TUESDAY, 1ST WEEK OF LENT MASS READINGS AND GOSPEL COMMENTARIES: “THIS IS HOW YOU ARE TO PRAY. OUR FATHER (Mt 6:7-17)
TUESDAY, FIRST WEEK OF LENT
Thus says the Lord: Just as from the heavens the rain and snow come down and do not return there till they have watered the earth, making it fertile and fruitful, giving seed to the one who sows and bread to the one who eats, so shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth; it shall not return to me void, but shall do my will, achieving the end for which I sent it.
R. From all their distress God rescues the just.
Glorify the Lord with me,
let us together extol his name.
I sought the Lord, and he answered me
and delivered me from all my fears.
Look to him that you may be radiant with joy,
and your faces may not blush with shame.
When the poor one called out, the Lord heard,
and from all his distress he saved him.
The Lord has eyes for the just,
and ears for their cry.
The Lord confronts the evildoers,
to destroy remembrance of them from the earth.
When the just cry out, the Lord hears them,
and from all their distress he rescues them.
The Lord is close to the brokenhearted;
and those who are crushed in spirit he saves.
VERSE BEFORE THE GOSPEL
Non in solo pane vivit homo, sed in omni verbo quod procédit de ore Dei.
Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.
“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.
(14) “If you forgive men their transgressions, your heavenly Father will forgive you. (15) But if you do not forgive men, neither will your Father forgive your transgressions.”
- 7-8 Jesus condemns the superstitious notion that long prayers are needed to attract God’s attention. True piety is not so much a matter of the amount of words as of the frequency and the love with which the Christian turns towards God in all the events, great or small, of his day. Vocal prayer is good, and necessary; but the words count only if they express our inner feelings.
- 9-13 The Our Father is, without any doubt, the most commented-on passage in all Sacred Scripture. Numerous great Church writers have left us commentaries full of poetry and wisdom. The early Christians, taught by the precepts of salvation, and following the divine commandment, centred their prayer on this sublime and simple form of words given them by Jesus. And the last Christians, too, will raise their hearts to say the Our Father for the last time when they are on the point of being taken to heaven. In the meantime, from childhood to death, the Our Father is a prayer which fills us with hope and consolation. Jesus fully realized how helpful this prayer would be to us. We are grateful to him for giving it to us, to the Apostles for passing it on to us and, in the case of most Christians, to our mothers for teaching it to us in our infancy. So important is the Lord’s Prayer that from apostolic times it has been used, along with the Creed, the Ten Commandments and the Sacraments, as the basis of Christian catechesis. Catechumens were introduced to the life of prayer by the Our Father, and our catechisms today use it for that purpose.
- St Augustine says that the Lord’s Prayer is so perfect that it sums up in a few words everything man needs to ask God for (cf. Sermon, 56). It is usually seen as being made up of an invocation and seven petitions — three to do with praise of God and seven with the needs of men.
- 9 It is a source of great consolation to be able to call God “our Father”. Jesus, the Son of God, teaches men to invoke God as Father because we are indeed his children, and should feel towards him in that way.
- “The Lord… is not a tyrannical master or a rigid and implacable judge: he is our Father. He speaks to us about our lack of generosity, our sins, our mistakes; but he does so in order to free us from them, to promise us his friendship and his love…
- “A child of God treats the Lord as his Father. He is not obsequious and servile, he is not merely formal and well-mannered: he is completely sincere and trusting” (J. Escrivá, Christ is passing by, 64).
- “Hallowed be thy name”: in the Bible a person’s “name” means the same as the person himself. Here the name of God means God himself. Why pray that his name be hallowed, sanctified? We do not mean sanctification in the human sense — leaving evil behind and drawing closer to God — for God is holiness itself. God, rather, is sanctified when his holiness is acknowledged and honoured by his creatures which is what this first petition of the Our Father means (cf. Catechism of the Council of Trent, IV, 10).
- 10 “Thy kingdom come”: this brings up again the central idea of the Gospel of Jesus Christ — the coming of the Kingdom. The Kingdom of God is so identical with the life and work of Jesus Christ, that the Gospel is referred to now as the Gospel of Jesus Christ, now as the Gospel of the Kingdom (Mt 9:35)[…]. The coming of the Kingdom of God is the realization of God’s plan of salvation in the world. […].
- “Thy will be done”: this third petition expresses two desires.
- The first is that man identify humbly and unconditionally with God’s will — abandonment in the arms of his Father God.
- The second that the will of God be fulfilled, that man cooperate with it in full freedom. For example, God’s will is to be found in the moral aspect of the divine law — but this law is not forced on man. One of the signs of the coming of the Kingdom is man’s loving fulfilment of God’s will. The second part of the petition, “on earth as it is in heaven” means that, just as the angels and saints in heaven are fully at one with God’s will, so — we desire should the same thing obtain on earth.
