Saturday, May 5, 2018

Ask, and It Will Be Given To You

Anne Khanh-Van                                                                    

 Ask, and it will be given to you;
Seek, and you will find;
Knock, and it will be opened to you.
(Matthew 7:7)

My little nephew was playing and fell down.  He cried and called "Mommy, mommy!"  We have seen this same scene replayed many times, everywhere.  When we come across difficult moments or dangerous situations, our first reaction is usually to call for our Moms.  For difficulties beyond human power or control, what should we do?  What would you do? Would you pray?  But how to pray exactly?

I am Catholic and was taught how to pray when I was a child: Lord, please give me health. Lord, please give me peace. Lord, please give my loved ones prosperity... Praying became a daily habit; but in fact, the real meaning of ​​praying was very vague... Maybe because I was still young and living under my parents' protection; I had not experienced anything beyond my capability to deal with, so praying was just like saving something for rainy days.  It was not until the day I went away from home, away from all of my loved ones, confronted by many obstacles beyond my capability to resolve, that praying finally had more specific meaning.  Praying with full conviction became the intent of my action.

It was 5:30pm, a summer day, I left the office and rushed to the bus stop to catch the bus and go to one of my evening classes.  I checked my penny pouch and counted: Oh, shoot, there were only 70 cents left. The bus ticket was $1.10 at that time.  It was very sunny and hot that day.  The temperature was about 110F.  I still remember that afternoon clearly.  All possibilities were running all around my mind: I could either run to an ATM machine nearby to get some cash... but then the chance to miss the bus would be very high, then I would probably miss the class; or I could "bravely" get on the bus and tell the bus driver "Sir, I am so sorry, I have only 70 cents.  Would you please still give me a ride?" then the bus driver might loudly talk to the people on the bus to help me get the 40 cents I was missing; or I would just simply walk to school and of course it would take me about 2 hours to get there... I was totally confused, anxious, and panicking.  I wasn't sure what to do.  I suddenly stopped and called "Oh Mary! Please advise me what best to do."

At that time, my mother was on the other end of the globe; I had just arrived in the United States.  I had to take care of everything myself to survive.  I didn't know anyone in the area but one person: Mary!   Luckily, Mary was everywhere.  So, I called for Mary again, just in case.  She heard me – I thought to myself.  Although I didn't know how She would be going to advise or help me, I just kept thinking about all the possibilities and mumbling "Mary, Mother of Perpetual Help…" and asked for her help.

A couple of minutes had passed.  A car stopped right in front of the bus stop.  The window was lowered.  A young female driver asked me, "Where are you going? Come on in. I will give you a ride. It's extremely hot today."  If it was a man, I would have hesitated to get in the car...  Our Mary thought about every single detail.  That young lady drove me to school.  I got to my class in time but couldn't stop thinking about what had happened.  That wasn't a coincidence.  To me, there is no coincidence in life at all.  That young lady didn't stop at the bus stop by chance.  In some ways, Mary sent her my way.  I strongly believe so!  Mary had heard me call for her help and answered my call.  Even though the difficulties I encountered were not serious enough for me to bother Mary, I was scared and rushed to call for Her, as I had previously called for my Mom when I was younger.

After being "proved" that day, I saw the anatomy of prayer.  Praying is like sending a message to someone up there, or to God, or to Quan-Yin Goddess.  He receives the message, arranges what is needed, and then responds.  I could see that God saw me.  God was listening to me and responded although my presence was nothing compared to the presence of the countless creatures God has created on this earth.

After that, there have been so many other times, and the obstacles I have encountered were much more grave than missing 40 cents for a bus ticket. Mary has never left me alone (I will share more stories about receiving Mary's responses in other articles).

Mother of Perpetual Help Pray for Us

More than thirty years ago, among many other people, I tried to escape Vietnam by boat, and as soon as our boat sailed away, it was chased and fired upon.  The boat was damaged and water began coming inside.  Everyone on the boat started to pray.  Christians called upon Mary; Buddhists called for Quan Yin.  The cries and prayers were steady and nonstop.  The boat was pulled ashore. 130 people were put in prison.  I did not understand why the result of our prayers that night was that 130 of us were put in prison.  At that time I was not yet 10 years old.  I blamed Mary for not helping our boat escape from the Communists.  Later, I understood.  The capacity of our boat was for only 80 people. The other 50 people were on the boat illegally.  The boat was overloaded.  If we had escaped and encountered big waves and storms, the boat probably would have sunk and all 130 people would have drowned in the ocean.  So, Mary, Quan-Yin, and all the Saints helped 130 of us.  The solution did not seem to be perfect when our boat was pulled in and everybody was put in jail.  But that solution gave us back our lives and time to prepare for a better result.

