In whom do you place your trust? Our first reading from Jeremiah shows us that those who trust in the Lord are like trees planted beside waters with roots stretching to the stream. That is for us a picture of grace. Trust in the Lord places us next to the living stream of His grace. The tentacles of our heart plunge into this grace and deepens that trust.
I'm convinced that trust is the name of the game when it comes to living the spiritual life well. Since the garden of paradise when our first parents sinned and then hid from God; God has been trying for all of salvation history to get us to trust Him. We are skittish creatures. It is so important to God to get us to trust Him and His ways that He even became one of us, and offered Himself for us on the Cross as expiation for our sins. Then He conquered sin and death by His resurrection. What keeps you from trusting more deeply in God?
If you want to grow in trust, then make acts of trust to God each day. When you notice anxiety or doubt or fear creep into your life, immediately close your eyes and pray, "Jesus, I Trust in You," a few times. Pray each morning for a deeper trust. Each day, entrust yourself to the God who loves you enough to give His life for yours. See if your trust doesn't deepen.
In today's Gospel, Jesus raises the bar. The Ten Commandments are not the height to which we aspire. They are the bare minimum to which we may not pass. Jesus calls us to something more. Actually in order to enter heaven we are called to surpass the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees. We are called to go to the internal root that causes us to sin. The Torah says, "whoever kills will be liable to judgement." Jesus says, "whoever is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment."
Jesus asks us to look at our hearts. What is in there that leads us to want to break the Commandments? Is there resentment, or irrational anger, or greed, or lust in my heart? All vices lead us to sin and are strengthened when we do. In order to root them out, we need to practice the opposite virtues. Practicing virtue requires God's help, which we call grace. We must avail ourselves to the sacraments as often as possible. If we truly want to walk the path of holiness - we need Jesus in the Eucharist often, we need to go to confession to allow Jesus to root out the vices with which we struggle, and we need the grace of prayer that deepens our relationship with God.
All grace flows from the Passion, Death on the Cross, and Resurrection of Jesus (the Paschal Mystery). Preparing again to make the Paschal Mystery a deeper part of my life is the point of Lent. What can we do today to let Jesus root out the vices in our hearts through the Sacraments and Prayer? Beginning today - Daily Mass? A few weekly Masses? Weekly Confession? Daily Prayer? Weekly Fasting?
Today's Gospel can be a difficult one for some of us. We all have situations for which we have asked something of God and did not receive it. How are we to reconcile our experience with this command and promise of Jesus?
I offer a couple of ideas for your own prayerful consideration. First, Jesus puts these three actions together: ask, seek, and knock. It seems to me that we have to do all three to really enter into the prayer that Jesus is calling us to. We must ask for the answer to our prayer, we must seek to entrust ourselves to God's will, and we must knock on the door of God's heart through our persistence. When all three of these actions make up our prayer we are better equipped to understand God's answer, especially if it is not the one we wanted. The three actions are acts of faith and trust in the Providential Wisdom of God.
Second, I believe that we have to see God as a loving Father. A Father who wants to give His children what they need. What follows is a terribly weak analogy but worth considering: imagine a little child who needs a surgery but does not want it, is scared, and begs his daddy not to let it happen. His dad is heart broken but knows what is best for his child and has to do it for the ultimate good of his child. I believe faith and trust compel us to believe that God has a higher and more profound vantage point than we do, and that He only wants what is best for our ultimate good, which is our salvation.
I do not think either one of these is the answer to the difficulty, but I do believe it gives us a starting point for trying to understand God's mysterious providence at work in our lives. If you are angry with God because He did not answer your prayer the way you wanted Him to answer it, please do not leave it at that. Bring it to prayer, talk to Him about the situation, about your anger, and allow Him to give you the answer. Continue to pray (talk to God) about the unanswered prayer, and trust that He desires your ultimate good. Keep asking, seeking, and knocking.
Daily Lenten reflections by Father Browning.