The baby had a stuffy nose, the kind of yucky, mucous congestion so common in infants. The mother heard the whimpering and fussing begin, again, and turned over to look at the clock: 3:45. The fourth time in what had become a night of non- sleep. But the baby was miserable and needed comforting. As much as the mother loved her warm bed and pillow, she loved the baby even more and got up, again, to soothe, rock and comfort the helpless infant. It had become a reflexive response beyond conscious thought. The baby is in need and I will respond.
Love is not mentioned in this reading from Luke. A neighbor knocks on the door of his friend asking for bread for an unexpected visitor. He is told to go away – the door is locked and the family is trying to sleep. Seemingly, the boundary of friendship is the night and a locked door. But the neighbor trusts his friend despite his irritation and annoyance and persists with knocking. He ultimately receives what he needs. There was a fundamental belief in the goodness of the other.
Eventually we all grow up and there comes a time when we realize that Mom can’t always make things better; that we don’t always get what we ask, no matter how altruistic the request may be; that friends sometimes come up short. And then we hear Jesus saying "Ask and you shall receive, seek and you shall find, knock and it shall be opened for you". And we know that at a literal level this is not always true.
We also know that our own responses to those who seek us out can be limited and that we can pretend not to hear the knocking at our own door. It is possible to just turn over and try to go back to sleep thinking that the baby will eventually cry herself to sleep.
But it is the promise of "how much more" God will give out of limitless love for us that is the response to our prayers. It is the deepening relationship that comes with the asking and seeking and knocking and desiring the ultimate union with God that brings us the comfort and wholeness that is our primal longing. And it is the promised gift of the Holy Spirit that enables us to be for others what we ask for ourselves.
Cathy Anthony is on the staff of St. Paul of the Cross Passionist Retreat Center, Detroit, Michigan.