Thursday, June 22, 2017
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 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.
• The Gospel today presents the prayer of the Our Father, the Psalm which Jesus has left us. There are two redactions of the Our Father, of Luke (Lk 11, 1-4 and of Matthew (Mt 6, 7-13). The redaction of Luke is briefer. Luke writes for the community coming from paganism. He tries to help the persons who are beginning a path of prayer. In the Gospel of Matthew, the Our Father is found in the part of the Discourse of the Mountain, where Jesus orientates the disciples in the practice of the three works of piety: alms giving (Mt 6, 1-4), prayer (Mt 6, 5-15) and fasting (Mt 6, 26-18). The Our father forms part of a catechesis for the converted Jews. They were used to pray, but they had certain vices which Matthew wanted to correct. In the Our Father, Jesus summarizes all his teaching in seven petitions addressed to the Father. In these seven petitions, he takes the promises of the Old Testament and orders 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 criticises the persons for whom prayer was a repetition of magic formulae, 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 the 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 the 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 the brothers and sisters, to nature. Familiarity with God is not intimist, but expresses the awareness of belonging to the great human family, in which all persons participate; of all races and of all creeds: Our Father. 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 the 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) the sanctification of the Name revealed in Exodus on the occasion of the liberation from Egypt; (b) to ask for the coming of the Kingdom, expected by the people after the fall of the monarchy; (c) to ask for the fulfilment of God’s Will, revealed in the Law which was in the centre of the Covenant. The Name, the Kingdom, the Law: are three axis 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 in such a way that his Kingdom of love and of communion becomes a reality that his Will may be done on earth as it is in Heaven. In heaven, 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 persons. The four petitions indicate how the structures of the community and of society should be transformed in such a way that all the children of God may live with equal dignity. The daily bread: “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 to follow 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 fraternal organization. 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”? The rich countries, all of which are Christian, are getting richer, thanks to the external debt. 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). 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 on Moses who guided them. Freedom from Evil: evil is the Evil One, Satan, who seeks to deviate and who in many ways, seeks to lead persons not to follow the path of the Kingdom, indicated by Jesus. He tempted Jesus to abandon the Project 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 reason of scandal. He also entered in Peter (Mt 16, 23) and he also tempted Jesus in the desert. Jesus overcame him. (Mt 4, 1-11).
4) Personal questions
• Jesus says “forgive us our debts”, but today we say “forgive us our offences”, what is easier to forgive offences or to cancel the debts?
• How do you usually pray the Our Father: mechanically or putting all your life and all your efforts in the words you pronounce?
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)