Sunday, 24 July 2016

Getting what we asked for

Luke's Gospel records a conversation with Christ that follows the Lord's prayer.  In it Christ states "..ask and you will receive; seek and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened." (Lk 11.9).  The sequence is of interest because it starts with the verb ask, not seek and not knock, we must first ask and then the others follow.

However, the question that has to be asked is what do we ask for? The answers that Christ gives are all relatively simple things and common cultural requests that may occur at any time when a person is in need.  A request for bread or accommodation nothing complex, simple things of human need.  So all we have to do is ask!  I can think of a lot of things that I could ask for, a new mini traveller, an apartment on the river, a farm where I can keep  some horses, etc.  I am sure that we can all dream up things that we would like.  Indeed, if we look at asking for what we want we can see how much difficulty that brings, if we take it up to the level of the country.  We are constantly bombarded by various sectors saying that their sector needs more finances or they need more workers, or they need more facilities and do not cut from others because they require the things that they have.  Everyone wants something and more often then not they want it over and above the needs of everyone else. we forget that in our asking we are doing so not for the reasons that Christ gives but for the reasons of our own hearts.

It is out of our need that we ask not out of our wants.  The requests that Christ highlights are requests that are needful not requests for our own selfishness.  However, there is more to this than just the simplicity of the needful request, however we formulate these requests.  In asking for these we are asking for a fulfilment for our lives.  In which case if our physical needs are met what should we be asking for?  This is I think were we start to go wrong in the consumerist society that we have become, because we immediately turn back to those things that we want rather than looking for the need in our lives.  Our asking must now lead to the only need that we truly require and that is to become more Christic and closer to 'God'.  Ultimately this is the true need of all humanity and the one thing we fail to ask for at any time as we see fulfillment in the material not the spiritual.

Once we have that thought, the giveness of the request is not a magical fulfilment but a deeper searching for what we are needful of, an inner response to an extreme need.  A seeking to bring to fruition the desire in our hearts which is a yearning towards an unknown that we label as 'God'.  However, just as with the Zen master's use of koans and sayings, there are many disappointments along the way and the goal always appears to be just ahead and never there.  Often it is as if we are riding an ox to search for an ox.  We are constantly looking and looking for something that we feel is beyond us and in the future ahead, we see its tracks and we see the signs but we fail to recognise that what we are searching for is right next to us if we were only to open our eyes and see.  Our searching and striving is often concerned with the future rather than what is.  In other words the Christic presence is here in the present not in the future but to enable it we need to hear the knock on the door of our closed hearts.

Pre-Raphelite artist William Holbury Hunt's "Light of the World".
Note the over grown plants at the door.

It is not only that we need to hear the knock we need to knock, not just for help to get out but to clear the debris that has built up over the years of neglect.  It is the door into new life that we are talking about and when we come to it we will be unable to recognise it because of all the debris we have chucked up against it.  William Holman Hunt's painting of Christ knocking on the door shows that the outside of the door has accrued many and interesting accretions over time.  The wilderness and nature has overtaken the whole.  Now just imagine what the inside looks like because of our own neglect of the more nebulous dimensions of life. Christ may well be knocking to get in but there is a large amount of knocking or us to find the door.  Our selfish attitudes that have built up over the ages have deafened our ears to Christ's knock.  For us to start knocking on other doors and bringing Christ with us we first have to knock through our door to find Christ and let him in.  Only when we have allowed Christ's presence into our hearts can we start to actually knock on the doors of others and bring them into Christ.  It is we who are open to the Christic experience that are enabled to go out and persistently knock on the doors of others as Christ that Christ enjoins to be persistent.

The process starts with us asking.  It starts with us asking for the right things, in asking for our hearts to be turned from stone to flesh, from coldness and self centred to warm and open to the other and Christ in the present moment. That we may seek and find that which is here in the present so that we can go and knock on other hearts to be Christ to the other and bring the Good News into the world in faith and action.

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