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Thursday, first week of Lent

March 17, 2011

Blessed St. Patrick’s Day!

You can find his story here

Father, without You we can do nothing.
By Your Spirit help us to know what is right
and to be eager in doing Your will.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son,
who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit,
one God, forever and ever. Amen. (Opening prayer from Mass)

Readings:
Esther C 12, 14-16, 23-25 (Esther’s prayer for help)
Psalm 138: 1-8 “Lord, on the day I called for help, You answered me”
+Matthew 7:7-12 (God gives good gifts to those who ask)

You do not have, because you do not ask.
-James 4:2

It’s true; God could supply all our needs without our asking.
He knows them better than we do.
He wants them to be met more than we do.
And He does give us all sorts of good things we don’t ask for–
things we don’t even notice until we lose them
(running water, the ability to breathe, clothes on our backs, etc.).

Yet, every so often, He restrains Himself.
He waits for us to ask.
Why?

Well, one reason stems from our native sense of self-sufficiency.
The author of Proverbs was onto something when he prayed,

give me neither poverty nor riches;
lest, being full, I deny You,
saying, “Who is the Lord?”
or being in want, I steal,
and profane the Name of my God
-Proverbs 30:8-9

Since we don’t notice most of what God gives us,
if He always gave us everything without our asking,
we would assume we’d gotten it for ourselves,
that we didn’t need God.
We’d quickly lose track of the fact that without Him we can do nothing (John 15:5).
It is His mercy that makes us active participants in His provision for us,
that allows us to feel our limitations so that we will look for a way to meet them.
Since only He can meet our needs, we find ourselves looking for Him.

And that is the greatest gift of all.

When Christ said to St. Thomas Aquinas,

Thomas, you have written well of Me. What reward will you have?

This great theologian, who had examined the highest and best things in life, replied,

Lord, nothing but yourself.

St. Paul put it this way:

Indeed I count everything as loss
because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.
For His sake I have suffered the loss of all things,
and count them as refuse, in order that I may gain Christ.
-Philippians 3:8

The surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus, my Lord!
There is nothing better!
In comparison, everything else we could ever desire is worthless, refuse, garbage.

For what will it profit a man,
if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?
-Matthew 16:26

What indeed?

Christ is our life (see Colossians 3:4).

And when we find God (or, more accurately, allow Him to find us),
we gain everything worth having along with Him (see Matthew 6:33).

God wants to give us the greatest gift of all.
He wants to give us Himself.

Rings and jewels are not gifts, but apologies for gifts.
The only gift is a portion of thyself.
-Ralph Waldo Emerson

…but, spiritually blind creatures that we are,
He has to awaken in us a desire to receive Him.
He will not impose.

I’m reminded of the cats my prince and I encounter on our walks around the village.
At first they all stay far away, napping on a sunny porch or slinking into shrubbery.
We couldn’t impose our desire to pet them if we wanted to.
But we can invite.
We crouch and call softly.
We pick a strand of tall grass and twitch it invitingly.
And some of them do venture a bit closer…and then a bit closer…
and gradually get the idea that this is not only safe, but pleasant.
They begin to receive the gift of our affection.
After a few visits like that they come running, tails held high,
when they see us approach.

That’s the kind of confidence in Him that God wants to develop in us.
It’s the confidence Queen Esther demonstrated as she prayed,

“Help me, who am alone and have no help but You”
-Esther C:14

It’s the confidence Jesus sought to instill when He assured us:

Ask and you will receive.
Seek and you will find.
Knock and it will be opened to you
-Matthew 7:7

It’s the confidence that says:

Lord, on the day I called for help, You answered me
-Psalm 138:3

Even before we experience God’s answer.

It’s a confidence based the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus, my Lord,
and knowing that nothing in Heaven, on earth or hell itself
will ever be able to separate us from His love (see Romans 8:38-39).

That’s worth asking for.

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