Thursday March 8, 2001 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier First Thursday in Lent
Reading (Esther c:12, 14-16, 23-25) Gospel (St. Matthew 7:7-12)
When we hear these words in the Gospel, "Ask and you will receive, seek and you will find, knock and it will be opened to you", we might think very selfishly and say, "Well and good! That means anything that I want, all I have to do is just ask the Lord and heís going to give it to me!" I think we all know better than that, but the fact is that sometimes we fall into that trap and we wonder and complain because God doesnít always answer the prayers in our timeline or in the manner that we thought they ought to be answered. So first of all we have to say that if weíre going to seek, knock, and ask it has to be in accordance with Godís will. Now at that point, you might say, "Wait a minute! That is a stipulation that wasnít in there and it doesnít sound fair. If Iím supposed to ask in order to receive, why does it have to be according to His will?" Because He only wants what is the best. If you ask God for something that really isnít good, He isnít going to give it to you. If you ask in accordance with His will, then youíre asking for what is truly the best and Heís going to grant it. However, He isnít always going to grant it in the way or the time that you think.
For instance, we hear about Queen Esther in the first reading, and sheís praying to the Lord for help and for protection. She still had to go before the king, taking her life into her own hands and plead for her people. God didnít just do it for her. He set everything up, everything was taken care of, but she still had to do it. We know the same is true with us. Weíre going to have to do whatever is required and God is going to be there with us. Sometimes He doesnít make it easy, as we all know too well. But the reason He doesnít make it easy is He wants us to grow in virtue. He wants us to trust. He wants us to learn from the experience something that is more profound than what we thought was going to be. Sometimes things donít go right, sometimes they donít go the way we think that they should or the way that weíve expected, but that doesnít necessarily imply that God isnít with us or that it wasnít His will that we do this. Itís just that we have to pray our way through it and follow Him. You see, what happens is that we will ask and we will seek and then we just forget about God. We decide that this is how Iím going to do it and God is going to be with me. We forget that weíre supposed to be following Him, instead of taking the lead. Then it causes us lots of trouble. If we will, just simply, let go and learn to trust, then we will follow God and He will take care of the rest. That is a hard thing for us. We can see it in a case like Esther. She had no choice. Her back was up against a wall, her people were going to be exterminated and she was the only possibility. She decides she is going to take her own life in her hands and that is the way it is going to be. If she dies, she dies. If she lives, she lives. In a case like that, well then, here we go. But in our day to day life itís usually not that extreme. We donít really have to trust God all that much, so we think. Obviously, if itís life or death then weíre going to be praying pretty fervently and our trust is going to have to be pretty strong. But for most of us, thatís not the way it has to be. Therefore, it isnít. We donít pray as fervently as we should. We donít seek to follow God, unless we were really in trouble. Then we would seek His will completely.
That is what we have to learn: Just to let go in any situation, not just in an extreme situation, but in any situation. Follow the Lord, instead of trying to take the lead. Let Him show us the way. Then, truly, we will find that the door will be opened and we will receive what we ask for because we are going to be following the Lord. We are going to be seeking His will, asking Him for what is right and just. God will answer those prayers. That is where the struggle comes. Itís not just flippantly asking for whatever you want and youíre going to get it. Rather, itís a matter of shaping the heart, turning ourselves so that weíre seeking Godís will and weíre asking to do what He wants. It is seeking holiness. When weíre looking at it in that way and praying in that way, then we can be guaranteed that what we ask for, what we seek, will be answered. We will find what we are looking for when we are seeking Godís will.
Note: Father Altier does not prepare his homilies in advance, but relies solely upon the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.