THURSDAY OF LENT WEEK 1
Todays Gospel Reading is: Mt: 7:7-12 “Ask and you shall receive…”
The gospel today exemplifies how not to read and also how to read scripture – and indeed life.
In the UK, which has an immensely successful and rapid vaccination programme the news is full of ‘how soon can we get back to normal?’. When the number of cases go down there are calls to save the economy and open up again. When they spike, someone is blamed for opening up too soon. Governments who like to be liked by everyone hide behind ‘the science’. Be careful what you ask for because you may get it and not like it.
The gospel today opens with the assurance by Jesus that if we ask, we will receive. Anyone who knocks will have the door opened and anyone who seeks will find. This could be interpreted in the same short-term, impatient way that governments could open up restaurants and hotels too soon. Clearly, just asking for anything you want isn’t like rubbing a magic lamp and making a wish. ‘If only it was’, we might say. But, if prayer was wish-fulfilment like this, life would become deadly in another way, deadly boring; and our humanity would be reduced to the low level of a consumer with infinite credit whose unfulfilled life would be spent fulfilling desires. If Jesus meant that and if receiving what we ask for means instant gratification, we would soon be asking for this great blessing to be removed. We would long for suffering of a healthier kind.
There is a deeper insight into the mystery of life in the last words of the passage. Jesus draws a comparison between a good parent and God. If a child asks a parent for bread will the parent give it a poisonous snake. “In the same way your father in heaven gives good things to those who ask”.
Does this mean ask but for anything in particular. Ask but from a place where fantasy does not interfere with pure desire. Seek but seek within rather than externally. Seek without imagining what you are looking for. Knock at a door that cannot open and wait for another means of getting through. Knock on both sides of the door.
It ends with the Golden Rule found in all wisdom traditions, the universal pass-key into reality. It is what we have to do if we are to be able to receive, to find, to open the door: Treat others as you would like them to treat you.
Lenten Reflections 2021