You have spoken harsh words against me, says the Lord. Yet you say, "How have we spoken against you?" You have said, "It is vain to serve God. What do we profit by keeping his command or by going about as mourners before the Lord of hosts? Now we count the arrogant happy; evildoers not only prosper, but when they put God to the test they escape."
Then those who revered the Lord spoke with one another. The Lord took note and listened, and a book of remembrance was written before him of those who revered the Lord and thought on his name. "They shall be mine," says the Lord of hosts, "my special possession on the day when I act, and I will spare them as parents spare their children who serve them. Then once more you shall see the difference between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve him."
Jesus said to his disciples, "Suppose one of you has a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say to him, 'Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; for a friend of mine has arrived, and I have nothing to set before him.' And he answers from within, 'Do not bother me; the door has already been locked, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything.' I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, at least because of his persistence he will get up and give him whatever he needs.
"So I say to you, Ask, and it will be given you; Search, and you will find; Knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for a fish, will give a snake instead of a fish? Or if the child asks for an egg, will give a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!"
Perseverance is based on the assurance what we seek is truly possible. Luke brings it down to earth with a secular word, "persistence." While "perseverance" connotes the way to heaven, "persistence" almost has a taste of stubbornness about it. Such is the tone and attitude of Jesus' short parable. The social norms of his country and culture demanded an open door to anyone who comes knocking, even in the middle of the night. Jesus is not saying that what this awkward neighbour did is right or wrong. The point of the parable is kept for the last line. The householder obliges, not because of friendship but because of the other person's persistence, and then gives out as much as he needs.
Perseverance and persistence carry a note of frustration, but also an enduring faith that will not be denied. The bond between the neighbours is stretched beyond the ordinary laws of hospitality. A new bond can ensue, once the shock of midnight knocking has died down. Jesus takes the parable further by appealing to parents' loving care for their children. Does a mother give a snake when a child asks for fish? He acknowledges the basic goodness of every human being, yet he wants our relationships to deepen still more, with God's help. "If you, weak as you are, know how to give your children good things, how much more will the Father give to those who ask him?" God gives part of himself, his own Holy Spirit, so that our good actions can manifest his own divine goodness.
In the Middle Eastern culture of Jesus' time hospitality was a sacred duty; indeed, it still is in that part of the world. Anyeone in desperate need who knocks on the door of a friend would not be refused hospitality, even if it was in the middle of the night. In effect Jesus is saying, "If that is how hospitable you are, think of how hospitable God is." If you are prepared to get up in the middle of the night when a friend knocks on your door, then don't hesitate to knock on God's door because God is an even more wonderful friend to you.
Today's gospel encourages us to knock on God's door, to look for God, to petition God. It strongly supports the prayer of petition. What should we ask God for? To put that question another way, "What does God want to give us?" Most importantly, Jesus declares that what God wants to give us is the Holy Spirit. "How much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him." God wants to give us what we most need, and that is the Holy Spirit. It is the Spirit who empowers us to take the path God wants us to take, the path that leads to fullness of life for ourselves and for others, here and now and for eternity. If we keep on asking God for that gift of the Spirit we won't find God wanting.