In this Thursday’s Gospel (Mt 6: 7-15) our Lord Jesus introduces the “Our Father” to His followers. This prayer is certainly a pillar of our Catholic faith. I find the Lord’s Prayer so comforting and yet so challenging, even disturbing. At times it feels like a downward slide from Heaven into the heart of life’s darkness.
In the previous day’s Gospel (Mt 6: 6) Jesus describes prayer as a private, secret moment with God in our “inner room”. This is the kind of prayer I always yearn for, full of gratitude, no petitions, not even words, just basking in the loving light of God, present within, and all around me. It feels like a vacation from life. To feel loved like that!
Unfortunately, this does not happen every day. There are times when I feel so dry and lost in darkness, where the fire within me has dwindled down to a small, smoldering ember. There are times when I feel so frustrated with the situation, or so anxious, that I don’t know what to do. It is always in these moments that I find myself going back to the Lord’s Prayer. It never fails to begin to put me back on track, with my Lord. It is my way back into the Light. I find myself praying the “Our Father” several times during the week. This prayer is no vacation from life. It strengthens us to confront the dangers of life, but it is not easy.
I try to pray it in a quiet place, slowly and carefully. It has such a blissful beginning. I feel so close to Jesus, praying with me, teaching me. Sometimes I even imagine myself with Him, on a Galilean hill, beneath the rim of the Milky Way, surrounded by the universe, in the presence of Abba, the tender Father. In my mind’s eye, Papa has blue eyes, like my handsome earthly father, Orlando, when he would hold me in his arms as a toddler. I feel so loved and protected. I am indeed in Heaven, with my loving God.
And I am not alone, but with all of humanity, saints and angels “hallowing” , praising, recognizing the goodness, the beauty, the truth of “His name!” Wow! This Kingdom is a kingdom of love and hope. The Will of the Father is all mercy and happiness for me.
Then, it seems, maybe not completely. I realize how much is required of me, so many difficult tests, so many painful experiences that might come. I must accept what God has in store for me. I say “Yes,” even knowing how prone I am to letting Him down.
In asking for “our daily bread,” I imagine Jesus, the Bread of Life. I can almost taste Him. I love Him so much. But somehow He reminds me of humanity’s constant challenge to find the daily bread, the basic things that we need to survive. I pray for my family, my friends: may they not lose their jobs. We have it so good in our country, but the threat of having to rely upon a food pantry or a homeless shelter is not so far away for most of us. I pray for the hundreds of millions of people without adequate shelter, nourishment, even water. I think about how little I do to be God’s instrument for the fulfillment of this petition— send money to relief agencies, work at St. Vincent de Paul, give $20 to a homeless person? Does that even make a dent? I find myself feeling helpless and guilty.
Then I ask forgiveness once again for the many sins I constantly repeat! My heart breaks when I imagine His Son on the Cross, because of these sins. I realize how undeserving I am. I remember my grudges and secret resentments. Can I forgive? I pray for so many brothers, sisters, parents and children in my own family, who cannot forgive each other. I pray for humanity, caught in a cycle of offense and counter-offense. Am I an instrument of God’s peace?
I am filled with the fear of giving in to so many temptations within and without me. Come on! Where is my confidence? Father, help me, help me! Deliver us from the evil inside of us. Help us to control ourselves!
And the evil from outside? The danger of violence, disease, accidents, natural disasters? The morning news remind us of so many ruined lives. I think of my atheist friends asking, “How could a loving God permit this?”
And then, abruptly, the prayer ends. Am I ready to say “Amen?” Do I believe with all my heart that God will actually answer all our pleas? I find myself forcing my eyes away from the not-so-far-away abyss of doubt. I frown. I approach the abyss. I jump and cry, “Lord!” And God always catches me in His loving hands. I begin to feel this strange peace, this hope that our God has the best plan for all of us. I believe that Supernatural Grace has touched me once again. Lord, why do You love me like this? Thank You, Beloved, King of Peace!
I sometimes think of this prayer as Jesus’ battle hymn. Yes, it has a somewhat bleak ending, but it “works”, it strengthens, it comforts. The extra ending that our Church fathers added explains why: “Because Thine is the Kingdom, the Power and the Glory.”
You better believe it! Amen!