Thursday March 13, 2003 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier First Week of Lent
Reading (Esther C:12, 14-16, 23-25) Gospel (St. Matthew 7:7-12)
In the Gospel reading today, Our Lord tells us that if we knock the door will be opened, if we seek we will find, and if we ask it will be given. At the same time, we could easily protest that we have asked for many things and we have not gotten them. We have sought at times and the door has not been opened. And so we wonder how it is that this Gospel reading can be true when, in fact, there are many times in our lives that it seems it has been proven false.
There are a couple of things, of course, that we need to make sure we look at. It is not that the Lord is saying, “You can ask for anything and you’re going to get it. You can seek for anything and you’re going to find it.” That is not what He is telling us. The stipulation that would need to be in there is: If we ask and it is in accordance with God’s Will we will get whatever it is we are looking for. Now you could say, “Well, yeah, I would say the same thing for my children. If they asked, as long as it was what I wanted to do anyway, well, then, no problem; I’ll give them whatever they want.” But it is not merely that. It is not a little game that we say, “Well, what we need to do is make sure that we want only what God wants us to have, and therefore we know how to ask.” Of course, we have to remember God wants for us only what is the most perfect, but we also know that God sometimes gives us the things that we ask for that really were not the most perfect, but it was because we were asking for it rather insistently. And so the other side of this is the disposition. For instance, if we went to prayer this morning and asked God to give us a billion dollars this morning, chances are unlikely that it is going to happen because it would not be good for us if something like that were to occur. Usually, the disposition in asking for such a thing would be such that we would not get even a good thing that we might ask for because our heart is completely focused on ourselves.
When we see, for instance, what happens with Queen Esther, she goes before the Lord and she fasts and she prays and she tries to put herself in the right disposition, recognizing the nature of what it is that she is asking for. She recognized Who she was asking and she also recognized who it was that was asking. When we keep those things in mind, then the manner in which we pray is going to be entirely different. What we are going to do then is seek the Will of God rather than our own self; we are going to pray to God with humility and yet at the same time with a great confidence because we recognize Who He is – not only the great and Almighty God, but our loving Father as well. We have to go to the Lord with the proper disposition so that we are humble before Him and yet at the same time confident because He is our Father and we know that He loves us and we know that He desires only what is the very best for us.
And the Lord tells us at the end of the Gospel reading today that we are to do to others whatever we would have them do to us. That, again, tells us the disposition that we have to have; it must be one of charity. Whether it is in our actions or in our attitudes, the commandments, as the Lord lays it out for us, are to love God and to love neighbor. We see what it is to love neighbor: to do to others what we would have them do to us. If that is our attitude toward other people, it helps to inform our attitude toward God and the way that we need to approach Him.
So those are the things we have to think about. When we go before the Lord seeking what is going to be truly the best with a humble and confident disposition, then we can be guaranteed that what we ask for in prayer will indeed be given because it is not being asked for selfish reasons, it is not being asked arrogantly, but rather it is being asked seeking the true good. And if it is not what is best, the Lord will gently help us to see that and we will adjust our prayer. But if we are seeking only ourselves with a selfish or arrogant disposition, then we do not hear the voice of God because we are not listening. We are not really seeking His will, but only our own. That is what needs to change. So when we go before the Lord, we have the confidence in what He has promised, but our part is to make sure that we are seeking what is right and seeking it in the manner which is proper: to have a humble but confident disposition.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.