DAILY GOSPEL COMMENTARY: “THIS IS HOW YOU ARE TO PRAY: ‘OUR FATHER'”
(Mt 6:7–15 ).
(Mt 6:7–15 ).
Gospel of Thursday, 11th week of Ordinary Time
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.”
Gospel Commentary from Pope Francis
Catechesis on the Lord’s Prayer, Dec. 12, 2018
Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!
Let us continue on the path of catecheses on the Lord’s Prayer, which we began last week. Jesus places on the lips of his disciples a short, audacious prayer, made up of seven requests — a number that, in the Bible, is not random, but indicates fullness. I say audacious because, had Christ not suggested it, probably none of us — indeed, none of the most well-known theologians — would dare pray to God in this way.
In fact Jesus invites his disciples to approach God and to confidently address several requests to him: first in regard to him and then in regard to us. There is no preamble to the ‘Our Father’. Jesus does not teach formulas for one to ‘ingratiate oneself’ to the Lord, but instead invites us to pray to Him by knocking down the barriers of awe and fear. He does not tell us we should address God by calling him ‘Almighty’, ‘Most High’, [by saying,] ‘You, who are so distant from us, I am a wretched man’: no, he does not say this, but simply ‘Father’, with total simplicity, as children address their father. And this word, “Father”, expresses confidence and filial trust.
The ‘Our Father’ prayer sinks its roots in the concrete reality of mankind. For example, it has us ask for bread, daily bread: a simple but essential request, which indicates that faith is not a matter of an ‘adornment’, detached from life, which arises when all other needs have been satisfied. If anything, prayer begins with life itself. Prayer, Jesus teaches us, does not begin in human life after the stomach is full: rather, it settles in wherever a person is, anyone who is hungry, who weeps, who struggles, who suffers and who wonders ‘why?’. Our first prayer, in a certain sense, was the wail that accompanied the first breath. In that newborn’s cry the fate of our whole life was announced: our constant hunger, our constant thirst, our search for happiness.
In prayer, Jesus does not seek to extinguish the person; he does not seek to anaesthetize him or her. He does not want us to tone down the demands and requests, learning to bear all things. Instead, he wants all suffering, all distress to soar heavenward and become dialogue.
Having faith, someone said, is a habit of crying out.
We all need to be like Bartimaeus in the Gospel (cf. Mk 10:46-52) — let us recall that passage of the Gospel: Bartimaeus, the son of Timaeus — that blind man who was begging at the gates of Jericho. He had so many good people around him telling him to keep quiet: ‘Be quiet! The Lord is passing by. Be quiet. Do not disturb. The Master has much to do; do not disturb him. You are annoying with your cries. Do not disturb’. But he did not heed those suggestions: with blessed persistence, he insisted that his wretched condition might finally encounter Jesus. And he cried louder! And the polite people said: ‘No, he is the Master, please! You are making a bad impression!’. And he cried out because he wanted to see; he wanted to be healed. “Jesus, have mercy on me!” (cf. v. 47). Jesus heals his sight and says: “your faith has made you well” (v. 52), as if to explain that the decisive element of his healing was that prayer, that invocation shouted out with faith, stronger than the ‘common sense’ of many people who wanted him to keep quiet. Prayer not only precedes salvation, but in some way already contains it, because it frees one from the despair of those who do not believe in a way out of many unbearable situations.
Of course, then, believers also feel the need to praise God. The Gospels offer us the jubilant exclamation that gushes forth from Jesus’ heart, full of wonder, grateful to the Father (cf. Mt 11:25-27). The first Christians even felt the need to add a doxology to the text of the Lord’s Prayer (cf. Mt 11:25-27): “for thine is the power and the glory for ever” (Didache, 8:2).
But none of us is obliged to embrace the theory that someone advanced in the past, namely, that the prayer of supplication may be a weak form of faith, while the more authentic prayer would be pure praise, that which seeks God without the burden of any request. No, this is not true. The prayer of supplication is authentic; it is spontaneous; it is an act of faith in God who is Father, who is good, who is almighty. It is an act of faith in me, who am small, sinful, needy. And for this reason prayer, in order to ask for something, is quite noble. God is the Father who has immense compassion for us, and wants his children to speak to him without fear, directly calling him ‘Father’; or amid difficulties saying: ‘Lord, what have you done to me?’. For this reason we can tell him everything, even the things that are distorted and incomprehensible in our life. And he promised us that he would be with us for ever, until the last day we shall spend on this earth. Let us pray the ‘Our Father’, beginning this way, simply: ‘Father’, or ‘Dad’. And he understands us and loves us very much.
VIDEO COMMENTARY ON TODAY’S GOSPEL
TOPIC: DO YOU KNOW THAT THE LORD’S PRAYER TEACHES YOU TO DEPEND ON GOD AND TO FORGIVE OTHERS MORE?
In today’s gospel reading, Jesus teaches us how to pray and to be a forgiving person. The Lord’s Prayer appears in Matthew, the longer version, and in Luke, the shorter version. Both are divinely inspired and we can trust that they help us to actualize the essence of Christianity ⏤ to acknowledge our dependence on God and to follow His commandment of love which has, at its focal point, forgiveness.
TOPIC 2: How can your prayer create miracles for yourself and for others?
Today’s gospel shows Jesus teaching his disciples how to pray. He starts by telling them that words alone are not enough. I, myself, am guilty of going through the motions of prayer but my mind is somewhere else.
Jesus teaches a simple prayer in the Our Father, which we all learn early in our Christian life. It is a very powerful prayer because it comes directly from Jesus. But I never realized it until I heard Fr. Fernando Suarez, healing priest, give a homily. I was then assigned by my company in Sydney Australia back in 2008 and I was asked to become a catcher for those who will be “slain” — or in lay man’s terms, fall to the ground — when Fr. Suarez goes around to touch the foreheads of those he prays over. In his homily, I distinctly recall his recollection of his gift of healing first manifested itself at the age of 16. An old lady was very sick — I forgot what sickness it was but definitely it required a miracle for healing.
Fr. Suarez was initially surprised at the request for prayover that the only words he could utter were those of the Our Father. After a sincere Our Father, the lady was immediately healed. The challenge for us is to be “present” when we pray the Our Father or even the Hail Mary so that our prayer will truly pierce our hearts as it travels to the ears of our God. We must realize that prayer does not transform God but transforms us. Because our Father already knows what we need even before we ask. “Your Father knows what you need before you ask him.” (Matthew 6:8). Only if, we have that desire to be in the present when we pray will our prayers truly be effective.
Perhaps, as we pray the Our Father, we can focus on a particular phrase and dwell on it for some time before we move on to the next phrase. Is it “your will be done” because you have entrusted to Him already an important decision or situation regarding your job, a business, a loved one, a relationship, finance, a trip or whatever.
Is it “give us this day our daily bread” because you have material and physical needs? [You may have lost your job, need money to pay your utility bills or loans, or you hunger for some spiritual upliftment.
Is it “forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us?” This needs our utmost reflection because it is about forgiving and reconciling with somebody. Jesus also teaches us that whatever we pray for, in words of our own, it must be heartfelt and sincere.
For our minds not to wander, we need to shut ourselves off from everything around us and just focus on our Lord — in adoration, contrition, thanksgiving and supplication. And oftentimes, in our own need and desperation, we seek the help of others to pray with us. If our Community storms the gates of heaven in sincere prayer for a miracle, if this is part of God’s plan, He will make this happen.
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