Summary: We don't have to look at Jesus's promise "Seek and you shall find" like a disappointed kid at Christmas, but with the light of faith. There's at least one prayer we always get a "yes" to.
Thursday of 27th Week in Course
Today’s Gospel is written for adults, but the problem is that even in old age we tend to read it like an eight-year-old waiting for Christmas. We read “Ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 10 For every one who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.” and the little kid in us remembers asking for some toy fifty or sixty years ago. But the cynical adult in us also remembers that on Christmas day the desired toy was not under the Christmas tree. And then we think of all the times since then that we have prayed incessantly for something that to us seemed way more important that a doll or a plastic gun, and in the end we were disappointed. “Ask and it shall be given” indeed. God let us down.
Mom and Dad were nearly broke that Christmas. A half-century later we can realize that and understand why Joske’s department store didn’t sell them the toy. But God never runs out of resources, so why didn’t we get the job we really needed, or the healing for a sick child, or an election outcome that would have saved unborn children’s lives?
I don’t have a perfect answer for that question, one we struggle with in our family frequently. But I do know three things, one from personal experience. Our family history has taught me that there is a reason we should end every prayer with an expressed or implied statement–“if it be your will, O Lord.” Because I prayed for a music position many years ago and now realize that getting that wish would have ended with us fired and broke in the middle of western Pennsylvania. And so many times since, God’s “no” to our prayer has saved us from a minimum of inconvenience and, in some cases, from catastrophe.
The second thing I know is that God’s compassion is for every human being. So my very self-centered prayers may be for something that in His wisdom He withholds because it is needed elsewhere. How many times in history that has led to happiness for millions, we will never know. And I mean eternal happiness, not just some transient pleasure.
But the third thing I know is that whenever I ask for grace, or some action of the Holy Spirit in my life or that of my family, God does not withhold it. That is what the Gospel tells us today. God never gives us a snake or scorpion. He always gives us grace through the action of the Holy Spirit.
The popes concur, pointing to the whole thread of God’s love acting from Abraham to the culmination of His gift in Jesus Christ. They remind us that Jesus said, “Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day; he saw it and was glad” (Jn 8:56). According to these words of Jesus, Abraham’s faith pointed to him; in some sense it foresaw his mystery. So Saint Augustine understood it when he stated that the patriarchs were saved by faith, not faith in Christ who had come but in Christ who was yet to come, a faith pressing towards the future of Jesus.13 Christian faith is centred on Christ; it is the confession that Jesus is Lord and that God has raised him from the dead (cf. Rom 10:9). All the threads of the Old Testament converge on Christ; he becomes the definitive “Yes” to all the promises, the ultimate basis of our “Amen” to God (cf. 2 Cor 1:20). The history of Jesus is the complete manifestation of God’s reliability. If Israel continued to recall God’s great acts of love, which formed the core of its confession of faith and broadened its gaze in faith, the life of Jesus now appears as the locus of God’s definitive intervention, the supreme manifestation of his love for us. The word which God speaks to us in Jesus is not simply one word among many, but his eternal Word (cf. Heb 1:1-2). God can give no greater guarantee of his love, as Saint Paul reminds us (cf. Rom 8:31-39). Christian faith is thus faith in a perfect love, in its decisive power, in its ability to transform the world and to unfold its history. “We know and believe the love that God has for us” (4:16). In the love of God revealed in Jesus, faith perceives the foundation on which all reality and its final destiny rest.