Tuesday of the First Week of Lent

Today’s readings
#LentND

The prophet Isaiah and Jesus speak today about the great power of words. Isaiah speaks specifically of the power of God’s word, a word that will not return empty but will go out and accomplish the purpose for which God sent it.  We see the word that the prophet speaks of here, of course as the Word – with a capital “W.”  That Word is Jesus Christ who comes to accomplish the salvation of the world, the purpose of God ever since the world’s creation.

The prayer that Jesus gives us today, the classic prayer that echoes in our hearts in good times and in bad, is a prayer with a specific purpose in mind.  That prayer, if we pray it rightly, recognizes that God’s holiness will bring about a Kingdom where his will will be done in all of creation.  It begs God’s forgiveness and begs also that we too would become a forgiving and merciful people, just as God is merciful to us.  Finally, it asks for help with temptation and evil, something with which we struggle every day.

Today’s readings are a plea that God’s will would finally be done.  That his Word would go forth and accomplish God’s purpose.  That his will would be done on earth as in heaven.  As we pray those familiar words, they can often go past us without catching our attention.  But today, maybe we can slow down just a little, and pray them more reflectively, that God’s will would be accomplished in every place, starting in our very own lives.

Because to God belongs the Kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever and ever.

Wednesday of the Twenty-seventh Week of Ordinary Time

Today’s readings

There is a deep-rooted desire in each of us for connection with our God.  This is not surprising, since God made us for himself.  Some people, of course, are more aware of it than others; you all would not be here for Mass this morning if you were not aware of it.  The answer to that connection, as we have been taught, is prayer.  And the kind of prayer that Jesus teaches us today is not an ethereal prayer to a distant deity.  Instead, it is a prayer of love to God our Father, relying on his will for us, begging his forgiveness, and asking him to make of us a repentant and forgiving people.

Tuesday of the First Week of Lent

Today’s readings

The prophet Isaiah and Jesus speak today about the great power of words. Isaiah speaks specifically of the power of God’s word, a word that will not return empty but will go out and accomplish the purpose for which God sent it. We see the word that the prophet speaks of here, of course as the Word – with a capital “W.” That Word is Jesus Christ who comes to accomplish the salvation of the world, the purpose of God ever since the world’s creation.

The prayer that Jesus gives us today, the classic prayer that echoes in our hearts in good times and in bad, is a prayer with a specific purpose in mind. That prayer, if we pray it rightly, recognizes that God’s holiness will bring about a Kingdom where his will will be done in all of creation. It begs God’s forgiveness and begs also that we too would become a forgiving and merciful people, just as God is merciful to us. Finally, it asks for help with temptation and evil, something with which we struggle every day.

Today’s readings are a plea that God’s will would finally be done. That his Word would go forth and accomplish God’s purpose. That his will would be done on earth as in heaven. As we pray those familiar words, they can often go past us without catching our attention. But we are called to pray them today that God’s will would be accomplished in every place, starting with in our own lives.

Because to God belongs the Kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever and ever.

Thursday of the Eleventh Week of Ordinary Time

Today’s readings

I think it’s good to have this Gospel reading about the Lord’s prayer in today’s Liturgy of the Word.  So often with familiar prayers like this, we can say them so automatically that we can get to the end of the prayer without the prayer ever registering in our minds.  So when we have the reading about the Lord teaching his disciples to pray, it is good for us disciples to pay attention, would that our prayer would be revitalized and God’s grace increased.

The part of the prayer that leapt out at me today as I was reflecting on the Gospel was “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”  I have been reading a reflection on the Lord’s Prayer by Saint Cyprian, and this part of the prayer was the part I read about yesterday.  As Cyprian points out, this line doesn’t mean that we are praying for God to accomplish his will.  He can do that quite well without our asking for it, thank you.  The point of this part of the prayer is that God’s will would be accomplished in us.  And again, God can certainly do that, but it’s up to us not to throw up the obstacles.

There’s a catechetical skit about the Lord’s prayer that goes back to the 70s.  In a humorous way, it portrays God conversing with someone praying the Lord’s prayer.  Here’s the part that deals with this section of the prayer:

God: Do you really mean that?

Prayer: Sure, why not?

God: What are you doing about it?

Prayer: Doing? Nothing, I guess. I just think it would be kind of neat if you got control of everything down here like you have up there.”

God: Have I got control of you?

Prayer: Well, I go to church.

God: That isn’t what I asked you. What about your temper? You’ve really got a problem there, you know. And then there’s the way you spend your money – all on yourself. And what about the kinds of books you read and what you watch on TV?

Prayer: Stop picking on me! I’m just as good as the rest of those people at church.

God: Excuse me. I thought you were praying for my will to be done. If that is to happen, it will have to start with the ones who are praying for it. Like you, for example.

Prayer: Oh, all right. I guess I do have some hang-ups. Now that you mention it, I could probably name some others.

God: So could I.

Prayer: I haven’t thought about it very much until now, but I’d really like to cut out some of those things. I would like to, you know, be really free.

God: Good. Now we’re getting somewhere. We’ll work together, you and I…

Saint Cyprian sums up what it means for God’s will to be done in us: “To be unable to do a wrong, and to be able to bear a wrong when it is done; to keep peace with the brethren; to love God with all one’s heart; to love God because he is a Father but fear him because he is God; to prefer nothing whatever to Christ because he preferred nothing to us; to adhere inseparably to his love; to stand faithfully and bravely by his cross; when there is any conflict over his name and honor, to exhibit in discourse that steadfastness in which we proclaim him; in torture, to show that confidence in which we unite; in death, that patience in which we are crowned – this is what it means to want to be co-heirs with Christ, this is what it means to do what God commands, this is what it is to fulfill the will of the Father.”

