My elderly mother used to say “You have to give in order to receive.” She learned a long time ago that when we are attentive to the needs of others, God brings us blessings in return. You might say that giving and receiving are two sides of the same coin. Those who are generous in giving time, treasure and talent are more apt to receive favors from other people. God is never outdone in generosity, and always gives much more than we humans can give.
All of us need help at times but how often do we hold back because we are bashful or ashamed to ask. In the gospel story the man who needed bread persisted in approaching his friend until the request was granted. In a sense he was a pest but it was for a very good reason: hospitality. His persistence shamed his friend into doing the right thing. Sometimes that is the right course of action.
In this gospel passage Jesus is teaching about the prayer of petition. Jesus encourages us to be persevering in asking for things that we consider important. All Christians pray the Lord’s Prayer “Give us this day our daily bread.” Of course this request is much more than seeking bread for our stomachs. Implicitly we are asking for gifts from God that fulfill the longing our hearts, that help us mature spiritually, that direct our steps to the kingdom of God. It is a prayer full of petitions.
Let’s never be bashful or ashamed to ask for God’s help. Persistence in prayer keeps us humble and reminds us how poor we really are (“Blessed are the poor in spirit…”). Our heavenly Father constantly showers good gifts upon his children. Actually everything we have is gift from God. Yet we must be careful to ask for the right reasons. It is good to keep in mind the caution of James 4:3: “You ask and do not receive because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend it on your pleasures.”
Spiritual blessings are much more important than material blessings. We all have friends and relatives who seem distant from God judging by their lifestyle and lack of involvement in Church life. Let us continue to intercede on their behalf. The gospel closes with the phrase, “How much more the Father in heaven will give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him.” May we always welcome the touch of the Spirit upon our family and friends.
Father Michael Salvagna, C.P.