searching together

Mar 14, 2019

That’s a great picture of the Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby and Pope Francis together.

I have spent time this week taking part in the twice-yearly Anglican Catholic dialogue of Aotearoa New Zealand.

We meet a couple of times each year and this group is brought together by the Anglican and the Catholic bishops of New Zealand to be in dialogue as we move towards unity.

Click the audio link below to listen to today’s reflection, or look further below to read the audio transcript.

Audio transcript:

It’s been a privilege for me this week to spend time as a member of the Anglican Roman Catholic dialogue for Aotearoa New Zealand. We meet a couple of times each year and this group is brought together by the Anglican and the Catholic bishops of New Zealand to be in dialogue as we move towards unity.

It can very often seem as though there’s great division between different Christian church communities and we might even be led to think that some of these divisions are growing. But the remarkable thing about being at our gathering is that we see the extraordinary degree of unity that we already have. One of the sayings that I often use is: “the deeper we go the samer we are.”  Don’t worry too much about my bad grammar – you get the message. The deeper we go the more we find that we have a great amount in common. If we go right back to the core of our faith, right back to our relationship with Christ, we find we have everything in common. This was the heart of our meeting this week, to focus on Christ and what Christ is calling us to. This is our journey, and we are walking together in faith.

What we see already is that we are beginning to walk together more and more in many of the areas where we thought there was the greatest division: a growing unified understanding of Eucharist, authority in our church communities and the place and the role of Mary.

So it was a wonderful experience for me to be a part of this gathering that focussed us together on Christ.

On one of the days of our meeting the gospel reading was Jesus’ teaching his disciples to pray the “Our Father.” We know that we can pray this prayer in common with all Christians: “Our Father”,  and that word OUR takes on a wonderful power when we are praying together. We are members of one family. We don’t say MY father . We don’t pray “Father of Anglicans” or “Father of Catholics” or Father of any other Christian denomination but we are one family and we address our prayer to the one father we have in common.

Today’s Gospel has really got me thinking about the meeting again and the depth of our Christian search.

There’s a key word and this is really all I want to focus on here, the key word in the gospel for today, and it’s the word ASK.

“Ask and it will be given to you, search and you will find, knock and the door will be open to you. Well I’m going to suggest that you just remember this one word today, the word ASK because it’s a pneumonic: Ask: “A” for ask and  “S” for search and the “K” for knock. Ask search and knock.

This is so important in our relationship with God because God does not force himself on us. God waits to be invited into our lives. We need to ask because when we articulate our need, when we articulate our desire, we become more deeply aware of what our desire is. We often surprise ourselves in the way in which we express the desire.

The second thing that happens when we ask is that we become more open to receiving. The child who asks for something in particular for Christmas, that’s what the child is hoping for and waiting to find at Christmas. In asking we articulate our need to Jesus, and in asking we open our souls to receiving. We kind of go on high-alert full of expectancy ready to receive what we ask for.

And that second word “search” is a very beautiful word.  I remember a number of years ago a little book called “The Holy Longing” by Ronald Rolheiser. Some of you may have read it. In the book he talks about the depth of our desire, our hunger our yearning. What Rolheiser says is that is in each of us there is a dis-ease, and so we are constantly searching in the same kind of way that we together search in this Anglican – Catholic ecumenical dialogue. We are searching together, that’s the “S” word of the ASK pneumonic. We are searching together.

We’re on this journey and it’s not so much about reaching the goal… we all know that we’ve looked for things or longed for things or yearned for things in our lives but when those things have appeared, when we have found what we’re looking for, or when the goal is achieved, we’re happy for a little while, but then we quickly need something else. We are made not to live at a goal on this earth but we made for the search. We are made for the journey. We’re made with this hunger and desire built into us and it’s that hunger and desire that unites us that brings us together. If we’re all together and totally satisfied in every way we really have no way of connecting with each other. But to be on a common search, a common yearning, a common longing with others is really a wonderful unity.

That’s the “S” in the ask. The “K” in the “ask” is for “knock.” Knock and the door will be opened to you.

Well I like the physicality of this word:  Our life of faith is not just about sitting completely still and expressing our desire in asking and searching, but the body gets involved. We are physical creatures and so to actually knock is a physical way of expressing our desire hunger and our yearning to God.

So today my encouragement would be to focus on that word ASK

An Invitation:

  • Today, Ask. Search. Knock.


Opening couple of paragraphs of Ronald Rolheiser’s The Holy Longing.

“It is no easy task to walk this earth and find peace. Inside of us, it would seem, something is at odds with the very rhythm of things and we are forever restless, dissatisfied, frustrated, and aching. We are so overcharged with desire that it is hard to come to simple rest. Desire is always stronger than satisfaction.

“Put more simply, there is within us a fundamental dis-ease, an unquenchable fire that renders us incapable, in this life, of ever coming to full peace. This desire lies at the centre of our lives, in the marrow of our bones, and in the deep recesses of the soul. We are not easeful human beings who occasionally get restless, serene persons who once in a while are obsessed by desire. The reverse is true. We are driven persons, forever obsessed, congenitally dis-eased. Desire is the straw that stirs the drink.


  1. Thank you, John. Wont it be a wonderful blessing when Ask, Search and Knock becomes Ask, Search and Know? Your talk reminds me of a communion service after a an Anglican parish retreat in Queensland. Each person receiving holy communion was told, “Receive the body of Christ for the salvation of the world.”

    • A beautiful reflection, both John and Joy, and pure gift, even more so, it being my birthday. Thank you, e korua. The issues is Europe 500 years ago that divided us Protestant and Catholic are simply no longer relevant. Haven’t we embraced pretty much all of the 97 (or however many) theses Luther pinned on the church door? We all have our own life histories, but our shared roots are what binds us as one human family. Let us refound our faith communities as open, welcoming and inclusive of all. Gentile or Jew, woman or man, LGBT or straight, no more! One bread, one body, one God of all…

    • I love this Joy…

  2. Wonderful, the way you write helps my old brain to retain more. The acronyms are great way for me to recall. If I forget what a letter refers to I’ll go back and check. I’m still using HALT.
    Hopefully I will be using ASK next week/year.

  3. Thank you Fr John! Great start to my morning with your reflection and encoruagement.

  4. Very thought provoking Fr John. We have a very united, action packed journey, of asking, searching and knocking. With God’s grace we can anticipate and look forward to the knowing, this hope keeps me on the journey.

  5. Inspiration reflection, thank John and also Joy.

  6. Thank you Father John.

  7. Thank you, Father John, for your encouraging recollection of the ‘sameness’ you experienced in your recent meeting of Anglicans and Catholics in Aotearoa/New Zealand. Our deep appreciation of the sacramental nearness of Christ in the sacraments of both our Churches is what keeps us together. I pray for the day – maybe at the eschaton – when (with Mother Julian) “All shall be well; all manner of things shall be well”. In the mean time – we have our prayer in common.

  8. Thank you Father John for your thought provoking words. Todays is a very important comment for me. I live in Christchurch and as you know the Anglicans and Catholics are looking at restoring/rebuilding their cathedrals. My thought – why not restore the Anglican Cathedral in the Square but add on either side chapels for the use of Anglicans and Catholics and the main body of the building for ecumencial services. You are so right. We have been to masses in the UK where we were not aware we were at an Anglican mass till we met the vicars at the end!

  9. I’m playing catch up this morning as I have a day off and reading the above is so relevant to the later and tragic events of the week! The unity of different religions and beliefs has become stronger through an act of hatred and really proves the power of love and prayer! Thanks to OUR God!


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