We have spent an extraordinary and grace-filled day under the love gaze of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Our Lady of Guadalupe. We have toured and visited a place made holy the apparition of Mary to humble man, St. Juan Diego. In coming here, we have drawn close to Our Lady of Guadalupe and we have once again laid at her feet not only ourselves and all that is in our hearts, but also our beloved Order, the Knights of Columbus. In this moment of pilgrimage, let us thank Our Blessed Lady for her powerful intercession for the Knights of Columbus and humbly beg her continued prayers for our Worthy Supreme Knight and for all those who, with him, carry forward the mission of our Order.
Asking and Receiving
And how appropriate that today’s Scripture readings speak to us about the importance of heartfelt prayer in our lives. In the first reading we met Queen Esther. Without getting into details, suffice it to say that she is remembered for heroically pleading with the King of Persia to save the Jewish people. But before Esther pleaded with the King of Persia, she pleaded with her God. She knew she was risking her life in speaking so boldly to the king and it is evident from her prayer that she felt quite alone in taking this step… quite alone, that is, except for the presence of her God. Her desires were holy. Her heart was aligned with God’s purposes. And more than that, Esther trusted in God’s providential love for her people. Bolstered by her prayer, she spoke courageously and she prevailed.
In the Gospel, Jesus affirms the value of heartfelt prayer. “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened.” But Jesus does not stop there. He wants to expand our notion of God’s generosity in this way: If human beings in their sinfulness know how to give their children good things, imagine the good things God the Father, untouched by evil, wants to give us. In God there is a more than human willingness to give us good things. When we fail to see this, we ask God not for too much but for too little.
Aligning with God
Trouble is, when we pray for what we need, our hearts sometimes are not aligned with God. Often we don’t come at our prayer with the same attitude as Mary whose whole frame of reference was God’s Providential love for his people. When Mary said to the angel, “be it done to me according to thy word,” Mary was revealing how she had prayed throughout her life, from the very beginning. Even more than Queen Esther, Mary’s prayer was marked by absolute trust in the God and his plans for his people.
So when we begin our prayer by asking for the grace to trust in God’s promises and seek in our prayer to build up a loving relationship with Christ, we will soon find ourselves praying differently. We’ll still bring him our every concern and worry and we’ll ask his help. Yet we will come to him as to a friend who loves us more than we can imagine. And in our friendship with Christ we’ll trust that he can bring forth from even our worst problems unanticipated blessings.
I propose as Exhibit A the prayer of St. Juan Diego not far from here. When he encountered the Blessed Mother on Tepayac hill, his horizons were limited. Juan Diego was a humble man praying for his uncle who was seriously ill. Never did he imagine what God had in store for him as he learned about the faith, attended Mass, and said his prayers. Encountering the Blessed Mother for the first time, he said: “By any chance am I worthy, have I deserved what I hear?” Little could he imagine that he would be the instrument of Our Lord and Our Lady in the burgeoning evangelization of the Americas. He knocked at the door and was it ever opened!
I don’t know about you, but I have a long list of people and things I pray for. Every time I go to a parish, people ask me to pray for them or loved ones. I bring many concerns and worries of my own to my daily prayer and I’m going wager that you do too. Sometimes, I even have the temerity to be insistent with the Lord. I don’t think the Lord minds at all, so long as we are truly open the true gifts and blessings he wants to give us, most especially the gift of being his disciples, just as the humble became one of his most important disciples. To be like Christ, to love by Christ, to bear witness to Christ – this is the best answer to every prayer we’ll ever utter.
Our Lady of Guadalupe, pray for us! Vivat Jesus!