The Divine Lamp

The unfolding of thy words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple…Make thy face shine upon thy servant, and teach me thy statutes

Father Maas’ Commentary on Matthew 7:7-12

Posted by Dim Bulb on February 18, 2015

7 Ask, and it shall be given you: seek, and you shall find: knock, and it shall be opened to you. ‎
8 For every one that asketh, receiveth: and he that seeketh, findeth: and to him that knocketh, it shall be opened. ‎
9 Or what man is there among you, of whom if his son shall ask bread, will he reach him a stone? ‎
10 Or if he shall ask him a fish, will he reach him a serpent? ‎
11 If you then being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children: how much more will your Father who is in heaven, give good things to them that ask him? ‎
12 All things therefore whatsoever you would that men should do to you, do you also to them. For this is the law and the prophets.

Ask, and it shall be given you. Efficacy of prayer. Maldonado, Lapide, Meyer, Coleridge are of opinion that no connection binds this to the preceding passage; Maldonado, adds that probably the present instruction must be joined with the Our Father [cf. Lk. 11:9], since it shows how we ought to pray; Augustine regards these words as indicating how the hearers of our Lord could obtain the “holy” and the “pearls” mentioned in the last verse; Weiss sees here a suggestion as to the manner in which we may always assist our neighbor, though we should be unable to make use of fraternal correction; Opus Imperfectum. connects the passage with our Lord’s precept of leniency in judging others, so that those who observe the latter law will obtain any favor they may ask for; Salmeron finds here the indication of the means by which we shall be enabled to abstain from rash judgments and to act with Christian prudence; Chrysostom, Opus Imperfectum, Euthymius, Theophylact, Tostatus, Dionysius the Carthusian, Jansenius, Barradas, Lam. Arnoldi, Schanz, Fillion, Knabenbauer see in the passage both an instruction as to how we can observe all the Lord’s commandments contained in the sermon on the mount, and an exhortation to make use of the means here suggested. The instruction is contained in vv. 7, 8; the exhortation in vv. 9–11.

Instruction concerning prayer (7:7-8).  The words “ask,” “seek,” and “knock,” have been variously interpreted.

[1] Some writers regard them as expressing our prayer for three different kinds of objects: by prayer we obtain mercy, by seeking, progress, by knocking, entrance [Jerome]; by prayer we obtain grace, by seeking, the knowledge of natural truths, by knocking, the understanding of supernatural truth [Euthymius]; by prayer we find the way, by seeking, the truth, by knocking, the life [Paschasius]; by prayer we acquire health and strength of soul, by seeking, knowledge of the truth, by knocking, entrance into life eternal [Augustine].

[2] Other writers find in the words “ask,” “seek,” “knock,” expressions for three different manners of prayer: we pray by our desires, we seek by our vocal prayer, we knock by our uprightness of life [Dionysius the Carthusian]; we ask, after the manner of a beggar, we seek, as if looking for something, we knock, as if desiring admission [Schanz, cf. Schegg].

[3] Finally, there are authors who find in the three expressions three different degrees of intensity of prayer: we ask with earnestness, we seek with constancy and perseverance, we knock with importunity [Chrysostom, Opus Imperfectum, Thomas Aquins, Salmeron, Jansenius, Barradas, Lapide, Grimm, Arnoldi, Fillion, Knabenbauer; cf. Augustine Retract, i. 19].

But whether the expressions signify prayer for three different objects, or three different manners of prayer, or again three different degrees of prayer, in any case our Lord promises certain hearing. This promise must, of course, be subject to those conditions which even human reason recognizes as binding: the object must not be bad, or desired for a bad purpose [James 4:3], or be really harmful to us; we ourselves must pray with confidence [James 1:5–7] and not as formal sinners [cf. Jn. 9:31]. If we do not obtain what we ask for, we surely obtain something better; sometimes God only delays the hearing of our prayer in order to try our constancy or to increase our earnestness [Lk. 11:8 ff.; 18:3 ff.].

Exhortation (7:9-11). Our Lord exhorts his hearers to have recourse to prayer by proving “a minori ad maius” that God cannot refuse to hear them. If a human father cannot refuse the prayers of his child, God cannot leave the prayers of his children unanswered. Jesus connects in his illustration the “stone” with “bread,” and the “serpent” with “fish,” because both the stone and the serpent are very much like and also most unlike bread and fish respectively. In these illustrations our Lord implies that God will not grant us anything that may appear to be good, but in reality is either useless or even harmful. The force of the argument is rendered clearer by the comparison of a human father with God. Our Lord says “you being evil,” either because all created goodness is so far below that of God that it almost appears to be evil [Chrysostom, Euthymius, Theophylact, Opus Imperfectum, Jerome, Bede, Paschasius, Arnoldi], or because all men are in some degree evil by being infected with original sin, by being inclined to evil, and by being guilty of personal sins [Augustine, Bede, Rabanus, Dionysius the Carthusian, Cajetan, Salmeron, Maldonado, Jansenius, Lapide, Schanz, Knabenbauer, etc.]. This point of the argument is not merely “a minori ad maius”; for we should naturally expect that evil parents would grant only evil to their children.

All things therefore whatsoever. Divine rule of morality (7:12). Chrysostom, Bruno, Dionysius the Carthusian, Salmeron Coleridge connect the “therefore “with our Lord’s instruction on prayer, either because v. 12 contains a condition on which alone we can expect to be heard, or because God’s readiness to comply with our requests ought to be an example to us in our conduct towards our neighbor. Maldonado, connects the inference with 7:1, or the warning against rash judgments; “Weiss extends the connection to vv. 1–5; Keil to vv. 1–11; Chrysostom, Hilary, Euthymius, Jansenius, Lam. Fillion, find here a summary of the whole sermon on the mount. This agrees best with our Lord’s own declaration that “this is the law and the prophets.” Mt. 22:40, where the substance of the law is reduced to the double law of charity, does not essentially differ from the present passage, since true charity for our neighbor does not differ from the love of God. The principle expressed in v. 12 is rightly regarded as characteristic of Christianity; for though a similar principle was expressed before Christ, and even by pagan philosophers [cf. Tobit 4:16; Seneca De benef. ii. 1; Lampridius in A. Sever. 51], it was either proposed in a negative form or in a limited meaning; at any rate, it was never enforced by an efficient example such as Jesus Christ gave to his disciples.



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