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Father Michael

Pastor's Letter 20190728 - 28 July 2019 - The Lord's Prayer

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28 July 2019

A Message from Father † Michael

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17th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Today’s Theme: “Ask, Seek and Knock”

Jesus urges us to ask, seek and knock. This means ours must be an active faith. However, sometimes we may be too proud to ask, so we don’t receive counsel. We might be too lazy to seek, so we don’t find solutions to our problems. Or, we become too timid to knock, so “the door” to spiritual discovery doesn’t open to us. We must not wait for things to “happen” or to “fall into our hands.” If we are to receive the good things available due to the provisions of our Father in heaven, we must be humble and trustful, yet proactive, exercising boldness and energy.

The Lord’s Prayer

Today, we revisit the giving of the Lord’s Prayer to the Apostles (Luke 11:1-13,) as the “way to pray.” As the first, and arguably, the greatest of all (rote)Christian prayers (particularly, Matthew 6:9-13,) its short, and simple phrases embrace every relation between God and us. It not only tells us for what to pray, but how to do it.  Normally, however, we say it so hurriedly and without serious thought, that much of its meaning is lost. Properly understood, however, it contains the whole program for Christian living. If we were able to live up to these tenets, we would be perfectly “in tune” with the mind of Christ, because, as the text suggests, this is how He prayed and lived.

Our Father, Who art in heaven.... The prayer begins by an acknowledgement of God as “Father.” As a parent to us, we are God’s children, with a child’s relationship to God.

Hallowed be Thy name.... Next, we praise His name, using the word “hallowed,” certainly uncommon in modern parlance, meaning, “May It be honored,” or, “Understood as holy.”

Thy kingdom come... We then pray for the coming of His kingdom—one of holiness, grace, justice, peace, truth, life and love. We have a part to play in making His kingdom a reality. Jesus often speaks of God’s kingdom, but He never defines the concept—most likely assuming it was thoroughly familiar with His audiences. The intention of the phrase probably comes from the hope of the people of Jesus’ time that a Messiah would come to earth to usher in a new kingdom, by the hands of those who would work for a better world. Such beliefs stem from Jesus’ admonition to feed the hungry and clothe the needy. A psychological meaning is also ascribed to the petition: one is also praying for the condition of the soul where one follows God’s will— which we consider next.

Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven....  Our asking that “His will be done on earth,” contains philosophical depth that is often taken for granted, or merely “glossed over.” It is this point, perhaps more than any other, with which many people may take exception with me. “God’s will,” as a concept, suggests that such a thing can be “known,” when, in fact, it can only be “inferred.” And “inference” is a construct replete with personal interpretation. If we assume “God’s will” is the “ultimate best interest” for the universe, then It can be correctly understood as “goodness.” We believe our omniscient, omnipotent omnipresent divine creator has our “best interests” at heart. However, it does not mean we have a definable, concrete path to righteousness outlined for us to follow. In effect, because we have “free will,” we can choose whatever path to follow we prefer, from the myriad opportunities before us. Our plea to God, asking that we might follow “His will,” can be simply understood as having the wisdom to choose correctly for the “greatest good.” God is not a “puppet-master” and we are not “marionettes!”

Give us, this day, our daily bread....   A presumption that God directly “controls the supply of bread,” is another misconception one might have about our prayer. We have learned that the Creator has made natural laws from which we obtain those essentials of life that are necessary for life. Members of the plant and animal kingdom exist for our use—as the primary, the apex life form on the planet, much as it does for those creatures below us on the “food chain.” This petition in the prayer can be seen as an

inverse statement of gratitude for the benefices of nature—to satisfy all our material needs—subsumed into this request/thank-you.

