The virtues remind us of the higher moral standard we are called to follow. This reminder should inspire us to give more of ourselves in the pursuit of virtue and live more like Christ, rather than living life enslaved by our passions. — from Men, Women, and the Mystery of Love
The patron of Christian artists was born around 1400 in a village overlooking Florence. He took up painting as a young boy and studied under the watchful eye of a local painting master. He joined the Dominicans at about age 20, taking the name Fra Giovanni. He eventually came to be known as Fra Angelico, perhaps a tribute to his own angelic qualities or maybe the devotional tone of his works.
He continued to study painting and perfect his own techniques, which included broad-brush strokes, vivid colors and generous, lifelike figures. Michelangelo once said of Fra Angelico: "One has to believe that this good monk has visited paradise and been allowed to choose his models there." Whatever his subject matter, Fra Angelico sought to generate feelings of religious devotion in response to his paintings. Among his most famous works are the Annunciation and Descent from the Cross as well as frescoes in the monastery of San Marco in Florence.
He also served in leadership positions within the Dominican Order. At one point Pope Eugenius approached him about serving as archbishop of Florence. Fra Angelico declined, preferring a simpler life. He died in 1455.
I pause for a moment and reflect on God's life-giving presence in every part of my body, in everything around me, in the whole of my life.
Lord, grant me the grace to be free from the excesses of this life. Let me not get caught up with the desire for wealth. Keep my heart and mind free to love and serve you.
In the presence of my loving Creator, I look honestly at my feelings over the last day, the highs, the lows and the level ground. Can I see where the Lord has been present?
The Word of God
Thursday of the First Week in Lent
Reading 1 Est C:12, 14-16, 23-25
Queen Esther, seized with mortal anguish, had recourse to the LORD. She lay prostrate upon the ground, together with her handmaids, from morning until evening, and said: "God of Abraham, God of Isaac, and God of Jacob, blessed are you. Help me, who am alone and have no help but you, for I am taking my life in my hand. As a child I used to hear from the books of my forefathers that you, O LORD, always free those who are pleasing to you. Now help me, who am alone and have no one but you, O LORD, my God.
"And now, come to help me, an orphan. Put in my mouth persuasive words in the presence of the lion and turn his heart to hatred for our enemy, so that he and those who are in league with him may perish. Save us from the hand of our enemies; turn our mourning into gladness and our sorrows into wholeness."
Responsorial Psalm PS 138:1-2ab, 2cde-3, 7c-8
R. (3a) Lord, on the day I called for help, you answered me.
I will give thanks to you, O LORD, with all my heart, for you have heard the words of my mouth; in the presence of the angels I will sing your praise; I will worship at your holy temple and give thanks to your name.
R. Lord, on the day I called for help, you answered me.
Because of your kindness and your truth; for you have made great above all things your name and your promise. When I called, you answered me; you built up strength within me.
R. Lord, on the day I called for help, you answered me.
Your right hand saves me. The LORD will complete what he has done for me; your kindness, O LORD, endures forever; forsake not the work of your hands.
R. Lord, on the day I called for help, you answered me.
Verse Before the Gospel Ps 51:12a, 14a
A clean heart create for me, God; give me back the joy of your salvation.
Gospel Mt 7:7-12
Jesus said to his disciples: "Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. Which one of you would hand his son a stone when he asked for a loaf of bread, or a snake when he asked for a fish? If you then, who are wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good things to those who ask him.
"Do to others whatever you would have them do to you. This is the law and the prophets."
Some thoughts on today's scripture
Prayer is never wasted. Good things come in prayer, maybe not what someone asks for. Prayer opens the heart for good things from God. Be grateful at the end of prayer for time spent with the God of all goodness. Prayer time is always productive time in making us people of more love.
Remembering that I am still in God's presence, I imagine Jesus himself standing or sitting beside me, and say whatever is on my mind, whatever is in my heart, speaking as one friend to another.
I thank God for these few moments we have spent alone together and for any insights I may have been given concerning the text.
When I called, you answered me; you built up strength within me. (Psalm 138:3)
Esther certainly took prayer seriously. Not only did this highly-placed woman set aside a whole day to prostrate herself before the Lord, but she also led her servants to do the same. Even more radically, Esther recognized—with fear and trembling—that God was asking her to take a bold action that would begin answering her heartfelt prayer. So she prayed for the grace to do her part and to leave the rest in his hands.
