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.
Happy indeed is the man
who follows not the counsel of the wicked;
nor lingers in the way of sinners
nor sits in the company of scorners,
but whose delight is the law of the Lord
and who ponders his law day and night. (R./)
He is like a tree planted beside the flowing waters,
that yields its fruit in due season
and whose leaves shall never fade;
and all that he does shall prosper. (R./)
Not so are the wicked, not so!
For they like winnowed chaff shall be driven away by the wind.
For the Lord guards the way of the just
but the way of the wicked leads to doom. (R./)
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 trust that we can reach the final destiny we seek. Luke uses a more secular word, "persistence." While "perseverance" connotes the lifelong way to heaven, "persistence" is the refusal to be denied what we seek here and now. Such is the tone and attitude of Jesus’ short parable.
The social norms of Jewish culture required hospitality to any friend who came to one’s door, in the middle of the night. Certainly it was inconsiderate to knock on a neighbour’s door at midnight, looking for food. Jesus is not proposing it as something we should normally do. The point of his parable is kept for the last line. The householder eventually obliges, not for friendship’s sake but for peace’ sake, and then gives his persistent neighbour as much as he needs.
Jesus takes the parable further by reffing to parents’ unconditional love for their children. Does a mother give a snake when a child asks for fish? He acknowledges the basic goodness and fidelity of parents, but wants our relationships to become completely reliable, with God’s help. If parents, despite their human weakness, know how to provide good things for their children, how much more will God our Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him. God radiates into us his own Holy Spirit so that any good we do are the effects of divine goodness working through us. It is this grace at work, when we persevere on the right path.
In the Middle Eastern culture of Jesus’ time, hospitality was a sacred duty. It was very unusual if someone in desperate need who knocked on a neighbour’s door would be locked out, even in the middle of the night. The story invites us to persevere in prayer. If people are prepared to get up at midnight when a friend comes knocking, we should not hesitate to knock on God’s door because God’s hospitality is even more reliable. We should feel welcome to knock on God’s door, to seek God’s help, in whatever we need, at any time. The parable is a ringing endorsement of the prayer of petition.
What should we ask God for? Jesus redirects that question to suggest the main things God wishes to give us. Ultimately, 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 us to have what we most need, and what we need most is the Holy Spirit. It is twith the Holy Spirit’s help that we can follow the path God wants us to take, leading to fullness of life for ourselves and for others. If we keep asking for that most precious gift, it is ours for the asking.