USCCB Podcast of the Readings:
A reading from the Holy Gospel according to Luke.
Jesus said to his disciples:
“Suppose one of you has a friend
to whom he goes at midnight and says,
‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread,
for a friend of mine has arrived at my house from a journey
and I have nothing to offer him,’
and he says in reply from within,
‘Do not bother me; the door has already been locked
and my children and I are already in bed.
I cannot get up to give you anything.’
I tell you, if he does not get up to give him the loaves
because of their friendship,
he will get up to give him whatever he needs
because of his persistence.
“And I tell you, ask and you will receive;
seek and you will find;
knock and the door will be opened to you.
For everyone who asks, receives;
and the one who seeks, finds;
and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.
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?
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?”
Good News Reflection: Receiving and spreading true faith
St. Paul delivers a raised-eyebrow tirade in today’s first reading. The Galatians are piously sitting there, all neatly lined up in their pews, obediently attending Mass, having blessed themselves with holy water at the door and then genuflecting when they passed the Tabernacle on their way to claiming the same seats that they’ve used every week. As Paul preaches the homily, their minds are planning the chores that must get done before going back to work on Monday.
Oops. That’s not Galatia. My mind slipped forward a couple of thousands of years.
Wouldn’t it be great if Paul came to our churches today to address the pew-warmers who do little more for the parish than arrive at church with their self-satisfied religiousness? Wouldn’t you just love to see him startle them out of their complacency with a loud: “My good people have you gone out of your minds?”
Doing everything the “right” way is wrong without true faith, i.e., without a deep, abiding love for God and for everyone else (everyone, yes, even ex-spouses, irritating bosses, and politicians who don’t really care about your religious freedoms). Doing everything the “right” way by obeying Church rules without love is legalism, and to the legalists Paul says: “How could you be so stupid?” Okay, so he has no tact.
Today’s Gospel passage tells us how to receive true faith. The parable is not an invitation to ask for all the stuff we want. “Whoever asks, receives” is immediately followed by what we’re guaranteed to receive: the Holy Spirit.
If we have God’s Spirit living within us, then we want only that which is holy and good, so of course we’ll only ask for whatever God wants us to receive, and then of course we’ll get it — including true faith (see 1 Cor. 12:9).
It’s very easy to practice “the faith” legalistically when we don’t have a lively, active, dependent relationship with the Holy Spirit. God’s Spirit is what makes our faith real and turns our obedience of Church laws into acts of love.
Why did Jesus use the example of asking for bread? Because Jesus is the Bread of Life and he wants us to be distributors of this bread. We all know people who are hungry for true faith. If we do not let the Holy Spirit transform us into the Eucharistic Bread of Life that we receive at Mass, we cannot go out and share Jesus with others: Our faith is inadequate to satisfy their hunger, and we don’t have enough Jesus in us to lead them to conversion.
Legalism gives us nothing more than the satisfaction of knowing that we’ve been obedient. This only feeds us until we fail. True faith gives us the satisfaction of turning our failures into victories, increasing God’s holiness within us. Let us knock again and ask for more of the Holy Spirit’s life in our lives — this door will be opened!
My Lord: May my relationship with You be so intense that I do not hesitate to entrust to You all my everyday worries and longings. Amen.
© 2018 by Terry A. Modica