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 asks receives; and he that seeks finds; and to him that knocks it shall be opened.
JEROME; Having before forbidden us to pray for things of the flesh, He now shows what we ought to ask, saying, Ask, and it shall be given you.
AUG. Otherwise; when He commanded not to give the holy thing to dogs, and not to cast pearls before swine, the hearer conscious of his own ignorance might say, Why do you thus bid me not give the holy thing to dogs, when as yet I see not that I have any holy thing? He therefore adds in good season, Ask, and you shall receive.
PSEUD-CHRYS. Otherwise; Having given them some commands for the sanctification of prayer, saying, Judge not, He adds accordingly, Ask, and it shall be given to you, as though He were to say, If you observe this mercy towards your enemies, whatever seems to you shut, knock, and it shall be opened to you. Ask therefore in prayer, praying day and night; seek with care and toil; for neither by toiling only in the Scriptures do we gain knowledge without God's grace, nor do we attain to grace without study, lest the gift of God should be bestowed on the careless. But knock with prayer, and fasting, and alms. For as one who knocks at a door, not only cries out with his voice, but strikes with his hand, so he who does good works, knocks with his works. But you will say, this is what I pray that I may know and do, how then can I do it, before I receive? Do what you can that you may become able to do more, and keep what you know that you may come to know more. Or otherwise; having above commanded all men to love their enemies, and after enjoined that we should not under pretext of love give holy things to dogs; He here gives good counsel, that they should pray God for them, and it shall be granted them; let them seek out those that are lost in sins, and they shall find them; let them knock at those who are shut up in errors, and God shall open to them that their word may have access to their souls. Or otherwise; Since the precepts given above were beyond the reach of human virtue, He sends them to God to whose grace nothing is impossible, saying, Ask, and it shall be given you, that what cannot be performed by men may be fulfilled through the grace of God. For when God furnished the other animals with swift foot, or swift wing, with claws, teeth, or horns, He so made man that He Himself should be man's only strength, that forced by reason of his own weakness, he might always have need of his Lord.
GLOSS. We ask with faith, we seek with hope, we knock with love. You must first ask that you may have; after that seek that you may find; and lastly, observe what you have found that you may enter in.
AUG. Asking, is that we may get healthiness of soul that we may be able to fulfill the things commanded us; seeking, pertains to the discovery of the truth. But when any has found the true way, He will then come into actual possession, which however is only opened to him that knocks.
ID. How these three differ from one another, I have thought good to unfold with this travail; but it were better to refer them all to instant prayer; wherefore He afterwards concludes, saying, He will give good things to them that ask him.
CHRYS. And in that He adds seek, and knock, He bids us ask with much importunateness and strength. For one who seeks, casts forth all other things from his mind, and is turned to that thing singly which He seeks; and he that knocks comes with vehemence and warm soul.
PSEUD-CHRYS. He had said, Ask, and you shall receive; Which sinners hearing might perchance say, The Lord herein exhorts them that are worthy, but we are unworthy. Therefore He repeats it that He may commend the mercy of God to die righteous as well as to sinners; and therefore declares that every one that asks receives; that is, whether he be righteous or a sinner, let him not hesitate to ask; that it may be fully seen that none is neglected but he who hesitates to ask of God. For it is not credible that God should enjoin on men that work of piety which is displayed in doing good to our enemies, and should not Himself (being good) act so.
AUG. Wherefore God hears sinners; for if He do not hear sinners, the Publican said in vain, Lord, be merciful to me a sinner; and by that confession inherited justification.
ID. He who in faith offers supplication to God for the necessities of this life is heard mercifully, and not heard mercifully. For the physician knows better than the sick man what is good for his sickness. But if he asks that which God both promises and commands, his prayer shall be granted, for love shall receive what truth provides.
ID. But the Lord is good, who often gives us not what we would, that He may give us what we should rather prefer.
ID. There is moreover of perseverance, that we may receive what we ask for.
ID. In that God sometimes delays His gifts, He but recommends, and does not deny them. For that which is long looked for is sweeter when obtained; but that is held cheap, which comes at once. Ask then and seek things righteous. For by asking and seeking grows the appetite of taking. God reserves for you those things which He is not willing to give you at once, that you may learn greatly to desire great things. Therefore we ought always to pray and not to fail.
9. Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a Stone?
10. Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a Serpent?
11. If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?
AUG. As above He had cited the birds of the air and the lilies of the field, that our hopes may rise from the less to the greater; so also does He in this place, when He says, Or what man among you?
PSEUD-CHRYS. Lest perchance any one considering how great is the difference between God and man, and weighing his own sins should despair of obtaining, and so never take in hand to ask; therefore He proposes a comparison of the relation between father and son; that should we despair because of our sins, we may hope because of God's fatherly goodness.
CHRYS. There are two things necessary for one that prays; that he ask earnestly; and that he ask such things as he ought to ask. And those are spiritual things; as Solomon, because he asked such things as were right, received speedily.
PSEUD-CHRYS. And what are the things that we ought to ask, he shows under the likeness of a loaf, and a fish. The loaf is the word concerning the knowledge of God the Father The stone is all falsehood that has a stumbling block of offense to the soul.
REMIG. By the fish we may understand the word Concerning Christ, by the serpent the Devil himself or by the loaf' may be understood spiritual doctrine; by the stone ignorance; by the fish the water of Holy baptism; by the serpent the wiles of the Devil, or unbelief.
RABAN. Or, bread which is the common food signifies charity, without which the other virtues are of no avail. The fish signifies faith, which is born of the water of baptism, is tossed in the midst of the waves of this life and yet lives. Luke adds a third thing, an egg, which signifies hope, for an egg is the hope of the animal. To charity, He opposes a stone, that is, the hardness of hatred; to faith, a serpent, that is, the venom of treachery; to hope, a scorpion, that is, despair, which stings backward, as the scorpion.
