Thursday of the First Week in Lent

Est C:12,14-16,23-25; Ps 138:1-8; Mt 7:7-12:  The Lord Jesus continues to teach his disciples about prayer.  The Psalm Response and the First Reading are used by the liturgy to reinforce the Divine Teacher’s instruction.  Psalm 138 is full of thanksgiving.  Indeed, we echo such an attitude when the LORD answers our most basic prayer: “Forsake not the work of your hands!”  We give wholehearted thanks when the LORD hears and responds to the words of our mouth.  In the presence of the angels we join in singing; loud and jubilant is our praise. We worship at the LORD’s holy temple and give thanks to His Name.  In His great kindness, we find the truth that sets us free.  The LORD has made great above all things His Name and His Promise. He has promised again and again that every prayer will receive an answer.  Every time we call upon the LORD; he answers.  His answer is always to build up strength within us.  He doesn’t take away our problems, challenges, or difficulties, but He does give us the strength of body, mind, and heart to respond to our trials.  Indeed, his right-hand saves us.  The LORD’s response is always complete, and his love endures forever.  The LORD does not forsake the work of his hands.  We are his most precious creation.  We are not forsaken.  Even when we cry out with the Lord Jesus upon the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”  As the Father responded to His Precious Son, He responds to us.  He raises us up in the Holy Spirit to live a NEW LIFE, an abundant life!
Queen Esther, a Jewish Captive and the favored wife of the King, felt forsaken.  Even when she lay prostrate upon the ground with her maidservants from morning to evening in prayer, she felt alone and abandoned. This beautiful queen and royal slave prayed through her fear, “Help me, who am alone and have no help but you.” Upon her shoulders rested the salvation of the children of Abraham.  She alone was close enough to the throne of power.  Her beauty could well give her an audience with the King, but she knew that to approach the King was to take her life in her hands.  If the King did not offer her the royal scepter, she would be executed.  Even members of the royal family were not exempt from this imperial statute.  So even though Queen Esther felt forsaken, still she prayed.  She prayed as a powerless orphan.  She asked for persuasive language to come forth from her lips while in the presence of the lion, the fearsome and unapproachable King.  She hoped against hope that her persuasive words would turn the King’s heart against the enemies of the Captive Jews.  Indeed, she prayed as we pray today, “Turn our mourning into gladness and our sorrows into wholeness.”  Indeed, this holy Jewish Ancestor of all who prays taught us what the Lord Jesus would teach us centuries later upon the cross of suffering.  Mourning becomes gladness and sorrow becomes wholeness only when suffering is offered as a sacrifice of obedient love.  Through Him, with Him and in Him do we live and move and have our being.

Many have the mistaken notion that prayer is quietism.  The heresy of quietism is really just fatalism.  There is nothing we can do about God’s will.  He will have his way, and all we can do is sit back and watch. This heresy, like all heresies, has a little bit of truth that it overemphasizes to the exclusion of the whole picture.  The Lord Jesus teaches his disciples today that prayer is very active.  Listen to the action verbs used: ask, given, seek, find, knock, opened.  Indeed, we actively engage the mystery of our life and even our suffering with prayer. The LORD always answers our prayer. Even NO is an answer.  Perhaps it is not the response we desire, but it is an answer nevertheless.  Not only are we being taught to actively engage the mystery of life with prayer, we are also taught that the Father is wise beyond measure and kind beyond our wildest dreams.  The Lord Jesus uses even the example of an imperfect and earthly father to make his point by comparison.  “If you then, who are wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good things to those who ask him.”  Sometimes the good things, that the Father gives us, are a share in his redemptive love, in his suffering.  Indeed, we learn through our prayerful encounter with the mystery of suffering how to do to others whatever we would have them do to us. In this do we fulfill the law and the prophets.