When we first hear today’s readings, we might get the initial impression that what it’s telling us is that the more we pester God about something that we want the more likely our chances that we’re gonna get it. If we beg him hour after hour, day after day, it says right here in Scripture that he won’t turn us down, doesn’t it? “He will give him whatever he needs because of his persistance; ask and you will receive, seek and you will find; knock and the door will be open.”
“Dear God, I know you want me to be happy, right? Well what would really make me happy right now is one of those new Corvettes.” Or “Winning the lottery would really make my day.” Or “If my husband would get transferred to the Aleutians for about two years.” “I’d never ask for anything again.”
Now not all of our petitions to God are inherently self-centered. How about: “Please Lord, don’t let my mother’s tumor be malignant.” Or, “God, help my sister and her unborn child make it through this pregnancy successfully.”
Nothing wrong with those kind of prayers, right? And there’s really nothing wrong with the other prayers either, even praying that your husband would get shipped off to the Aleutian Islands. We all know that those prayers sometimes get answered and sometimes they don’t. God always has our best interests at heart even if we can’t see it at the time.
But it’s not until the final line of today’s gospel that Jesus tells us what kind of prayers it is that will ALWAYS be answered. Jesus says: “How much more will the Father in heaven give the HOLY SPIRIT to those who ask him.” Do you remember the last time you ask Father for His Holy Spirit? Inviting the Spirit of God into our lives is the best way to fullfil what we were created for - raising our hearts and minds to God. God’s invites us, in his Son as members of the Body of Christ, through the Holy Spirit, to join in the divine community of the Holy Trinity. That’s why God created us, to share in his divine love.
In todays gospel, the disciples ask Jesus how to pray, how to elevate their minds to the supreme goodness and glory of God. How to place themselves in the presence of God. How to communicate with God.
Now let’s take a moment to think about the fact that God, as we understand him, is a trinity of persons, always in communication, or prayer, with each other. We hardly ever think about God being in prayer. This prayer of God is the love and joy that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit share with one another through all eternity.
For all eternity the Father has loved the Son for his perfection and goodness, obedience and justice, his holiness and love. The Father’s attention is fixed upon loving his Son and glorifying his name.
The Son, for his part, eternally looks upon the face of the Father, the one who has begotten him. His entire being is focused on doing the will of the Father and giving glory to his name. The Father and the Son are thoroughly taken up with one another. There is no self-centeredness. And that should be a key ingredient of our prayer, our hearts and minds should be totally fixed on God, not on ourselves.
This total self-giving of the Father to the Son and the Son to the Father; this absolute love; this total sharing of the one divine life is what we know as the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the life and love that eternally springs up within the Father for the Son. The Holy Spirit is the life and love that the Son gives to the Father. That’s why we say in the creed that the “Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son.” The Holy Spirit is the eternal prayer of love and admiration given and shared by the Father and the Son.
For eternity, without beginning and without end, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are undividedly and totally immersed in each others presence and devotion. Can you see how the Trinity could be said to be in a perpetual state of prayer? The Father, Son, and Spirit are eternally focused in mind and affection on one another. Now here’s the good part. God wants us, his people, to share and experience this divine life of the Trinity. That’s why we were created. That’s the easy answer to the question: “Why did God create us?” Because God wants to share this eternal life of love and joy.
The Father wants others to see the greatness and goodness of his Son - his faithfulness and loyalty. The Father wants to establish a kingdom in which his Son would reign and receive the glory and praise that he deserves.
The Son’s desire is for others to recognize the glory and love of the Father, and to be obedient, faithful, and fruitful sons and daughters of the Father.
The Holy Spirit longs that others share in his life-giving presence so that they too can love the Father and the Son and be incorporated into the inner life of the Trinity.
Again, this is why God created us and gives us life, to raise our hearts and minds to God so that we can join the Trinity in their perfect, infinite, intimate, and divine life of prayer and love for all eternity. He gave us minds that are capable of knowing him. He gave us wills and affections that allow us to love God and to be loved by him. And he gave us a nature, body and soul, that shares in his eternity so that we can live with him forever.
So in today’s gospel, when Jesus teaches us how to pray, that seems to be his focus; to give glory to the Father - “holy is your name; to anticipate that kingdom where the Son will reign and receives our eternal glory and praise - “your kingdom come”; and to admit that Spirit of God into our hearts that will allow us to forgive others in mercy and justice that can only come from the spirit of the love of God - “forgive us as we forgive others”. So every time we pray the Lord’s Prayer with thought and not just rattling off words, we are, in our own way as human beings, participating in that eternal life of the Trinity for which God created us.
The question that seems to be before us in our culture today is: When does this love of God for us begin? When in our lives do we first begin to give glory to the eternal majesty of God, the reason God created us?
The big debate these last few weeks has been over stem-cell research. We’ve been treated by the popular media to all sorts of heart-wrenching stories of people who are pinning all of their hopes for cures from everything from Altzheimers disease, to diabetes, to spinal cord injuries and more to research on stem-cells taken from human embryos, which are then discarded.
I think many of you know my wife, Chris, who has been a quadreplegic for the last 21 years due to a spinal cord injury at the same level as Christopher Reeve, the guy who played Superman in the movies. If you ask her, if they could repair her spinal-cord injury tomorrow using stem-cells taken from a human embryo, would she do it? She’d tell you that they should not be using these embryos for research because of the life that is already present in them.
The people who run the media in this country will continue to pressure us to use our emotions rather than our reason to decide this issue. Their purpose is that many of the people who give direction to our popular culture are pro-abortion, and anything that hints at human life from conception is another nail in the coffin of the pro-abortion movement.
But if you believe that God has already entered the picture at the moment of conception; infusing his gift of life; inviting another of his created beings to participate in the eternal, divine, life and love of the Trinity, then who are we to take that away?
I have to ask you, if you knew that by taking the life of the man or woman sitting in front of you or behind you, you could cure your mother or father of Altzheimers disease or your cousin’s multiple sclerosis, would you do it? Why not? Because you know them; know their names?
How about if a young child was born across the country and orphaned and was found to have within its body the cure for diabetes, but it would have to die in order for the cure to be extracted. Would you allow it to die? Even worse, what if they were only going to do research on it in search of a “possible” cure, would you still allow it to die. Why not?
What about a fetus at 8 months? 6 months? Or 4 months? Why not. When does that child change from something like a fingernail into a creation of God invited to participate in his divine life as all of us are? We believe and will always believe that its at the moment of conception.
And the sad part is that there are other ways to obtain stem cells, such as umbylical cords and placentas. Catholics often get accused of being against stem cell research altogether, but that’s not the case. It’s the use of embryonic stem cells that we can’t and shouldn’t abide by.
So in the weeks to come, when we’re praying our “Our Fathers,” participating in that divine life of the Holy Trinity that God created us for, let’s not forget to ask the Holy Spirit to guide our president and our government representatives in making a just decision regarding this subject. As Jesus said: “how much more will the Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him?”