1st week of Lent
1st Reading: 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.”
A Generous Giver: God the Father is a generous provider. For Esther, He provides for her prayers and rescues Israel. In the Gospel, God’s caring love is evident. Never will He grant us something that can harm us. We limit God’s providence when we approach him in fear. Our God knows what is good for us. When we are downcast and sullen, that our requests are not being answered, let us believe that Our Father knows what is good for us. On our part, let us measure up to be God’s children: Do to others whatever you would have them do to you. At times we become so self-absorbed. When others, and their needs do not figure in my scheme of things, I fail God completely. When I am in that state, I work contrary to my identity as the child of God.
Prayer: God provide us with your graces, an urge to walk your path everyday.
WHATEVER IT IS, SEEK THE LORD: Here is a very familiar hymn. The beauty of its lyrics betrays a wasted opportunity every day in handling things in our style and sideline God. “What a friend we have in Jesus, All our sins and grief to bear; What a privilege to carry; Everything to God in prayer.” We get overwhelmed, when our best effort and our might are dwarfed. This is not a weakness, but a fact of humanity. Just as success is never final, failure too should not be the last word. It is the choices we make in response to our success or the lack of it that brew disappointment or help us rise again. Taking your fears to God in prayer is one such choice. Esther was distraught but knew that God alone could turn the heart of the King in her favour. While she was not guaranteed of success, her failure would be certain if she never tried or made an effort. It is for this reason that the Lord implores us to defeat our fears and step out. Try! Ask! Seek! The worst speech you ever make will always be better than the best speech you have never made. Every effort has its reward once you learn to step out of your fears.
WHAT DO I ASK, SEEK, AND KNOCK? Do you have a digital Bible in your smart phone or laptop? Download one free app and search for the word, ‘search’ or ‘seek’ in the Bible. You are likely to find something very enlightening. The word, ‘seek’ is used in the Bible often in the context of the relationship between God and human beings. For example, “It is your face, Oh Lord, that I seek (Ps 27:8; see also 1Chr 28:9). Jesus said, “Ask, seek, and knock…” So, what do you ask: success in exam or business? What do you seek: trying to find lost objects? Where do you knock: at the offices for a good job? Jesus says, we need to pray for greater things. He says, – Ask for the Holy Spirit (Lk 11:13), Seek first the Kingdom of God (Mt 6:33; Lk 12:31), and knock at the door that leads through the narrow path (Mt 7:13).