There are times when the responses don't match with what we've asked for.  Do not rush to blame God.  Do not lose faith in God.  It's just that our limited vision has not allowed us to see his entire plan for us.

Seeing the sacredness of prayer, I have been more careful in praying and also know better how to pray.  Before, I prayed mechanically without really understanding the meaning of prayer.  As a child, I prayed to feel peace and not necessarily to ask for something.  To me, praying to ask for something is like applying for something: applying for a green card, for example.  I need to know how to apply for the green card: what kind of application form, how to fill out the form, and then to whom I must submit the application.  I know that if I send the application to the wrong government office, it will never be received and processed, and as a result, the green card will never be approved.  Similarly, when praying or begging for something, I need to know of whom I am asking, what I am asking, what positions are being requested and if my request will be accepted.  I also need to prepare for the means to pray and the proper language of prayer.

The attitude of the people who pray must be humble and it must acknowledge their positions to deserve and receive the grace they are asking for.  When the land is too high, the water will not be able to flow there... because water flows downward.  In other words, if we are in a humble position, grace will come to us.  But if we are haughty or arrogant, it's going to be a little too hard for God to send help up to us.  He will have to run all the pipes to send the water to where we are.  He could say, "Come on, you guys are too high up in the air, please climb down a little bit, then I will try to help you with what you need."

Praying also has its own language.  Praying cannot be silent.  Praying cannot be insensitive.  Praying must be sincere and must express the necessity of what we want to ask.  For example, when we are in danger and call 911, the message must be specific and clear.  Otherwise, 911 staff will not be able to understand and know how and where to send the appropriate help.

When a child is hungry and asks his father for food, a good father will give him a bowl of rice and not a bowl of sand.  Similarly, when the children ask their father to teach them wisdom, transparency and knowledge, a good father would certainly not guide them to darkness.  The Givers could be our fathers, our teachers, our ancestors, our Saints, or Gods... If we are asking our ancestors, or ask God for a beautiful bird, our ancestors or God will give us a beautiful bird and not a poisonous snake.  When praying, we must recognize and believe in the kindness and generosity of our Givers.

A couple of years ago, I got my mind into a state of panic and could not seem to find way to steer away from what bothered me.  I did not know where to go, but in desperation, I went to the local emergency room.  I thought I had no strength to stand, but once I was inside, after being taken care of, I felt significantly stronger.  I felt the presence of Mary, the mother that I had often called.

I was lucky to live not too far away from the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington DC.  I go there so often that every time I go, I feel like I'm going home.  The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception is the largest Roman Catholic Church in the United States and North America, and is one of the ten largest churches in the world, and (best of all) it's not far from my home.

The Basilica is the nation’s preeminent Marian shrine, dedicated to the patroness of the United States—the Blessed Virgin Mary under her title of the Immaculate Conception. Byzantine-Romanesque in style, its massive, one-of-a-kind superstructure is home to over 70 chapels and oratories that relate to the peoples, cultures and traditions that are the fabric of the Catholic faith.  I prepared my prayers clearly and accurately.  I knelled at each chapel.  I sent my prayers to Mary, Joseph, and Jesus.  I called our Lady of Perpetual Help:  Please give me strength and wisdom to take the right path, get to the right place, meet the right people, and do the right things.

Within seven days, continuously praying days and nights, the Blessed Virgin Mary answered my prayers.  The solutions were even beyond expectations!  Mary has always been there when I pray for help.

If there was a time that you doubled the presence of God, do not doubt.  If there was a time you thought God did not see you, did not hear you, did not respond to you - Be more confident because God has said, "Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.." (*) That the door is closed does not mean we cannot get in.  Knock at the door and know how to ask, the door will open for us.

   Trusting in God, I have peace, and you also will have peace!  We will be patient and accepting; we will be humble and gentle; we will know to notice and care about everyone and everything around us; we will know how to live as a human being and to do what is right and  humanitarian... And then, when we pray, God will hear and answer...

Anne Khanh-Van


(*) Matthew is one of the twelve disciples of Jesus and one of the four Evangelists.  Before becoming Jesus' disciple, Matthew was a tax collector, a bookkeeper, so he was very fair and accurate with numbers. To rewrite these words of Jesus in his testament: "
Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you," Matthew must have seen and witnessed the fairness and transparency in Jesus' teachings and deeds while following Jesus and being Jesus' disciple.
When rewriting those words: "
Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you," Matthew metaphorized the idea of ​​ fairness and accuracy. Why Ask, and it will be given to you? Seek, and you will find? And knock, and the door will be opened to you? When praying with a strong will, with strong effort and purposeful, with confidence and courage, then the person whom we ask is our father, our mother, our teacher, our Saints, our God... these Supreme beings will not refuse.  All doors will open.

The Lord has said, "Behold your vocation; He hath done all things well; teach ye all nations."

All the pictures have been taken at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington DC.