Esther C:12, 14-16, 23-25
The readings today are all about prayer- its power, its efficacy, that it really works. The reading from the book of Esther introduces the theme. Living in Persia during the Babylonian captivity, Esther, secretly a Jewish exile, has been found beautiful and accomplished enough to be a member of the king’s harem, and then even to be made his queen. Her uncle tells her that his enemy has convinced the king to approve a plot to kill all the Jews dispersed throughout the vast empire. Esther, humbling herself before God, pleads with Him to save her people. So touched by her prayer, God uses Esther herself to persuade the king to mercy and justice.
Matthew’s gospel then proceeds to give us a most enlightening and encouraging teaching of Jesus on prayer to God, our heavenly Father. Ask and you’ll receive, seek and you’ll find, knock and it will be opened: Could anything be clearer? If we pray for what we truly need, truly our heavenly Father will give it to us.
Jesus backs up his promise with a bit of human logic. If we, who are weak and sinful, willingly give good things to our children when they ask for them, how much more will our infinitely good Father in heaven give them when we ask Him. If we who are often tired and selfish, take care and pains to provide for our children and make them happy, how much more will our heavenly Father provide for us and make us happy. If we love our children, how much more does God love us – truly His children. Jesus is declaring it, simply and forcefully: God, his Father, is truly our Father. We are God’s children; we are the real brothers and sisters of Jesus.
In this first week of Lent, the last verses have a special potency for us. "Do to others whatever you would have them do to you. This is the law and the prophets." What has Jesus been doing to us? He has just told us that we are the Father’s true daughters and sons – he has just reassured us that we are his sisters and brothers. What does God do to us? He gave us – and He gives us – His only begotten Son, Jesus the Christ, as our brother. He makes us one with Jesus Christ.
What then does God our Father want us to do to Him, for Him? Does He not want us to be Jesus, His son, to Him, for Him? To meet Him in prayer as His child? His daughter? His son? In this Lent can we take the time to contemplate this truth – to enter more and more into our hearts to see what it means for us?
In the depth of this truth – that I am really a child of God, that He really is my Father, and my Brother, and my Spirit – in its depths what does it say to me about every other person I know and meet?
Br. Peter A. Fitzpatrick, CFX, a Xaverian Brother, is a Passionist Associate at Ryken House, St. Xavier High School, across the creek from Sacred Heart Passionist Monastery in Louisville,KY.