Thursday, June 21, 2018
1) Opening prayer
our hope and our strength,
without You we falter.
Help us to follow Christ
and to live according to Your will.
Who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
2) Gospel Reading - Matthew 6:7-15
Jesus said to his disciples: "In praying, do not babble like the pagans, who think that they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them. Your Father knows what you need before you ask him. "This is how you are to pray:
'Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, thy Kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.'
"If you forgive others their transgressions, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your transgressions."
• The Gospel today presents the prayer of the Our Father, the Psalm which Jesus has left us. There are two versions of the Our Father: Lk 11:1-4 and Mt 6:7-13. The wording of Luke is briefer. Luke writes for the community coming from paganism. He tries to help the people who are beginning a path of prayer. In the Gospel of Matthew, the Our Father is found in the part of the discourse on the mountain, where Jesus guides the disciples in the practice of the three works of piety: almsgiving (Mt 6:1-4), prayer (Mt 6:5-15) and fasting (Mt 6:26-18). The Our Father is a personal prayer that forms part of a catechesis for the converted Jews. They were used to prayer, but they had certain vices which Matthew wanted to correct. In the Our Father, Jesus summarizes all of His teaching in seven petitions addressed to the Father. In these seven petitions, He takes the promises of the Old Testament and orders us to ask the Father to help us to realize them. The first three refer to our relationship with God. The other four have to do with the community relationship that we have with others.
• Matthew 6:7-8: The introduction to the Our Father. Jesus criticizes the people for whom prayer was a repetition of magic formula of strong words addressed to God to oblige Him to respond to their petitions and needs. Anyone who prays has to seek, in the first place, the Kingdom, much more than personal interests. The acceptance of prayer by God does not depend on the repetition of words, but rather on the goodness of God who is love and mercy. He wants our good and He knows our needs, even before we pray.
• Matthew 6:9a: The first words: “Our Father in Heaven!” “Abba, Father, is the name which Jesus uses to address Himself to God. It expresses the intimacy that He has with God and manifests a new relationship with God which should characterize the life of people in the Christian communities (Ga 4:6; Rm 8:15). Matthew adds to the name of Father the adjective our and the expression in Heaven. The true prayer is a relationship which unites us to the Father, to brothers and sisters. Familiarity with God is not self-centered, but expresses the awareness of belonging to the great human family in which all people participate, of all races and creeds. To pray to the Father is to enter in intimacy with Him. It is also to be in harmony with the cry of all the brothers and sisters. It is to seek the kingdom of God in the first place. The experience of God the Father is the foundation of this universal fraternity.
• Matthew 6:9b-10: The three petitions for the cause of God: the Name, the Kingdom, the Will. In the first part of the Our Father, we ask to restore our relationship with God. To do this Jesus asks (a) for the sanctification of the Name revealed in Exodus on the occasion of the liberation from Egypt; (b) for the coming of the Kingdom, expected by the people after the fall of the monarchy; (c) to ask for the fulfillment of God’s Will, revealed in the Law which was in the center of the Covenant. The Name, the Kingdom, the Law: three terms taken from the Old Testament which express how the new relationship with God should be. The three petitions indicate that it is necessary to live in intimacy with the Father, making His name known, making Him loved, doing it in such a way that His kingdom of love and communion becomes a reality that His will may be done on earth as it is in Heaven. In the heavens, the sun and the stars obey the law of God and create the order of the universe. The observance of the law of God “on earth as it is in heaven” should be a source and a mirror of harmony and of well being for the whole creation. This renewed relationship with God becomes visible only in the renewed relationship among us, which on His part is the object of other four petitions: our daily bread, the forgiveness of debts, not to fall into temptation, to deliver us from evil.
• Matthew 6:11-13: The four petitions for the brothers: bread, forgiveness, victory, liberty. In the second part of the Our Father we ask to restore and renew the relationship between people. The four petitions indicate how the structures of community and society should be transformed such that all of God’s children may live with equal dignity. “Daily bread” (Mt 6:11) recalls the daily manna in the desert (Ex 16:1-36). The manna was a “test” to see if the people were capable of following the law of the Lord (Ex 16:4), that is, if they were capable to store food only for one day as a sign of faith that Divine Providence passes through the community. Jesus invites them to walk toward a new Exodus, toward a new way of fraternal living together which can guarantee bread for all. Forgiveness of debts: the request of “forgiveness of debts” (6:12) recalls the sabbatical year which obliged creditors to forgive all the debts to the brothers (Dt 15:1-2). The objective of the sabbatical year and of the jubilee year (Lev 25:1-22) was to do away with inequalities and to begin anew. How to pray today: “Forgive us our debts as we have forgiven those who are in debt to us”? Not to fall into temptation: the petition “not to fall into temptation” (6:13) reminds us of the errors committed in the desert, where the people fell into temptation (Ex 18:1-7; Nb 20:1-13; Dt 9, 7-29) and to imitate Jesus who was tempted and obtained victory (Mt 4:1-17). In the desert, the temptation pushed people to follow other paths, to go back, not to undertake the road of liberation and to be demanding to Moses who guided them. Freedom from Evil: the Evil One, Satan, seeks to cause deviation and who, in many ways, seeks to lead people to not follow the path of the kingdom, indicated by Jesus. He tempted Jesus to abandon the plans of the Father and to be the Messiah according to the idea of the Pharisees, the scribes, and other groups. The Evil One takes us away from God and is a cause of scandal. He also entered into Peter (Mt 16:23) and he also tempted Jesus in the desert. Jesus overcame him. (Mt 4:1-11).
4) Personal questions
• What is the hardest part of forgiving someone?
• How do you usually pray the Our Father: mechanically, or putting all your life and all your efforts in the words you pronounce?
• “Protect us from evil” and “protect us from the Evil One” have different nuances. Which is better? Which do you ask and why?
5) Concluding Prayer
The mountains melt like wax,
before the Lord of all the earth.
The heavens proclaim His saving justice,
all nations see His glory. (Ps 97:5-6)