- Our effort to do God’s will proves that we are sincere when we say the words, “Thy will be done”. For our Lord says, “Not every one who says to me, “Lord, Lord’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven” (Mt 7:21). “Anyone, then, who sincerely repeats this petition, ‘Fiat voluntas tua’, must, at least in intention, have done this already” (St Teresa of Avila, Way of Perfection, chap. 36).
- 11 In making this fourth petition, […]. Jesus does not want us to pray for wealth or to be attached to material things, but to seek and make sober use of what meets our needs. Hence, in Matthew as well as in Luke (Lk 11:2), there is reference to having enough food for every day. This fourth petition, there has to do with moderate use of food and material things — far from the extremes of opulence and misery; as God already taught in the Old Testament.
- “Give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food which is needful for me, lest I be full, and deny thee, and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’ or lest I be poor, and steal, and profane the name of my God” (Prov 30:8).
- The Fathers of the Church interpreted the bread asked for here, not only as material food, but also as referring to the Blessed Eucharist, without which our spirit cannot stay alive.
- According to the Catechism of the Council of Trent (cf. IV, 13, 21) the Eucharist is called our daily bread because it is offered daily to God in the Holy Mass and because we should worthily receive it, every day if possible, as St Ambrose advises: “If the bread is daily, why do you take it only once a year…? Receive daily what is of benefit to you daily! So live that you may deserve to receive it daily!” (De Sacramentis, V, 4).
- 12 “Debts”: clearly, here, in the sense of sin. In the Aramaic of Jesus’ time the same word was used for offence and debt. In this fifth petition, then, we admit that we are debtors because we have offended God. […]. Recognizing our sins is the first step in every conversion to God. It is not a question of recognizing that we have sinned in the past but of confessing our present sinful condition. Awareness of our sinfulness makes us realize our religious need to have recourse to the only One who can cure it. Hence the advantage of praying insistently, using the Lord’s Prayer, to obtain God’s forgiveness time and again. The second part of this petition is a serious call to forgive our fellow-men: for we cannot dare to ask God to forgive us if we are not ready to forgive others. The Christian needs to realize what this prayer implies: unwillingness to forgive others means that one is condemning oneself (see notes on Mt 5:23-24 and 18:21-35).
- 13 “And lead us not into temptation”: “We do not ask to be totally exempt from temptation, for human life is one continuous temptation. (cf. Job 7:1). What, then, do we pray for in this petition? We pray that the divine assistance may not forsake us, lest having been deceived, or worsted, we should yield to temptation; and that the grace of God may be at hand to succour us when our strength fails, to refresh and invigorate us in our trials” (Catechism of the Council of Trent, IV, 15, 14) […].
- “But deliver us from evil”: in this petition, which, in a way, sums up the previous petitions, we ask the Lord to free us from everything our enemy does to bring us down; we cannot be free of him unless God himself free us, in response to our prayers.
- This sentence can also be translated as “Deliver us from the Evil One”, that is to say, the devil, who is in the last analysis the author of all evils to which we are prone.
- In making this request we can be sure that our prayer will be heard, because Jesus Christ, when he was on the point of leaving this world, prayed to the Father for the salvation of all men: “I do not pray that thou shouldst take them out of the world, but that thou shouldst keep them from the evil one” (Jn 17:15).
- 14-15 In vv. 14 and 15 St Matthew gives us a sort of commentary of our Lord on the fifth petition of the Our Father.
- A God who forgives is a wonderful God. But if God, who is thrice-holy, has mercy on the sinner, how much more ought we forgive others — we sinners, who know from our own experience the wretchedness of sin. No one on earth is perfect. Just as God loves us, even though we have defects, and forgives us, we should love others, even though they have defects, and forgive them. If we wait to love people who have no defects, we shall never love anyone. If we wait until others mend their ways or apologize, we will scarcely ever forgive them. But then we ourselves will never be forgiven. “All right: that person has behaved badly towards you. But, haven’t you behaved worse towards God?” (St. Josemaria, The Way, 686).
- Thus, forgiving those who have offended us makes us like our Father, God: “In loving our enemies there shines forth in us some likeness to God our Father, who, by the death of his Son, ransomed from everlasting perdition and reconciled to himself the human race, which before was most unfriendly and hostile to him” (Catechism of the Council of Trent, IV, 14, 19).
VIDEO GOSPEL COMMENTARY
TOPIC: DO YOU KNOW THAT THE “OUR FATHER” PRAYER THAT JESUS TAUGHT US IS POWERFUL?
In today’s gospel reading, Jesus teaches his disciples the perfect prayer. With this prayer, we can confidently rely on God to respond to our needs – those that matter from here to eternity.
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