the widow in Lk 18:1-7 was, or do you give up after not getting results immediately? Would you pray persistently (and insistently) for years, or just months, or just a week?
• How are your wants aligned with what God would want for you?
• How do you live the Golden Rule?
5) Concluding prayer
Lord I praise Your name for Your faithful love and Your constancy;
Your promises surpass even Your fame.
You heard me on the day when I called,
and You gave new strength to my heart. (Ps 138: 2-3)