My brothers and sisters in Christ!1
It is a great joy for me to celebrate this Holy Mass with all of you!
And what an interesting time for the Church! Because, as you all know, we are in a special moment of grace. Next week — one week from today, exactly — our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI will resign his office. We need to pray hard for our Catholic Church today!
As you know, our Holy Father has decided that because of his age and his declining health, he no longer has the strength to carry out his ministry. I believe this is the act of saint — who sets aside his own will to do the will of God to serve the mission of his Church.
So we want to pray for our Pope today. And we also want to pray for Cardinal Mahony and the College of Cardinals, as they get ready to exercise their sacred duty to choose, with the Holy Spirit’s guidance, the man whom God wants to serve next on the Chair of St. Peter.
We know that God listens to our prayers, my brothers and sisters. That’s the lesson today of the readings from Sacred Scripture that we have just heard. That’s the theme for today: “Keep calm. God’s got this”.
We heard that lesson in our beautiful first reading from the Old Testament Book of Esther.
Do you all know the story of Queen Esther? The King of Persia searches his whole kingdom to find the most beautiful woman to be his queen. He falls in love with Esther. But he doesn’t know that she is Jewish.
Now at that time, the Jewish people had lost their homeland. They were scattered around the Persian Empire, living as exiles. And that’s important. Because after Esther becomes queen, a bad man in the king’s government convinces the king to issue an order to kill all the Jewish people in the empire.
So that’s why Esther is praying in the first reading we just heard. She’s praying for the survival of her people. She is praying for the strength to go to the King — to intercede for her people.
You should read the rest of the story of Esther. It’s great. And it is also the Word of God. And it teaches us how much God loves his people and how he listens to their prayers.
As I’m sure you noticed, Queen Esther prays from her heart. She prays personally and with great trust. That’s how we should pray. Simply and from the heart. And we should pray with confidence that God listens to our prayers — just as he listened to Esther’s prayer!
In the Gospel passage we heard today, Jesus makes that promise to us.
Ask and it will be given to you.
Seek and you will find.
Knock and the door will be opened to you.
Notice how personal these promises are! Ask and it will be given to you. Seek and you will find. Knock and the door will open for you.
These are personal promises that Jesus is making to each one of us. Everyone who asks receives, Jesus tells us. Everyone. No matter who you are. No matter where you have been in your life. You can turn to God. You can speak to him now because he is your Father. You can speak to him as a son, as daughter. And you can know — no matter what — that your Father loves you.
We don’t want to ask God only for little things, of only for selfish things that we want or need. Those are important. But there’s something more important.
We want to ask God what he wants. What does he want from us? What is his will for our lives?
That’s what Jesus wants us to ask for. That’s what Jesus wants us to seek. That’s the door he wants to open for us — the door to the meaning of our lives.
These coming days you are going to hear a lot about Pope Benedict XVI. He is a real saint. For me one of the most intelligent people in the world!
Some time ago he was asked about his First Holy Communion: “Dear Pope, what are your memories of your First Communion day?”
He responded saying that he remembered that day very well. It was in 1939 and there were about 30 boys and girls making First Holy Communion that day.
Then, he said that on that day, he “promised the Lord as best I could: “I always want to stay with you”, and I prayed to him, “but above all, stay with me”. So I went on living my life like that; thanks be to God, the Lord has always taken me by the hand and guided me, even in difficult situations”
What a beautiful example for us! Today, in this Mass — and every day after — we need to tell Jesus the same: I always want to stay with You! And Please be always with me!
But then, at the same time we need to ask Him: What do you want from me? What must I do? Which is my road to heaven?
So today — and every day — we need to ask our Father to show us what he wants us to do with our lives. We need to seek our Father’s will. We need to knock on our Father’s door.
Today, let’s ask Mary our Blessed Mother to help us to pray to know God’s will for our life. Let’s ask her to help us to do only what Jesus would do! Let’s especially pray for Our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI, for the Church and for the new Pope.
1. Readings (Thursday of the First Week of Lent, Year C): Esther C:12, 14-16, 23-25; Ps. 138:1-3, 7-8; Matt. 7:7-12.