“Ask and you will receive; seek and you will find”

No unanswered calls. No shut doors. No rebukes. In Luke 11:1-13, we find that God is there at whatever the hour. And He answers.

Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he had finished,
one of his disciples said to him,
“Lord, teach us to pray just as John taught his disciples.”
He said to them, “When you pray, say:
Father, hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come.
Give us each day our daily bread
and forgive us our sins
for we ourselves forgive everyone in debt to us,
and do not subject us to the final test.”

And he said to them, “Suppose one of you has a friend
to whom he goes at midnight and says,
‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread,
for a friend of mine has arrived at my house from a journey
and I have nothing to offer him,’
and he says in reply from within,
‘Do not bother me; the door has already been locked
and my children and I are already in bed.
I cannot get up to give you anything.’
I tell you,
if he does not get up to give the visitor the loaves
because of their friendship,
he will get up to give him whatever he needs
because of his persistence.

“And I tell you, ask and you will receive;
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.
What father among you would hand his son a snake
when he asks for a fish?
Or hand him a scorpion when he asks for an egg?
If you then, who are wicked,
know how to give good gifts to your children,
how much more will the Father in heaven
give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him?”

There is so much in this reading. The Lord’s Prayer at the beginning. The parable about the reward of persistence. And the assurance that what you need, the Father will provide.

Jesus frequently refers to these themes in the Gospels. When we are forlorn or feel lost or betrayed, we need only remember this: If those who lack faith and goodness will provide for their families, imagine what good God will do for you, He who loves you with the immensity of the cosmos.

We are God’s children, and He loves us. When we ask with open and honest hearts, when we are truly in need, God will provide. And notice that Our Lord ends this part of scripture with these words: “How much more with the Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him?” To those who ask Him. Never forget to ask Him. And never shy away from speaking to Him, for He is your Father in heaven, open to all your entreaties. He knows you and all your thoughts and desires and needs. You might as well voice them that He may know you have faith in His generosity.

And “give the Holy Spirit” to us. Fill us with His glorious spirit, enliven us with His goodness, inspire our souls, and give us understanding. God touching our souls with His Holy Spirit – for the asking!

Everyone who asks receives. He who seeks finds. To she who knocks, the door will be opened. Ask, seek, knock! God will be there.

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“They look but do not see and hear but do not listen or understand”

In Matthew 13:10-17, we learn that the road to understanding Jesus winds through many parables, and not all who travel that road make it through to the end.

The disciples approached Jesus and said,
“Why do you speak to the crowd in parables?”
He said to them in reply,
“Because knowledge of the mysteries of the Kingdom of heaven
has been granted to you, but to them it has not been granted.
To anyone who has, more will be given and he will grow rich;
from anyone who has not, even what he has will be taken away.
This is why I speak to them in parables, because
they look but do not see and hear but do not listen or understand.
Isaiah’s prophecy is fulfilled in them, which says:

‘You shall indeed hear but not understand,
you shall indeed look but never see.
Gross is the heart of this people,
they will hardly hear with their ears,
they have closed their eyes,
lest they see with their eyes
and hear with their ears
and understand with their hearts and be converted
and I heal them.’

“But blessed are your eyes, because they see,
and your ears, because they hear.
Amen, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people
longed to see what you see but did not see it,
and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.”

Many are the “Christians” who are led astray by those who hear – indeed, read – the parables of Jesus the Christ and do not understand them, though they call themselves learned and informed by the Holy Spirit. Not everyone who hears or reads the words of Our Lord understands Him. And so you see great divisions within the greater Christian Church and you witness the chaos and calamity within the body of faith.

Take care, then, that you read Jesus’ words rather than simply listen to those who preach, and pray to Jesus the Christ and to the Father and the Holy Spirit that They open your mind and your heart and your soul that you may be given understanding. That knowledge of the mysteries of the Kingdom of heaven may be granted to you and that more will be given and you will grow rich in knowledge and faith.

It is not enough that we rely on those who say they know God’s word. We are accountable to God to read His words and try to understand them. And when what we read seems counter to what we are told, we must seek God’s help in understanding. For there are charlatans all around us, just as there were in Jesus’ day, whose purpose is not to move us forward in faith but to empower themselves.

A word of caution: The devil is at work, so we have to be careful who we listen to and what signals we tune ourselves to. Read Jesus’ words in the Gospels. Take them to heart. What are Jesus’ central messages and lessons?

God loves us. He wants us to prosper in faith. He wants us to love and be loved. And He wants us to share that with everyone in our lives. If you aren’t getting that central message from others, then perhaps those others are among those who look but do not see, hear but do not listen or understand.

“And who is my neighbor?”

How timely is today’s Gospel reading from Luke 19:25-37!

There was a scholar of the law who stood up to test him and said,
“Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
Jesus said to him, “What is written in the law?
How do you read it?”
He said in reply,
You shall love the Lord, your God,
with all your heart,
with all your being,
with all your strength,
and with all your mind,
and your neighbor as yourself.”
He replied to him, “You have answered correctly;
do this and you will live.”

