Our Father Reflection
By Rev. Robert Johnnene OFD
Mission Saints Sergius & Bacchus/ Franciscans Divine Mercy
The following is a reflection from the Gospel of Matthew 6: 7-15 where Jesus teaches the Apostles how to pray and gives them and us the prayer we know as THE OUR FATHER.
Christ’s first instruction is on how we should pray at all times was; “ In your prayers do not babble as the pagans do, for they think that by using many words they will make themselves heard. Do not be like them; your Father knows what you need before you ask him.
In this Jesus is telling us not to rattle off our prayers in a hurry and to actually take time to think about what we are saying. Prayer is not just a recitation of the words but is a conversation with Almighty God, Christ, Our Blessed mother, or our favorite saints. We should be talking with them as though they were there in the room with us. Yes when we say the traditional prayers like the one we are reflecting upon that Jesus himself taught us we should still feel the words we are saying not just rattle them off from rote memory.
This applies especially the great prayer, the Mass.
Christ reminds us that God knows what is in our hearts and our minds even before we speak them. The purpose of praying is not the words but in centering ourselves to be with God.
I often tell people that taking time alone with God and talking to him as though He were sitting opposite them is a calming and centering exercise and it brings us closer to God as well as helps us to focus.
By taking time to focus on what we are saying and to speak the words that come from our inner being we enter into a reverent communication with Almighty God.
Jesus then goes on to teach us words we now know as THE OUR FATHER.
"This, then, is how you should pray: 'Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.
In this simple prayer we sum up all our beliefs and our wishes.
Christ reminds us again, in no uncertain terms, what our request to God and the answer depends upon he said; For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. (Matthew 6:15)
Therefore, when we pray the Our Father, we are acknowledging many of our beliefs as Christians because we concede:
1. God is our Father, and like our paternal father whose seed brought us into being, God brought us and all things into being by willing them into existence.
2. We affirm that the name of Almighty God is Holy and needs to be revered above all persons and things.
3. We are acknowledging that the kingdom of heaven is something in the future not to be found in this mortal world.
4. We acknowledge that we agree that God’s will MUST be done in all things, in both heaven and here on earth.
Notice it is, God’s will, not our own desire and will. This is often very difficult for us to embrace and it is also one way that we so often find ourselves in troubling by insisting on having our own way in spite of all other things.
5. We next go on to ask God to provide us the daily necessities of our life.
The key in this part of the prayer is ‘DAILY NECESSITIES’.
When we ask to win the lottery or get a flat screen TV or new car God may not consider them to be necessary for our existence and if fact, God may see that in getting them we would be endangering our eternal salvation.
6. In asking God to forgive us our debts we are asking Him for forgiveness of the things we might have done that separated us from Him and put us in debt to God. We also must remember we need to be willing to forgive those who have hurt us. This is a extremely important part of the prayer. If we are unwilling to forgive others how can we expect God to forgive us. Christ even reiterates this when He cautions “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” (Matthew 18:35)
7. Finally, we ask God to keep us from being tempted by Satan, but to deliver us from all evils, those imposed upon us by others and those which come out of our own selfishness, greed, anger, prejudices and stubbornness.
When Christ repeated the caution a second time about forgiving others He did so, I am sure, because He knew how difficult it was going to be for us mortals.
One of the most difficult things for people to admit is that they are wrong.
It is even more difficult to go to someone you have done a wrong too and ask for their forgiveness.
It is even more difficult to forgive someone who you really admired and cared deeply for who has wronged you.
Many people just cannot admit to another they are wrong. We see this daily on the news and TV. Even when faced with overwhelming evidence that a decision one made was wrong, some people cannot admit it and plead innocence.
As we prepare for the feast celebrating the descent of the Holy Spirit on the Apostles and the actual birth of the Christian Church, we might want to reflect on how we pray and whether or not we are doing all we can to reach out to those we might have wronged and seek their forgiveness or better yet, have we forgiven those that have hurt us and extended to them the love of Christ.
I suggest this meditation because it may require some time for us to digest.
To be true followers and believers of Jesus Christ and to truly love God with all our being, we need to open ourselves to receive the gifts of the Holy Spirit and to put into practice in our daily lives what Christ taught us.
We need to live the Gospels not just preach and read them and we need to partake of Christ within us through the Eucharist. I love how St. Francis described the Eucharist; “The lord of the universe, God and the Son of God, who so humbles himself for our salvation that he hides Himself under an ordinary piece of bread” (from a letter to the entire order by St. Francis)
Like the Tau cross all Franciscans wear which represents our being “marked” as converted to a life based on the teachings of Christ and strengthened by the Eucharist.
The Tau, which is the Greek letter for an “X” which is what Ezekiel in chapter 9:3-6 says all who repented their sins and were converted should be marked with.
We Franciscans have dedicated our lives to not only preaching the messages of peace, brotherhood, love, charity, mercy and forgiveness but attempt to embrace those teachings in our daily lives with the help and inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete, that Christ promised would be sent by God to be with us always. AMEN