The Father’s heart is not shut.
This is the word that came to mind as I reflected on this Sunday’s Scriptures while I was on retreat this past week…
The Father’s heart is not shut.
What do I mean by that? Well, there’s that detail Jesus includes in today’s Gospel — the example of a friend who has shut and locked his house for the night. Jesus says: Suppose you dared to go over to that friend’s house at midnight to ask for some bread… Your friend answers from inside:
“Go away! The door is already locked! Already shut for the night! I can’t give you anything. I WON’T give you anything! Don’t bother me!”
We might respond: “Some friend that guy is!”
But think about it for a moment: Isn’t that how we sometimes think God would treat us if we dared to ask Him for something we really needed? Do we approach the door of God’s heart with persistence and confidence, or would we rather shy away saying: “Oh it’s too late. He’s not going to do anything for me. I’m not holy enough. He only listens to saints… perfect people…”
Dr. Mary Healy says that she often hears people say, ‘I don’t want to bother God. I know he has more important things to take care of.’
But — she tells us — “if the gospels make anything indisputably clear, it is that God wants to be bothered… God loves to lavish his gifts on the simplest and lowliest of people, people who put no stock in themselves, because then it is clear that the glory belongs to Him alone.”
In other words, the Father’s heart is not shut to us! The door is wide open. He WANTS to be bothered.
In fact, I believe God’s heart aches for us to ask for MORE from Him. Maybe our requests are TOO SMALL???
Let me ask you this: Do you want more from God?
Do you want to experience His life and His power today?
Then just ask Him.
He’s waiting for you to do so. He’s breathlessly eager to receive permission to unleash His gifts in your life.
Jesus promised us point blank in today’s Gospel: “Ask, and you will receive. Seek, and you will find! Knock, and the door will be opened to you!”
Why would we be afraid to believe that God wants to give us more? More faith. More virtue. More holiness. More insight. More humility. More understanding. More joy. More faithfulness to the Truth of the Gospel?
Why would we settle for anything less than the infinity He is currently offering us?
When it comes down to it, maybe our expectations are just too small?
Maybe our vision is too worldly, too narrowed by the bland secularism that keeps telling us: “Don’t bother God. He’s got more important things going on than whatever you’re going through…… The surgery you’re preparing for. The conversation you’re about to have with your kids. The bills you have to pay… The day to day anxieties of your life. None of that stuff matters to the Lord. You have to handle it yourself… If you ask God for help… you’ll be treading on thin ice. The door is locked. The time for answered prayers is… over!”
Even Abraham in our first reading today is sort of afraid that he might be bothering God in asking for mercy upon the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. He says things like:
“See how I am presuming to speak to my Lord, though I am but dust and ashes! …Let not my Lord grow impatient if I go on…. Since I’ve dared thus far to speak to you Lord…Please, let not my Lord grow angry if I speak up this last time: What if there are only forty, thirty, twenty, only TEN righteous people???”
To be fair, there’s something humble and honest about Abraham’s precautions, and we should commend him for the risk he takes. But God wants to teach Abraham a deeper lesson, and so He responds each time with the utmost patience and with tender love: “Of course Abraham. I’ll spare the city for the sake of those righteous people.” It’s almost as if God is coaxing Abraham to keep going — to keep asking for MORE and more mercy.
What’s beautiful about this whole exchange is that Abraham comes to discover that the Father’s heart is not shut. That the Living God is not at all bothered by him in the least.
But then comes the next challenge: If we find the courage to REALLY ask for more from the Lord — Can we then trust that God will actually give us GOOD THINGS? Or will He trick us, and land us with something we can’t handle? Will He give us a Cross that’s too heavy for us to bear?
Jesus makes sure to answer that concern in our gospel today as well:
“What father among you would hand his son a snake when he asks for a fish? Or hand him a scorpion when he asks for an egg?”
We can trust that the Father’s heart is not only not shut — but that He actually wants to give us GOOD gifts. Sometimes that will come in the form of obviously wonderful things: You get the job. You get the house. You get your health back. Your family member comes back to Church.
And, yes, sometimes answered prayer comes in the form of suffering — but even then, we can trust and believe that the Lord only permits whatever suffering that will give us the best opportunity to grow in trust, abandonment, and sanctity.
He will not hand us a scorpion.
Above of all, however, God eagerly desires to give us the Ultimate Gift:
The Holy Spirit.
“If you then, who are wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the Father in heaven give the HOLY SPIRIT to those who ask him?”
Go ahead and try it right now:
Ask for the Holy Spirit to fall in power in your life in a new way. Tell God in your heart that you want MORE of His Spirit, today.
Trust me, God won’t be bothered by this request. He won’t be offended. He owes us absolutely nothing, and yet… He desires to give us His Spirit in abundance!
It’s precisely this Spirit that God has sent into our hearts at our baptism that gives us permission to pray as Jesus taught:
“Father, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come.”
Thank You, Lord. Thank You, Father — that Your heart is not shut. Open Your Heart once again here on this altar for us this morning.
Give us Jesus in the Eucharist.
Give us every good gift you have to offer us in Him.