Thursday February 17, 2005 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier First Week of Lent
Reading (Esther C:12, 14-16, 23-25) Gospel (St. Matthew 7:7-12)
Our Lord tells us in the Gospel reading this morning that if we ask it will be given, if we seek we will find, and if we knock the door will be opened. Yet, at the same time, if we look back in our lives, we can say, “But I’ve asked, I’ve knocked, I’ve begged, and I haven’t gotten what I was looking for. So it would seem that this is not fulfilled.” But then if we really stop and look at it deeply, we will see that God gave us precisely what we truly needed – not necessarily what we asked for, but what was the very best. It does not always seem that way at the time because we would not be asking for something if we did not think that was what was good for us. But God in His mercy knows what truly is good for us, and He will always provide what is the very best.
We also see, if we compare this with the first reading, the way that it needs to be done. For so many of us, the concept of prayer is to rather flippantly toss out some little request and think that is going to be it. Yet when we look at the first reading and we see Queen Esther, who is going to go in and plead on behalf of her people, she and all of her maids fasted and they prostrated before the Lord from morning until evening and they prayed. Now I am not saying for every request we have that we need to be doing that, but it helps us to be able to see that, while, yes, we are praying, perhaps we are not praying very well because if all we are doing is tossing out a little request and then leaving it be, it does not come across in such a way that this is something truly important to us. If it were really important, we would make a greater effort.
Now even with that we can say, “But look at what happened to King David when he fasted and prayed for the life of the child that had been conceived through Bathsheba. The child died, and he didn’t get what he was praying for even though he laid prostrate before the Lord.” It was because, first of all, what the Lord had already told him was going to happen through the prophet, but also because this is what was truly the best. So we see that God sometimes allows very difficult things, things that we would even look at and say, “These are bad things.” The Lord says, Which of you, if your son asked for a loaf of bread, would give him a rock? or if he asked for a fish, would give him a serpent? Yet it seems sometimes that when we ask for one thing, God gives us what seems to be the worst, what seems to be very painful, and we say, “But if I was asking for this loaf of bread, why did I get a rock? If I was asking for a fish, why did I get a snake?” Even there, as we move along in life and we can look back at what God has done, we see that in fact it was not a snake, it was not a rock; it just was not what we were asking for and therefore we interpreted it that way. But as we put everything in proper context, we will be able to see that this really was a gift that God gave to us (even though we do not see how it is at the time), that it was and is somehow the very best thing – not always a pleasant thing, not always an easy thing, but always the very best.
That is what we have to be able to learn: number one, how to pray; and number two, to be able to trust in the Lord. God is love and He is pure love, and there is nothing He can do other than love. Therefore, whatever He provides is somehow the best, even when it seems to be the most painful, the most difficult, or even the worst thing that we could think of at the time. God brings all things together for good. As long as we trust, as long as we continue to pray, we will indeed see exactly what it was and why it was that He did what He did. That is what we have to be able to do, to continue to turn to Him, to continue to pray, to continue to trust and know that the Lord always will give to us only the very best.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.