REMIG. The sense therefore is; we need not fear that should we ask of God our Father breach, that is doctrine or love, He will give us a stone; that is, that He will suffer our heart to be contracted either by the frost of hatred or by hardness of soul; or that when we ask for faith, He will suffer us to die of the poison of unbelief. Thence it follows, If then you being evil.
CHRYS. This He said not detracting from human nature, nor confessing the whole human race to be evil; but He calls paternal love evil when compared with His own goodness. Such is the superabundance of His love towards men.
PSEUD-CHRYS. Because in comparison of God who is preeminently good, all men seem to be evil, as all light shows dark when compared with the sun.
JEROME; Or perhaps He called the Apostles evil, in their person condemning the whole human race, whose heart is set to evil from his infancy, as we read in Genesis. Nor is it any wonder that He should call this generation evil, as the Apostle also speaks, Seeing the days are evil.
AUG. Or; He calls evil those Who are lovers of this age; whence also the good things which they give are to be called good according to their sense who esteem them as good; nay, even in the nature of things they are goods, that is, temporal goods, and such as pertain to this weak life.
ID. For that good thing which makes men good is God. Gold and silver are good things not as making you good, but as with them you may do good. If then we be evil, yet as having a Father who is good let us not remain ever evil.
AUG. If then we being evil, know how to give that which is asked of us, how much more is it to be hoped that God will give us good things when we ask Him?
PSEUDO-CHRYS. He says good things, because God does not give all things to them that ask Him, but only good things.
GLOSS. For from God we receive only such things as are good, of what kind they may seem to us when we receive them; for all things work together for good to His beloved.
REMIG, And be it known that where Matthew says, He shall give good things, Luke has, shall give his Holy Spirit. But this ought not to seem contrary, because all the good things which man receives from God, are given by the grace of the Holy Spirit.
12. Therefore all things whatsoever you would that men should do to you, do you even so to them: for this is the Law and the Prophets.
AUG. Firmness and strength of walking by the way of wisdom in good habits is thus set before us, by which men are brought to purity and simplicity of heart; concerning which having spoken a long time, He thus concludes, All things whatsoever you would, &c. For there is no man who would that another should act towards him with a double heart.
PSEUDO-CHRYS. Otherwise; He had above commanded us in order to sanctify our prayers that men should not judge those who sin against them. Then breaking the thread of his discourse He had introduced various other matters, wherefore now when He returns to the command with which He had begun, He says, All things whatsoever you would, &c. That is; I not only command that you judge not, but All things whatsoever you would that men should do to you, do you to them; and then you will be able to pray so as to obtain.
GLOSS, Otherwise; The Holy Spirit is the distributor of all spiritual goods, that the deeds of charity may be fulfilled; whence He adds, All things therefore &c.
CHRYS. Otherwise; The Lord desires to teach that men ought to seek aid from above, but at the same time to contribute what lays in their power; wherefore when He had said, Ask, seek, and knock, He proceeds to teach openly that men should be at pains for themselves, adding, Whatsoever you would &c.
AUG. Otherwise; The Lord had promised that He would give good things to them that ask Him. But that He may own his petitioners, let us also own ours. For they that beg are in everything, save having of substance, equal to those of whom they beg. What face can you have of making request to your God, when you do not acknowledge your equal? This is that is said in Proverbs, Whoever stops his ear to the cry of the poor, he shall cry and shall not be heard. What we ought to bestow on our neighbor when he asks of us, that we ourselves may be heard of God, we may judge by what we would have others bestow upon us; therefore He says, All things whatsoever you would.
CHRYS. He says not, All things whatsoever, simply, but All things therefore, as though He should say, If you will be heard, besides those things which I have now said to you, do this also. And He said not, Whatsoever you would have done for you by God, do that for your neighbor; lest you should say, But how can I? but He says, Whatsoever you would have done to you by your fellow servant, do that also to your neighbor.
AUG. Some Latin copies add here, good things which I suppose was inserted to make the sense more plain. For it occurred that one might desire some crime to be committed for his advantage, and should so construe this place, that he ought first to do the like to him by whom he would have it done to him. It were absurd to think that this man had fulfilled this command. Yet the thought is perfect, even though this be not added. For the words, All things whatsoever you would, are not to be taken in their ordinary and loose signification, but in their exact and proper sense. For there is no will but only in the good; in the wicked it is rather named desire, and not will. Not that the Scriptures always observe this propriety; but where need is, there they retain the proper word so that none other need be understood.
CYPRIAN; Since the Word of God, the Lord Jesus Christ came to all men, He summed up all his commands in one precept, Whatsoever you would that men should do to you, do you also to them; and adds, for this is the Law and the Prophets.
PSEUDO-CHRYS. For whatsoever the Law and the Prophets contain up and down through the whole Scriptures, is embraced in this one compendious precept, as the innumerable branches of a tree spring from one root.
GREG. He that thinks he ought to do to another as be expects that others will do to him, considers verily how he may return good things for bad, and better things for good.
CHRYS. Whence what we ought to do is clear, as in our own cases we all know what is proper, and so we cannot take refuge in our ignorance.
AUG. This precept seems to refer to the love of our neighbor, not of God, as in another place He says, there are two commandments on which hang the Law and the Prophets. But as He says not here, The whole Law, as He speaks there, He reserves a place for the other commandment respecting the love of God.
ID. Otherwise; Scripture does not mention the love of God, where it says, All things whatsoever you would because he who loves his neighbor must consequently love. Love itself above all things; but God is Love; therefore he loves God above all things.
Catena Aurea Matthew 7