Queen Esther took refuge with the Lord in the mortal peril which had overtaken her. She besought the Lord God of Israel in these words:
‘My Lord, our King, the only one,
come to my help, for I am alone
and have no helper but you
and am about to take my life in my hands.
‘I have been taught from my earliest years, in the bosom of my family,
that you, Lord, chose
Israel out of all the nations
and our ancestors out of all the people of old times
to be your heritage for ever;
and that you have treated them as you promised.
‘Remember, Lord; reveal yourself
in the time of our distress.
‘As for me, give me courage,
King of gods and master of all power.
Put persuasive words into my mouth
when I face the lion;
change his feeling into hatred for our enemy,
that the latter and all like him may be brought to their end.
‘As for ourselves, save us by your hand,
and come to my help, for I am alone
and have no one but you, Lord.’
Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Ask, and it will be given to you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened to you. For the one who asks always receives; the one who searches always finds; the one who knocks will always have the door opened to him. Is there a man among you who would hand his son a stone when he asked for bread? Or would hand him a snake when he asked for a fish? If you, then, who are evil, know how to give your children what is good, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask him!
‘So always treat others as you would like them to treat you; that is the meaning of the Law and the Prophets.’
“Ask, and it will be given to you; search, and you will find”
In today’s readings, Jesus invites us to lift our prayers to God, and to pray with faith and persistence. Queen Esther (herself a Jewish woman) prayed fervently for divine providence before she embarked on her quest to persuade her husband to reverse a decree to exterminate the Jews in the Persian Empire. Her request was granted but the crux is that she acknowledged her unworthiness and depended completely on God’s will to fulfil her mission.
The Word has given us many examples of God’s saving grace and triumph amidst impossible circumstances. Yet the notion of petitionary prayer is a problematic paradox. When we lift our petitions up to God, do we treat God merely as a genie to grant our wishes or do we trust that He will do whatever is best for us and for others?
For many of us who look to the weekly Eucharist for spiritual sustenance, this Lent may feel like a period of wandering in the desert. With the suspension of all public masses in Singapore, I have no doubt that many Catholics have expressed their unhappiness about the decision. Many must have prayed for the decision to be rescinded, citing that the suspension is unprecedented and an overreaction to the COVID-19 situation in Singapore. Nonetheless, the emergence of confirmed cases linked to church clusters locally and overseas has proven the wisdom of the Archbishop’s decision.
Business continuity plans have been put into action at workplaces in recent weeks. Some of us may even be involved in rolling out the heightened precautionary measures. Colleagues are involved in contact tracing and situation updates. Being in the public healthcare sector, it sometimes feels surreal and I find myself asking God when the turning point would be. In this Lenten season, let us pray with complete trust and embrace the emptiness. May we, through this experience, live out the true meaning of sacrifice and mortification, and grow to better appreciate the Eucharist which we have taken for granted.
(Today’s OXYGEN by Stephanie Seet)
Prayer: Heavenly Father, we pray for frontline healthcare workers as they toil to bring your healing and mercy to those in need. May the Holy Spirit grant them the grace and resilience to bring respite to the afflicted and reduce the anxiety of those who have been in contact with suspected or confirmed cases of COVID-19 infection.
Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for being present and with us amidst the trials and challenges.