What is God trying to do in us these days?  As we pray the Lord’s prayer later in this Mass, let’s let it be a true prayer that God’s kingdom would be manifest among us as we truly strive to let God’s will happen in our lives.

Tuesday of the First Week of Lent

Today’s readings

Ancient sources say that we are to pray the Lord’s prayer at least seven times daily. Why? Because the Lord’s prayer in all its wonderful simplicity reminds us that we can turn to our heavenly Father who knows our needs and cares for our welfare. It reminds us that the best opportunities we have to live the Gospel come when we turn to God who is bigger than our sins, more than generous enough to cover our deepest needs and longings, more than holy enough to sanctify our poorer efforts at discipleship and charity. It reminds us that God is God and we are not.

To those of us who are concerned with our own prestige and dwell on our own ego, the Lord’s prayer says “hallowed be God’s name.” When we would like all of our problems solved on our own terms and everyone to do things our own way, the Lord’s prayer says, “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done…” For those times when we over-consume the goods of the earth, or want more than we can afford, or covet things we don’t need, the Lord’s prayer says, “give us this day our daily bread” – because that’s all we need. For us sinners who prefer to hold grudges against others, the Lord’s prayer says, “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” And when we stray into all sorts of temptations and give in to all the wrong things, the Lord’s prayer says “lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”

The Lord’s prayer is powerful in all its simplicity. Whether we say it seven times a day or even just once, we need to say it with full thought of what we are asking of our God. And God will hear and answer that holy prayer. For his is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.

Wednesday of the Twenty-seventh Week of Ordinary Time

Today’s readings

Today’s homily is a bit of a mystagogy on this familiar experience we have of praying the Lord’s Prayer.  Mystagogy is a kind of reflecting back on the mysteries.  Once we have experienced the mysteries and practices and rituals of our faith, it is important for us to reflect back on them, to see what they mean, and how they have changed us.  We have all prayed the Lord’s Prayer thousands of times, and we continue to do so not because we delight in the multiplicity of words, but instead because we have been changed by our praying, as the disciples were changed when they were given this beautiful prayer for the first time.

The opening of the prayer – “Our Father” – has in its time moved us into relationship with the One who made us.  We were created for God, and God earnestly desires us to be one with him.  Acknowledging this relationship by proclaiming “Our Father” tells us that we have come from God, will one day return to God, and that we daily exist in God.  It also reminds us that, by using the word “our”, the faith we have is one that is corporate.  We can only come to God together, because we were made to be in community every bit as much as the Holy Trinity is a community.

The middle of the prayer has helped us to rely on God.  “Give us this day our daily bread.”  We accept what we need – not necessarily what we want – from God who is able and willing to provide for our sustenance day in and day out.  It might be a difficult road and daily we may desire much more than we need, but as we reflect on our past, we may in fact see the hand of God holding us up through bad times, and helping us dance through the good times.

And finally we come to know the healing power of our God.  “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.  And lead us not into temptation.”  When we let go of the things that have a hold on us, we can experience the loving embrace of Our Father.  When we release our hold on others, we find ourselves open to the grace of God.

As we offer this beautiful prayer later in this Liturgy, may we all open our minds and hearts to reflect with joy on the Lord’s Prayer and its effect on our spiritual lives.

Thursday of the Eleventh Week of Ordinary Time

Today's readings

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Sadly, the prayer that our Lord gave us to avoid multiplying words and babbling like the pagans can so much become for us an occasion to do that very thing.  We can rattle off the Lord’s Prayer so quickly and second-naturedly that we totally miss what we’re saying and miss the real grace of the Lord’s Prayer.  We really ought to pay more attention to it, because it serves so well as the model for all of our prayer.

First, it teaches us to pray in communion with our brothers and sisters in Christ.  This week, in our Office of Readings, we priests and deacons and religious have been reading from a treatise on the Lord’s Prayer by St. Cyprian.  On Monday, that treatise told us: “Above all, he who preaches peace and unity did not want us to pray by ourselves in private or for ourselves alone.  We do not say ‘My Father, who art in heaven,’ nor ‘Give me this day my daily bread.’  It is not for himself alone that each person asks to be forgiven, not to be led into temptation, or to be delivered from evil.  Rather we pray in public as a community, and not for one individual but for all.  For the people of God are all one.”

Second, it acknowledges that God knows best how to provide for our needs.  We might want all the time to tell him what we want, or how to take care of us, but deep down we know that the only way our lives can work is when we surrender to God and let God do what he needs to do in us.  And so the Lord’s Prayer teaches us to pray “thy kingdom come, thy will be done.”  The whole point of creation is that the whole world will be happiest and at peace only when everything is returned to the One who made it all in the first place.  Until we surrender our lives too, we can never be happy or at peace.

Third, this wonderful prayer acknowledges that the real need in all of us is forgiveness.  Yes, we are all sinners and depend on God alone for forgiveness, because we can never make up for the disobedience of our lives.  But we also must forgive others as well, or we can never really receive forgiveness in our lives.  “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us” might just be the boldest prayer we can utter on any given day.  Because if we have been negligent in our forgiving, is that really how we want God to forgive us?  When we take the Lord’s Prayer seriously, we can really transform our little corner of the world by giving those around us the grace we have been freely given.

And so when we pray these beautiful words today at Mass, or later in our Rosaries or other prayers, maybe we can pause a bit.  Slow down and really pray those words.  Let them transform us by joining us together with our brothers and sisters, surrendering to God for what we truly need, and really receiving the forgiveness of God so that we can forgive others.