Jesus said to his disciples, ‘On that day you will ask nothing of me. Very truly, I tell you, if you ask anything of the Father in my name, he will give it to you. Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be complete.
‘I have said these things to you in figures of speech. The hour is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figures, but will tell you plainly of the Father. On that day you will ask in my name. I do not say to you that I will ask the Father on your behalf; for the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God. I came from the Father and have come into the world; again, I am leaving the world and am going to the Father.’
Jesus said: ‘Ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be complete.’
As we grew up many of us were entertained with fairy tales. They were the sort of stories that often ended with a phrase like: ‘And they all lived happily ever after.’ Quite often they also featured the making and granting of wishes. Sometimes they focused upon the wisdom or the foolishness of the wishes made but, no matter how tortuous the journey from the beginning of the tale to its end, they did, usually, all live happily ever after.
Taken out of context, Jesus’ words to us today might be re-styled in the form of the wish-making element of a fairy tale: ‘Ask for anything you like, anything that will make you happy, and I will give it to you!’ But, of course, this is nonsense. The gospel narrative is not a morality tale concocted for our amusement and edification. The gospel narrative is an account of God stepping into this world to offer us a completeness of joy that is far beyond our human understanding. Yes, that completeness of joy will lead us to live happily ever after, but in God’s nearer presence and not in this superficial shadow world through which we must journey first.
Today we are being challenged to choose wisely as we negotiate the perilous stepping stones of daily life. It is easy for us to fall into the spiritual trap of praying only for relief from the trials and tribulations we encounter day by day. But, that ‘grant me three wishes’ approach will not bring us closer to God. Instead we are challenged to put ourselves at the back of the queue and to love and serve exactly as Christ loved and served. Our prayers and wishes should be centred on the needs of others and not on ourselves.
Throughout his ministry Jesus made it clear that our priorities should be love of God and love of neighbour. When we get that right, when we step outside the self-centred world of the fairy tale, then, and only then, will our joy be complete.