Tuesday, March 7, 2017
1) Opening prayer
you speak your mighty word to us,
but we cannot hear it
unless it stirs our lives
and is spoken in human terms.
Keep speaking your word to us, Lord,
and open our hearts to it,
that it may bear fruit in us
when we do your will
and carry out what we are sent to do.
We ask you this through your living Word,
Jesus Christ our Lord.
2) Gospel Reading - Matthew 6, 7-15
'In your prayers do not babble as the gentiles 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.
So you should pray like this: Our Father in heaven, may your name be held holy, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we have forgiven those who are in debt to us. And do not put us to the test, but save us from the Evil One. 'Yes, if you forgive others their failings, your heavenly Father will forgive you yours; but if you do not forgive others, your Father will not forgive your failings either.
• There are two versions of the Our Father: Luke (Lk 11, 1-4) and Matthew (Mt 6, 7-13). In Luke the Our Father is shorter. Luke writes for the communities which came from Paganism. In Matthew the Our Father is found in the Discourse on the Mountain, in the part where Jesus orientates the disciples in the practice of the three works of piety: alms (Mt 6, 1-4), prayer (Mt 6, 5-15) and fasting (Mt6, 16-18). The Our Father forms part of a catechesis for the converted Jews. They were accustomed to pray, but had some vices which Matthew tries to correct.
• Matthew 6, 7-8: The faults to be corrected. Jesus criticizes the persons for whom prayer was a repetition of magic formulae, of strong words, addressed to God to oblige him to respond to our needs. The acceptance of our prayer by God does not depend on the repetition of words, but on God’s goodness, on God who is Love and Mercy. He wants our good and knows our needs even before we pray to him.
• Matthew 6, 9a: The first words: “Our Father” Abba Father, is the name which Jesus uses to address himself to God. It reveals the new relationship with God which should characterize the life of the communities (Ga 4, 6; Rm 8, 15). We say “Our Father” and not “My Father”. The adjective “our” places the accent on the awareness or knowledge that we all belong to the great human family of all races and creeds. To pray to the Father is to enter in intimacy with him, it also means to be sensitive to the cry of all the brothers and sisters who cry for their daily bread. It means to seek in the first place the Kingdom of God. The experience of God as our Father is the foundation of universal fraternity.
• Matthew 6, 9b-10: Three requests for the cause of God: The Name, the Kingdom, the Will. In the first part we ask that our relationship with God may be re-established again. To sanctify his Name: The name JAHVE means I am with you! God knows. In this NAME of God he makes himself known (Ex 3, 11-15). The name of God is sanctified when it is used with faith and not with magic; when it is used according to its true objective, that is not for oppression but for the liberty or freedom of the people and for the construction of the Kingdom. The coming of the Kingdom: The only Lord and King of life is God (Is 45, 21; 46, 9). The coming of the Kingdom is the fulfilment of all the hopes and promises. It is life in plenitude, the overcoming of frustration suffered with human kings and governments. This Kingdom will come when the Will of God will be fully accomplished. To do his Will: The will of God is expressed in his Law. His will be done on earth as it is in Heaven. In Heaven the sun and the stars obey the laws of their orbit and create the order of the universe (Is 48, 12-13). The observance of the law of God will be a source of order and well-being for human life.
• Matthew 6, 11-13: Four petitions for the cause of the brothers: Bread, Pardon, Victory, Liberty. In the second part of the Our Father we ask that the relationship among persons may be restored. The four requests show how necessary it is to transform or change the structures of the community and of society in order that all the sons and daughters of God may have the same dignity. The daily bread. In Exodus the people received the manna in the desert every day (Ex 16, 35). Divine Providence passed through the fraternal organization, the sharing. Jesus invites us to live a new Exodus, a new fraternal way of living together which will guarantee the daily bread for all (Mt 6, 34-44; Jo 6, 48-51). Forgive us our debts: Every 50 years, the Jubilee Year obliged people to forgive their debts. It was a new beginning (Lv 25, 8-55). Jesus announces a new Jubilee Year, “a year of grace from the Lord” (Lk 4, 19). The Gospel wants to begin everything anew! Do not lead us into temptation, do not put us to the test: In Exodus, people were tempted and fell (Dt 9, 6-12). The people complained and wanted to go back (Ex 16, 3; 17, 3). In the new Exodus, the temptation will be overcome by the force which people receive from God (I Co 10, 12-13). Deliver us from evil: The Evil One is Satan, who draws away from God and is a cause of scandal. He succeeds in entering in Peter (Mt 16, 23) and to tempt Jesus in the desert. Jesus overcomes him (Mt 4, 1-11). He tells us: “Courage, I have conquered the world!” (Jn 16, 33).
• Matthew 6, 14-15: Anyone who does not forgive will not be forgiven. In praying the Our Father, we pronounce the phrase which condemns us or absolves us. We say: “Forgive our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass us” (Mt 6, 12). We offer God the measure of pardon that we want. If we forgive very much, He will forgive us very much. If we forgive little, he will forgive little. If we do not forgive, he will neither forgive us.
4) Personal questions
• Jesus prayer says “forgive our debts”. In some countries it is translated as “forgive our offenses”. What is easier to forgive, the offenses or to forgive the debts?
• Christian nations of the Northern Hemisphere (Europe and USA) pray everyday: “Forgive our debts as we forgive those who are in debt with us!” But they do not forgive the external debt of poor countries of the Third World. How can we explain this terrible contradiction, source of impoverishment of millions of persons?
5) Concluding Prayer
Proclaim with me the greatness of Yahweh,
let us acclaim his name together.
I seek Yahweh and he answers me,
frees me from all my fears. (Ps 34,3-4)