The result? God answered Esther by building up her own strength so that she could do what she was in a unique position to do (Psalm 138:3). She knew she was risking her life, and she knew she could face that risk in only one way: fortified by God's strength.
What a lesson for our own intercessory prayers! When we become aware of a deep need, we can be sure that this situation is on God's heart as well. And because it matters so much, we shouldn't be afraid of spending extended time in prayer and taking up other practices like fasting. But there is one more step we should contemplate: "Father, is there something you want me to do to turn this situation around? Are you calling me to take action beyond my prayer and fasting?"
It's a funny thing the way our minds work. We think that prayer is the only "godly" response we can give. We think that God's work is limited to answering our prayers in his way and in his time—and usually in such a mystical way that we can only guess at what he is doing. But quite often, his "work" extends to empowering you to be the answer to your own prayer. It's as if you bring a problem to him, and he responds, "Okay, so what can we do about it?"
If the Holy Spirit inspires you to take action, you can count on all the divine grace and strength you need to take the next step. And remember: all you have to do is take that step; you can leave the rest up to God.
"Father, please show me how you want me to become part of the answer to this need I am laying before you right now."
my2cents: Esther prayed at one point today " you, O LORD, always free those who are pleasing to you." Let's keep this in mind as we read the Holy Gospel when our Lord says "For everyone who asks, receives...how much more will your heavenly Father give good things to those who ask him." What was Esther asking for? A million bucks? Be free of stress? No. She was asking for what Jesus came to do...Salvation.
The Psalms pray on with us and our Lord "Because of your kindness and your truth; for you have made great above all things your name and your promise. When I called, you answered me; you built up strength within me." Sounds like Queen Esther praying? But this was hundreds of years before the Psalms were written. What if what they say is true, that the Lord lived out all the Psalms, our Lord Jesus? What of His prayers of salvation the night before He was arrested to be crucified? He was given strength and grace. Salvation comes in many more ways.
"Lord, on the day I called for help, you answered me. I will give thanks to you, O LORD, with all my heart, for you have heard the words of my mouth; in the presence of the angels I will sing your praise; I will worship at your holy temple and give thanks to your name." This then is the glory that God wants, sacrifice, this saving and sanctifying grace, this turning and yearning of hearts to Him and for Him. We do indeed sing in the presence of angels in Holy Mass, and we are among angels constantly...or do you think the Lord would leave you alone? Not ever, and not to a soul in prayer, in communion with Him. And they say the Lord hears the prayers of the righteous, and righteous means Holy. In comes our Lord into our lives today "For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened." God is always available, this is the beauty of living on earth. Let's say this though; You can pray for your outcome to be done, or His outcome...for the better. Thy will be done. So what are you going to ask for of the Lord today? I pray for many people, their conversions. One right now is a coworker in bible study, after years of struggling to have a baby, and spending thousands in fertility treatments, they finally conceived, had a miscarriage, conceived a year later after she said to her husband "I give up, it is up to God if he wants us to have a baby", and they had a baby last night, but had trouble in delivery and the baby's head got possibly hurt. So I pray now for them and ask you for a prayer. He is worried, I know because I asked him in a text and he said he was worried. I so much wish he knew what faith means. He has struggled tremendously in faith. Is this how God works? I pray for them to be delivered, yet God's will be done. I remember a story of a farmer I heard in a USCCB reflection; a farmer had one horse. One day the horse had ran away. The neighbors come and say "we heard the bad news" and he said "good news bad news, who knows?". The horse later on returned and with a heard of wild horses and the neighbors returned "we heard the good news!" and the farmer says "good news bad news who knows?" and later the farmer's son is riding a horse and falls and breaks his leg. The neighbors said "we heard the bad news" and the farmer goes "good news, bad news, who knows". Not much later the army comes by in need of bodies for war, they see the son with a broken leg and leave him. Good news for the son. When I hear this story, I reflect on the life of one in constant prayer and faith and striving to be righteous (holy) and simply lives in constant trust in the Lors. The Lord loves those who love Him. I ask you then this, will you ask the Lord for something very special? I remember I asked a class at church, "if you could ask God for anything, what would you ask for?" Some prayed for family, most said family to be helped and some would pray for other things. I said "notice how none asked God (for one) to be able to love Him above everything!". Be careful what you ask for then. Because He gives GOOD things only! LOL. Whether they seem as bad, you focus out, zoom out and you see it was a dark spec among the most beautiful tapestry and painting. So today, let's ask the Lord for goodness, to be one with Him, all things striven for and happen naturally in Heaven.