February 25, 2021
Thursday of the first week of Lent
Thursday, Week 1 of Lent
1st Reading: Esther 4:29-42
Queen Esther’s prayer wins God’s help in a time of crisis
Queen Esther, seized with deadly anxiety, fled to the Lord. She prayed to the Lord God of Israel, and said: “O my Lord, you only are our king; help me, who am alone and have no helper but you, for my danger is in my hand. Ever since I was born I have heard in the tribe of my family that you, O Lord, took Israel out of all the nations, and our ancestors from among all their forebears, for an everlasting inheritance, and that you did for them all that you promised.
Remember, O Lord; make yourself known in this time of our affliction, and give me courage, O King of the gods and Master of all dominion! Put eloquent speech in my mouth before the lion, and turn his heart to hate the man who is fighting against us, so that there may be an end of him and those who agree with him. But save us by your hand, and help me, who am alone and have no helper but you, O Lord, who have knowledge of all things.”
Responsorial: Psalm 137
R./: Lord, on the day I called for help, you answered me.
I thank you, Lord, with all my heart,
you have heard the words of my mouth.
Before the angels I will bless you.
I will adore before your holy temple. (R./)
I thank you for your faithfulness and love
which excel all we ever knew of you.
On the day I called, you answered;
you increased the strength of my soul. (R./)
You stretch out your hand and save me,
your hand will do all things for me.
Your love, O Lord, is eternal,
discard not the work of your hands. (R./)
Gospel: Matthew 7:7-12
Ask, and it will be given you. Jesus teaches prayer
Jesus said to his disciples, “Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for bread, will give a stone? Or if the child asks for a fish, will give a snake? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask him!
“In everything do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets.”
Prayer in time of crisis
Esther’s story illustrates the Gospel promise: “Ask and you shall receive.” Because of her earnest prayer, God intervened to save her people from mortal danger. Esther was a secret Jewess, married to the pagan king Ahasuerus; and when her people were threatened with destruction, she took the risk of going to her husband to plead on their behalf. She knew that this could cost her very life, yet to stay in her comfortable ivory tower while her people were killed would burden her with guilt all her days. Her uncle Mordecai persuaded her to take her courage in both hands and beg the king to spare her Jewish people.
But first Esther prayed about it. She said, “My Lord, you alone are God. Help me, for I have no help but you.” Times of crisis can lead us to more earnest prayer. Trivial ambition and even even our own safety can be forgotten, for the sake of the greater good. Queen Esther first prayed for God to show her how to win the heart of her husband and so to save her people from destruction.
Prayer in this spirit is powerful, because we are in touch both with the best part of ourselves and with the loving Creator who called us into life and who holds our future in his hands. The Gospel today asks us to trust God unconditionally. “Which of you would hand their child a stone if the child asks for bread?” We must trust him entirely, and hand over our lives into his care.
Jesus says, ‘Ask, and it will be given to you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened to you..’ What are we to seek? What should we ask for? Ultimately, we should want what God wants.
Though we cannot find God fully in this life, we can recognise signs of his presence. We are pilgrims on a journey, trusting that God is our final destination. In an inspiring phrase from the letter to the Hebrews, ‘we run with perseverance the race that is set before us.’ In keeping up this searching spirit, we open ourselves to all that God wants to give us.