Ask and it is given. How many times have we heard such sentiment in modern day philosophies and books? Countless individuals have undoubtedly filled their homes with notes full of positive affirmations with their petitions to the “universe”… Notes stuffed in drawers, on mirrors, in cupboards – anywhere one could find to stick their laundry list of requests. Creative boards with pictures of requests and dreams find their way into homes and offices. If we only ask and believe, we will be given whatever our heart desires. Maybe it’s romance, a new body, a beautiful home, a dream job, or a dream life that is sought and desired. The “universe” is at our disposal – ready, willing and able to give us whatever we ask of it if we only submit our petition and believe.
However, what happens when we do not receive the promised goods? Or, heaven forbid, what happens when we ask and life seems to fall apart. What happens when we are left in worse condition then before the series of requests? It’s simple. We must be blocked in some way and this is causing the “universe” to hold back on the goods. Obviously, we still have a tremendous amount of work to do on ourselves before we are ready to receive such requests. This could take a lifetime to resolve so we had better get busy. We must try harder, attend more workshops, meditate more, become a better person, do more, and be more. The answer is inside us and we can find it if we only do the work necessary to unlock the blockage. How exhausting!!!! Please, there must be a better way to happiness.
Now I am not saying that using written affirmations, creating picture boards, practicing meditation or striving to reach your highest potential are bad things – they are not. However, it is vitally important that we cultivate the gifts God has given us for our betterment and that of the world. In this light, if practicing the aforementioned activities makes you a better person and this further benefits God’s other children, then by all means, carry on. Think about the good and faithful servant who God put in charge of many more responsibilities. He was invited to share in God’s joy! After all, a good and faithful servant needs his tools to do the will of God and sometimes those tools can be uplifting notes and the like.
However, when we believe we have the personal power to affect real change in our life we are mistaken. As Catholics, we recognize that all we have been given has been given to us by God himself – none other. We do not have the power to solicit and receive from the “universe” our hearts desire. Additionally, and most importantly, we do not have to carry the burden of being worthy of such gifts. We could never on our own be worthy of anything, it is only through God’s mercy that we receive. That’s right; there is nothing we can do that warrants our reception of the gifts God gives us. God always gives more then we deserve. He gives to just and unjust alike.
In today’s first reading we see beautiful Queen Esther, a Jew, prostate herself before God. Together with her handmaids, from morning until evening, she requested that her people be saved from death. Her plea, a complete and total surrender to God, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob was offered with a pure heart. While she did not know what the outcome would be, she knew that God always freed those who are pleasing to him. She pleaded for his help, fully acknowledging that she has no one but God to turn to. Esther asked and God delivered. Notice, her request was from the heart. Her prayers were, undoubtedly, heart filled as she sought life not for herself, but for her people. Now I ask you, do you believe Queen Esther could have done enough or been enough to save her people on her own? A more complete understanding of the story would lead you to the conclusion that no, Queen Esther in all her beauty and with all her gifts could not have saved her people on her own. Fortunately, she knew whom to turn to.
Jesus goes even further when he tells us that we should ask and it will be given, seek and we will find, knock and the door will be opened. He even gives us a guarantee! In today’s Gospel Jesus tells us that everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and the one who knocks, the door will be opened. Our heavenly Father gives good things to those who ask him. Then he commands us to do to others whatever you would have them do to you.
Perhaps, just perhaps this commandment is the key to receiving our hearts delight, the key to receiving our fill of all those requests and petitions. After all, we all want others to be nice to us, we want others to love and appreciate us, be patient with us, pray for us, to listen to us, do nice things for us, and look after our best interest. What if we, like Queen Esther, put the needs of others ahead of our own? Would we be given what we ask? Of course we would! Jesus said so – and that is all we need to know.
Did Jesus say we would receive what we ask for without struggle? Without conflict? Without pain? No, he did not. He told us to do to others what we would have them do to us. Perhaps those hard times are the life lessons we must experience in order to grow deeper in holiness and in deeper love for others. Perhaps those tears need to be shed so we can see others more clearly. Perhaps our heart needs to be broken, pieced back together as only God can do, so we can love as Jesus loves. The great news is that we do not need to worry about how to become worthy or how to become perfect in order to receive what God has promised us. All we need to do it strive to love others and put them before ourselves. Our continued trust in Jesus Christ and continual surrender to God will take us to the place where we will indeed receive what we ask. Yes, we will receive, we will find and the door will definitely be open. Ask and it is given unto us.
Jesus – I love you!