And forgive us our trespasses (debts) as we forgive those who trespass against us (our debtors)....   We all are perpetrators of “sinful acts, because none of us are “perfect.” Asking for forgiveness once again gives homage to God as one from Whom forgiveness can originate. We know that sincere sorrow for our transgressions is a necessary component for receiving forgiveness, whether from God, or from our fellows. True forgiveness also entails that we pledge not to commit the same sin again! (This is often omitted....) However, predicating that forgiveness be meted out in accordance to our willingness to forgive others, is a very great condition in our prayer. Inability to forgive others, in fact makes it impossible for God to forgive us.

And lead us not into temptation....   As the supreme source of all goodness, it would be strange to think that God would “lead us” into temptation. Therefore, to ask Him not to do this is somewhat curious. God does not put temptation in our path, but life does. And we walk into temptation of our own accord—our “free will.” We are asking God to help us cope with the temptations that come to us, unbidden, and to avoid those of our own choosing.

But deliver us from evil....   Physical and moral evil is something that no reasonable person can expect to avoid completely. This petition asks that God protect us from—or rather, grant the wisdom to avoid—all evil, especially moral evil.

We should also note that the whole of the Lord’s Prayer is couched in plural terms. This shows we are one family, under God, and there can be no salvation for us independent of others.

For Thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory, forever. Amen....   Sometimes seen as a “stumbling block” between Protestants and Catholics, this “doxology” is not found in the original text of Matthew, nor Luke.  (Note: It is found in the reading of early English versions, especially the King James translation of the Bible (1611 a.d.) The Old Testament is a source (1 Chronicles 29:11,) and also the Didache (Teaching of the Apostles—ca. 100 a.d.) Traditionally Roman Catholics did not use the doxology when reciting the Lord’s Prayer, as it is not found in the Latin Vulgate of St. Jerome. However, Novus Ordo, the liturgy of Pope Paul VI (ca. 1963 a.d.,) includes it as an addendum following communal recitation of the Lord’s Prayer. As a point of contention between denominations, then, inclusion of the Doxology as part of the prayer should be considered a moot point.)

On not punishing the Innocent

We are presented with a fascinating picture of Abraham arguing with God to save Sodom and Gomorrah in today’s First Reading (Genesis 18:20-32.)(It further presumes that God and Abraham were in hypothetical “counsel” together to determine the fate of a large number of people.) We hear of a situation in which God will not punish a multitude of wicked people if it means punishing a handful of just ones at the same time. Finding none, the Genesis passage suggests ultimate punishment should result only when there is no possibility of finding innocent people, something seldom seen in our modern world. Today, it appears action taken for “the greater good,” is the goal for those who wield destructive power. Nonetheless “group accountability” often seems to be regarded as eminently wise and just. But it isn’t fair to punish many innocents so as to ensure one or a few guilty persons are punished. Such actions ultimately cause feelings of bitterness and resentment, and can deteriorate into class warfare.

Often human beings are readily willing to punish many innocents as long as the guilty are dealt their due. Nonetheless, we can draw a lesson from this passage. Consider these examples:  Governments fighting guerrillas often think nothing of wiping out whole villages of men, women and children, provided they rid themselves of a few insurgents...remember Viet Nam, Argentina (during their so-called “dirty war,”) and many other places, throughout history. (Similarly, guerrillas don’t hesitate to use such tactics;) teachers may punish a whole class with detention for the actions of a few (unknown) culprits; or closer to home, something gets spilled, or damaged when mother’s back is turned. Nobody owns up! So all the children are punished—no TV for the rest of the evening!!!

Certainly, such actions are not Christian, nor humane solutions, in the model of Jesus’ “turning the other cheek.” The most important issue of our times is to resist or overcome evil without doing further evil in the process—always seeking to minimize, or prevent collateral damage. This may mean miscreants avoid immediate retribution in favor of protecting innocent bystanders.

Our petitions to God for wisdom and strength take on increasingly more significance the more we think about them....

May God Richly Bless You

“Nothing is impossible, if you have faith.”  (Matthew 17:20)

Leaning on the Everlasting Arms.mp3

Leaning on the Everlasting Arms.docx

 

Edited by Father Michael

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