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Sunday in the Seventeenth Week of Ordinary Time

My dear encountered couples:

Jesus tells us to pray. He tells us to praise our heavenly Father, to ask of him, to be persistent in our requests, and expect our Father to respond. “Whoever asks, receives.”

When was the last time you received what you prayed for? So often the question is asked, “Why doesn’t God answer me when I pray?” And I’m sure you’ve heard one of the stock answers, “He did. He said NO.” Often there are a few chuckles, and even though the conversation continues, the question is seldom answered.

If Jesus really said, and we believe he did, to ask and we’ll receive, to seek and we’ll find, to knock and the door will be opened, then what happens when we do those things, when even we are very persistent and pray for something for years, and it seems that no answer ever comes? We might begin to think, “It must be my lack of faith. If only I really believed more, my prayers would be answered.” And we then find ourselves trying to figure out how to strengthen our faith. It’s like looking for the magic key to unlock the warehouse door wherein are contained all our dreams.

And so maybe we start working on our faith. We do whatever we think is necessary to strengthen it. But try as we may, our prayers still seem to go unanswered. And then we might either give up, or get into the habit of praying day after day for things that we never really expect to happen. How many Christians probably arrive at that condition of many prayers with no real expectation of an answer, at least not today, maybe sometime in the future. And so, instead of our faith strengthening, it weakens.

Let us look again at what Jesus says. “What father among you will give his son a snake if he asks for a fish, or hand him a scorpion if he asks for an egg? If you, with all your sins, know how to give your children good things, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him.”

Who’s asking for the Holy Spirit? I’m praying for a car, for more money, for good health, for good weather for my vacation. What does the Holy Spirit have to do with any of these? Why does Jesus bring the Spirit into this? It does seem odd, doesn’t it? We are being told to ask for things in our prayers and all of a sudden Jesus seems to change the subject and come up with something that to many people might sound “dull”. “1 don’t want the Holy Spirit, I want my husband to get a job.” Then on second thought, after a twinge of conscience. “Oh, sure I do want the Holy Spirit but right now, God, the job is more important.” Even saying that might make us feel guilty. And so we get frustrated.

Why did Jesus have to bring the Holy Spirit into this discussion? It seems the Spirit has nothing to do with what we are talking about. The answer is this. The gift of the Spirit is the best overall gift heaven has to offer. It is the gift of God Himself to us. Jesus is trying to tell us, “Your heavenly Father answers your prayers with the best every time you pray. Never will he disappoint you.”

“Oh good!” you might say, “Now I’ll get that swimming pool put in my back yard.” Let me ask you. When you pray, what are you really praying for? What is it deep down that you are always asking for? When you pray for a car, a vacation, a job, more money, or even that swimming pool, what is it you are seeking? I believe that we are all asking for the same thing. We are asking for HAPPINESS!!! We only ask for those things that will make us happy, or rather, for those things that we think will make us happy. I sure don’t want a new car if the steering is faulty and I’m going to get killed or maimed in it; I don’t want to take a vacation if some terrorist is going to blow me up; I don’t want a swimming pool in my back yard if my little girl is going to drown in it.

God, our Father, in his wisdom and in his love does answer each of our prayers. If we are always basically asking for happiness, he is not going to give us what we ask for if it will not be for our happiness. “What father will give his son a snake if he asks for a fish?” Our Father in heaven wants us to have only that which will truly make us happy. But our idea of happiness and his are quite different. The difference is greater than that which exists between little children and their parents.

Jesus, in bringing into this subject the Holy Spirit, is trying to make us realize that God will answer our prayers with only the BEST of answers. He always says YES to our basic request for that which will bring us happiness. Since we really do not know what will bring us true happiness, then we must trust our heavenly Father with the trust of a little child. Father knows best. Therefore, I trust that he will only give me the best. I thank you, Father. Even though I do not understand now, I believe that someday it will all be clear to me. I will see then for sure that I received everything I ever really wanted.

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