Our Lord and Savior wishes us to attain the joy of the heavenly kingdom, and so he taught us to pray for it, promising to give it to us if we did so. “Ask, he said, and you will receive, seek and you will find, knock and the door will be opened to you.”
We should consider most seriously and attentively what these words of the Lord may mean for us, for they warn that not the idle and feckless but those who ask, seek, and knock will receive, find, and have the door opened to them. We must therefore ask for entry into the kingdom by prayer, seek it by upright living, and knock at its door by perseverance. Merely to ask verbally is not enough; we must also diligently seek to discover how to live so as to be worthy of obtaining what we ask for. We know this from our Savior’s words: Not everyone who says to me, “Lord, Lord” will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only those who do the will of my heavenly Father. There is a need, then, for constant and unflagging prayer. Let us fall upon our knees with tears before our God and Maker; and that we may deserve a hearing, let us consider carefully how he who made us wishes us to live, and what he has commanded us to do.
Let us seek the Lord and his strength; let us constantly seek his face.
And in order to become worthy of finding him and gazing upon him, “let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of body and spirit,” for only the chaste of body can be raised up to heaven on the day of resurrection; only the pure of heart can contemplate the glory of the divine Majesty.
If we would know what the Lord wishes us to ask for, let us listen to the gospel text: “Seek first the kingdom of God and its justice, and all these other things will be given you as well.”
To seek the kingdom of God and its justice is to long for the graces of our heavenly homeland, and to give constant thought to the kind of upright living that will deserve to obtain them; for should we chance to stray from the path that leads there we shall never be able to reach our goal. To ask God for the justice of his kingdom is to ask principally for faith, hope, and love. These virtues above all we should strive to obtain, for scripture says: “the upright live by faith; mercy surrounds those who hope in the Lord; and to love is to fulfill the law, for the whole law is summed up in one word: you shall love your neighbor as yourself. ”
And so the Lord graciously promises that the “Father will give the good Spirit to those who ask him,” in order to show that those who of themselves are evil can become good by receiving the grace of the Spirit. He promises the good Spirit will be given by the Father because whether it is faith, hope, or any other virtue we desire to obtain, we shall do so only through the grace of the Holy Spirit.
As we do our best, then, to follow in our Lord’s footsteps, let us ask God the Father for the grace of his Spirit to lead us along the path of that true faith which works through love. And that we may deserve to obtain our desire, let us strive to live in a way that will make us not unworthy of so great a Father; let us preserve inviolate in body and soul the sacramental rebirth of our baptism which made us children of God. Then, if we keep the almighty Father’s commandments, he will certainly reward us with the eternal blessing which from the beginning he prepared as our heritage through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with the Holy Spirit lives and reigns with him, God for ever and ever. Amen.
St Bede the Venerable