There is something wonderful about today's gospel. Jesus assures us that the one who asks always receives; not sometimes, not often but always. And he says that in three different ways to add emphasis. There are many who can confirm that through personal experience. When we are observant we also notice that God often anticipates our needs and wishes. Often we become aware of having received what we wished for but never dared to ask, or simply never asked. We almost feel like telling God to be careful lest he spoils us.
Yet we also sometimes seem to have a contrary experience. Try to preach about this gospel in a pediatric ward where children are dying in the hands of their mothers, or to people desperately caught up in a war situation, and you will discover how challenging to faith this gospel is. Is it really true that whatever we ask from God we will receive? What about those times when we asked something that we wanted so badly and did not receive an answer: Interceding for a beloved person who died anyway, asking to be delivered from debts that persisted, praying to win a football match that we lost all the same, praying to pass exams that we flunked... Are these not indications that it is not true that whatever we ask from God we will receive? Why does lack sometimes seem to elude us such that others receive easily what we need so badly, even when they don't care much about God? Today's gospel gives us the answer.
First of all we must notice the subtle difference between receiving whatever we ask and receiving whenever we ask. Jesus words mean the latter and not the former. We receive whenever we ask, but not whatever we ask. Why do we seem not to receive whatever we ask? It may be that we give up too quickly. Jesus urges to persevere in our petition to the Lord. Pester God into giving in if necessary. The delay in getting what we ask for may actually be a test of our faith in God. Just don't give up; keep on asking. It may also be that we ask for the wrong thing. God our Father knows what is really good for us in the long run. We are like little children who cry because of being refused getting hold of the flame of a burning candle. Whereas the heavenly Father cannot give us a snake when we ask for a fish, nor a scorpion when we ask for an egg, he does not grant our desire either when our request is actually a snake or a scorpion. Instead he gives us a fish or an egg, and we in our blindness, do not recognize these as the answer to our seemingly good but actually harmful requests.
A way is proposed to us, how we can avoid any possibility of asking for the wrong thing. Ask for the perfect gift; the key to all we can ever desire to have: ask for the Holy Spirit, the source of all that is good. The Lord suggests to us this petition as he says: "...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?” We ask the Father for some money and he gives us his credit card. We act foolishly by rejecting the credit card in favor of a few notes. However, we need to know how to use the card. We need the password. The password to God's perfect gift is being disposed to the promptings of the Spirit. In order for the Father to grant what we ask we must in turn learn to do what He asks. Otherwise it does not work. At the conclusion of the parable of the True Vine, Jesus says: “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, you may ask what you will and you shall get it” (John 15:7). He explains what remaining in him means: “Remain in my love, if you keep my commandments you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and remain in his love” (John 15:9).
Thursday, 27th Week in Ordinary Time, Year I
The one who asks always receives