But because he wished to justify himself, he said to Jesus,
And who is my neighbor?
Jesus replied,
“A man fell victim to robbers
as he went down from Jerusalem to Jericho.
They stripped and beat him and went off leaving him half-dead.
A priest happened to be going down that road,
but when he saw him, he passed by on the opposite side.
Likewise a Levite came to the place,
and when he saw him, he passed by on the opposite side.
But a Samaritan traveler who came upon him
was moved with compassion at the sight.
He approached the victim,
poured oil and wine over his wounds and bandaged them.
Then he lifted him up on his own animal,
took him to an inn, and cared for him.
The next day he took out two silver coins
and gave them to the innkeeper with the instruction,
‘Take care of him.
If you spend more than what I have given you,
I shall repay you on my way back.’
Which of these three, in your opinion,
was neighbor to the robbers’ victim?”
He answered, “The one who treated him with mercy.”
Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”

Considering all that transpired in America this week, this reading seems particularly apropos: the killing of police officers and civilians in Dallas, the killing by police of Black civilians over minor infractions of the law in Louisiana and Minnesota. Did the perpetrators stop to ask, “Who is my neighbor?”

Now, Jesus didn’t ask the question, but he did answer it.

We are so disconnected from one another in American life today. No one is our neighbor if they don’t live right next door, and sometimes even then we don’t consider them our neighbor in the context in which Jesus uses it. America is fractured. It is a nation of disassociated peoples, a broken family. And the politics and economics of the day only make it worse.

Jesus teaches us different. In this particular example, the one needing our love and our concern is our neighbor. But implicit in Jesus’ example is that the one who is different from us is our neighbor, too. Every person in God’s creation is our neighbor and worthy of our regard and our respect and our love. “Love your neighbor as yourself,” He affirms. “Which of these three was neighbor?” The one who treated him with mercy. “Go and do likewise,” Jesus instructs.

I write this blog to bring light to Jesus’ words. Because frequently people who call themselves Christians ask, “What Would Jesus Do,” then fail to do what Jesus would do, indeed did do. Lots of people in Dallas and Louisiana and Minnesota who are fighting over Black Lives Matter and Blue Lives Matter are missing the point. Jesus would agree with both. Blacks are our neighbors. Police officers are our neighbors. And Jesus commands us to love them as ourselves.

This shouldn’t be a contest over which lives matter most. It is about recognizing that lives being taken is wrong. And if you’re going to call yourself a Christian (or a Catholic), you need to remember Jesus’ stance on life and love of neighbor. All neighbors.

“Courage, daughter! Your faith has saved you.”

In Matthew 9:18-26 we find the testimony of two people who have the courage to approach Jesus for help. Here is how He responds.

While Jesus was speaking, an official came forward,
knelt down before him, and said,
“My daughter has just died.
But come, lay your hand on her, and she will live.”
Jesus rose and followed him, and so did his disciples.
A woman suffering hemorrhages for twelve years came up behind him
and touched the tassel on his cloak.
She said to herself, “If only I can touch his cloak, I shall be cured.”
Jesus turned around and saw her, and said,
Courage, daughter! Your faith has saved you.
And from that hour the woman was cured.

When Jesus arrived at the official’s house
and saw the flute players and the crowd who were making a commotion,
he said, “Go away! The girl is not dead but sleeping.”
And they ridiculed him.
When the crowd was put out, he came and took her by the hand,
and the little girl arose.
And news of this spread throughout all that land.

We just moved and in the chaos and angst of this time, I pondered this reading, which I had read ahead of time so I wouldn’t get behind. And as always, reading the words of our Lord gave me spiritual sustenance to get through the difficult days of the move.

“Courage!” Jesus assures us. “Your faith has saved you.” He is telling us to have courage, whatever the affliction. Whether it is of the body or the mind or the spirit. God is there for us, and even though we may think he isn’t watching us, just as with this woman who came up from behind Him, Jesus sensed her and responded to her needs, and so He will to us. This woman expressed her desire to be cured, and that’s what we need to do, too. Let God know what we need and that we have faith that He will reach back to us.

There is a second story here, another one about someone reaching out to Jesus in faith. It’s an “official.” It doesn’t say an official of what or from where. Was he local or Roman? In any case, he was someone of power, and most people of power weren’t fans of Jesus the Christ. And he came to Jesus because his daughter had died. In faith, the man asked Jesus to lay His hand on his daughter, believing she would then come back to life. Jesus faced the ridicule of the crowds when He got to the man’s house, but He proceeded anyway and brought her back to life. Who knows what kind of ridicule the man had received when he left his home to seek Jesus’ help — it took courage to do so.

Courage. “Courage!” Don’t cower in fear but be strengthened by your faith in God, who hears all of our prayers. God loves all of His children, even the greatest sinner or the most reluctant saint, and God responds to us when we pray in faith. “Your faith has saved you.”