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Thursday – First Week – Lent
Readings: Est C:12:14-16, 23-25; Mt 7:7-12.
Reading 1 (Est C:12:14-16, 23-25):
Queen Esther, seized with mortal anguish,
had recourse to the LORD.
She lay prostrate upon the ground, together with her handmaids,
from morning until evening, and said:
“God of Abraham, God of Isaac, and God of Jacob, blessed are you.
Help me, who am alone and have no help but you,
for I am taking my life in my hand.
As a child I used to hear from the books of my forefathers
that you, O LORD, always free those who are pleasing to you.
Now help me, who am alone and have no one but you,
O LORD, my God.
“And now, come to help me, an orphan.
Put in my mouth persuasive words in the presence of the lion
and turn his heart to hatred for our enemy,
so that he and those who are in league with him may perish.
Save us from the hand of our enemies;
turn our mourning into gladness
and our sorrows into wholeness.”
Gospel (Mt 7:7-12):
Jesus said to his disciples:
“Ask and it will be given to you;
seek and you will find;
knock and the door will be opened to you.
For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds;
and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.
Which one of you would hand his son a stone
when he asked for a loaf of bread,
or a snake when he asked for a fish?
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.
“Do to others whatever you would have them do to you.
This is the law and the prophets.”
Written by: Fr. Anthony Dinh M. Tien, O.P.
I. THEME: Ask! And it shall be given to you.
Human beings have many needs, spiritual and material. One of the things we do when we pray is to ask God’s favors for ourselves, our family, society and Church. What God wants us to do is to firmly believe that He shall grant our prayer; especially when we are in a desperate situation when we can’t rely on anybody except God.
Today readings centralize on human petitions to God. In the first reading, when Queen Esther faced the tragedy of the annihilation of the Jews, she came to God and prayed to Him: “Save us by your power, and help me, who am alone and have no one but you, O Lord!” In the Gospel, Jesus made a promise to his disciples: “Ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.For every one who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.”
1/ Reading I: Queen Esther implored God to save the Israelites from the tragedy of annihilation.
1.1/ Queen Esther’s mortal anguish: She was a Jew on exile and selected to become the Persian queen, in place of queen Vatti, who was discarded because she came to king Ahasuerus without his knowing. Mordecai, Esther’s uncle, was also a high rank officer in the royal court, gave her an order to hide her identity. King Ahasuerus promoted Haman the Agagite, the son of Hammedatha, and advanced him and set his seat above all the princes who were with him. All the king’s servants who were at the king’s gate bowed down and did obeisance to Haman; for the king had so commanded concerning him. Mordecai did not bow down or do obeisance because he determined to bow down only before God. Haman was furious of Mordecai and plotted out a plan to annihilate all the Jews in the area.
Mordecai let queen Esther know of Haman’s wicked plan. He wanted her to intercede with the king for her people. She didn’t know how to do it because if she came to meet the king without his invitation, she would be killed. But if she didn’t act, her uncle and all the Jews shall be annihilated, and she, as her uncle warned, shall not be safe with king Ahasuerus and Haman.
Queen Esther, seized with mortal anguish, had recourse to the Lord for help. Taking off her splendid garments, she put on garments of distress and mourning. In place of her precious ointments she covered her head with dirt and ashes. She afflicted her body severely and prayed to the Lord, the God of Israel, saying: “My Lord, our King, you alone are God. Help me, who am alone and have no help but you, for I am taking my life in my hand.”
1.2/ Remember history to confirm her faith:
(1) Israel is God’s own people: Though Queen Esther was born in the foreign land and lived with her uncle because her parents passed away. Mordecai was a God fearer; he taught Esther about Jewish history and the relationship between God and the Israelites. She said to God: “As a child I was wont to hear from the people of the land of my forefathers that you, O Lord, chose Israel from among all peoples, and our fathers from among all their ancestors, as a lasting heritage, and that you fulfilled all your promises to them.”
(2) She prayed for the enlightenment: To pray is to ask for God’s wisdom to solve one’s difficult problem. Though God can do all things without human co-operation, but He wants people to co-operate with Him in His plan of salvation. In the case of Queen Esther, she knew God is the only One who can change King Ahasuerus’ mind, but God wants her to have courage to co-operate with Him from the outside. Knowing her limitation and weakness, she implored God’s help by praying: “Be mindful of us, O Lord. Manifest yourself in the time of our distress and give me courage, King of gods and Ruler of every power. Put in my mouth persuasive words in the presence of the lion, and turn his heart to hatred for our enemy, so that he and those who are in league with him may perish. Save us by your power, and help me, who am alone and have no one but you, O Lord.”
2/ Gospel: God shall give good things for those who ask Him.
2.1/ God’s promise to people: Jesus said to his disciples: “Ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.For every one who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.” Jesus gave a simple reason for this: God is the Father of all. Since He is the Father, He must concern of the needs of all His children.
(1) The father on earth: To make an illustration, Jesus gave an example of an earthly father: “What man of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone?Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent?” There is no father, who is moral healthy, does that.
(2) The Father in heaven: Jesus concluded: “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him?” God isn’t only the Good Father but also has power to do all things. To give His children what they ask for is obvious.
Is this meant God shall grant whatever people ask for? No! People must ask good things, not anything. God always knows what is good for His children because He knows past, present and future at the same time. People don’t always know what is good for themselves because they are easy to forget the past; not always know the present; and have no knowledge of future. That is why we should always add the clause “if that pleases you” after our petitions.
2.2/ Doing good deeds to all: “Like father, like son.” If God always bestows blessings on His children, then we must also imitate Him to be generous to all. Jesus taught his disciples: “So whatever you wish that men would do to you, do so to them; for this is the law and the prophets.”
The reason why we are hesitated to give out is because we are afraid that if we are so generous, we shall run out of our financial resource. If we firmly believe in God’s promise, we are never run out our resource. God is the Creator of all things, He shall never be out of His blessings. Our hands are so tiny to receive His blessings.
III. APPLICATION IN LIFE:
– Our Father in heaven isn’t a normal people; He is God, the Creator and the Controller of all things in the universe.
– He is rich in compassion; whatever He promises shall be achieved. We should believe in what He promises: “For every one who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.”
– We should pray to God all day, especially in time of lonely and despair, as in the cases of Queen Esther and of Christ in the Ghetsemane Garden.