Deacon Steven Johnson’s Homily – March 10, 2022
1st Week of Lent, Thursday, Year C
Readings: Est C:12, 14-16, 23-25, Ps 138:1-2ab, 2cde-3, 7c-8, Gospel Mt 7:7-12
Theme: Faith in Prayer
Imagine you are watching your favorite football team on Sunday afternoon. It’s a tight game, one that has come down to the last few seconds. Your team has a chance to win the game with a walk-off 49-yard field goal. As the kicker lines up for the kick, you make a little prayer, almost unconsciously to God, that he makes this ball go through the uprights. The ball is snapped and placed on the ground. The kicker steps up and swings his leg soccer style and kicks the ball. As the ball sails through the air toward the goal post, you rise off your seat with hands clenched, following the ball on the screen with the intensity of a lion for its prey.
As if in slow motion, you see the ball hit the upright and bounce off to the side. The referees swing their arms in a crossing, horizontal motion. The field goal is no good. You grab your head in disbelief and mutter some not-so-good words under your breath. The game is over, and your team lost. You think about that little prayer you made earlier, and you ask yourself, “why didn’t God answer it?”
Why didn’t God answer that prayer? Because it was vane, an abuse of God’s goodwill, and wasn’t asked with all sincerity and humility. It wasn’t really even a prayer that needed an answer from God, even though we hope our team is God’s favorite, too.
Asking God to intervene in our lives is always a good thing, but we need to be smart about when and how we approach and ask Him. In other words, we don’t want to abuse our gift of having recourse to God for our needs on our behalf or that of others. If our prayer is frivolous, selfish, and prideful, we must not expect anything from God. It’s kind of like crying wolf all the time when there isn’t a wolf to be found. God knows what we need, and He knows when certain prayers should or should not be answered.
Ester was in terrible need of God’s intervention for the salvation of her people. She knew there was only one person who could take care of her situation and that was God. What was the first thing she did? It wasn’t to immediately blurt out her need to God and make demands. The first thing she did was act with humble thanksgiving and reverence.
She stripped herself of all her queen’s garments and put on garments of distress and mourning. She pulled all of the adornments out of her hair and covered her head with dirt and ashes. She then laid prostrate with her handmaids and blessed God all day, from morning to evening. Only after this did she make her request in prayer to God for help. Ester makes the admission that she (and thus all of Israel) is alone and has no one but the Lord God to help her.
Ester gives us an excellent example of how to pray. Do we need to take off our clothes, put on a burlap sack and sit in ashes and dirt and put it on our head before we pray? Well, that would be a good show of humility, but no, we do not have to physically do this to speak to God in prayer. But we do need to mentally, and spiritually keep this kind of humility and blessing in mind when we do pray to God. If we can do this each and every time we pray, then Christ’s words, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” will ring true for you.
Trust in the Lord, pray with humility, and sincerity, and God will listen to you. If it be His Holy Will, your prayer will be answered in a time and place of His choosing. You must trust in Jesus. As prayed at the end of the Divine Mercy Chaplet, Jesus, I trust in you; Jesus, I trust in you; Jesus, I trust in you!