7 March 2006: Tuesday of the 1st Week of Lent
Matthew 6, 7-15: The “Our Father” in the Lord’s Prayer
My mother taught the Lord’s Prayer when I was very young. And from then on, I learned to recite the Lord’s Prayer every day: from classroom prayer to our family's rosary before bedtime. But when I learn Theology and pray about it, the Lord’s Prayer has something more to it than a child’s prayer. In fact, a child can hardly understand the meaning behind each of the words in the Lord’s Prayer. I guess we are supposed to discover and deepen our understanding of the prayer as we grow in faith and in discipleship.
First, the outline of the Lord’s Prayer is important. The first three petitions are about God, and the second three petitions are about our needs and necessities. The order does not come accidentally. Jesus teaches us to first put God in the foremost of our attention, and then, once putting ourselves in the presence of God, that we turn to our needs and supplications. This affirms the fact that when we come to church, the first thing that comes out of our mouths are our needs, what we will for ourselves, what we want for our lives --- even an attempt at bending God’s will to what we desire. But Jesus teaches us that prayer is about submitting our will to the will of God, aligning our desires with God’s desire. And thus, to align our desires and our wills to God, we must first acknowledge and know intimately what God will for us.
The second part of the Lord’s Prayer is about our essential needs as human beings. When we pray for our daily bread, we pray for our present needs necessary to maintain our lives. When we pray for forgiveness, we pray about our past, about reconciling and accepting what has been: our darkest secrets, our shame, our sins, our personal history and circumstance that imprisons us from moving on. And when we pray that the Lord deliver us from temptations (see homily about temptations: translates as test), then we pray that we will be forever faithful to our commitment to God in the future.
Having said this, I would like to reflect on the first two words in the Lord’s Prayer: Our Father (Below are homilies about the Lord’s Prayer and I had different reflections on “Thy will be done”, “The Kingdom of God”, and “Temptations”).
Father. When Jesus prayed, he used “Abba” translated closely and intimately as the endearing name we call our fathers: itay, papa, daddy. These words draw out in us a deep, heartfelt and intimate memory of the father we love. The memory that helps me understand father is a story repeatedly told by my mother. When I was an infant, my daddy used to water the house and the surrounding area to cool me. Later on, Daddy told me that he planted cacao trees under the coconut groves when I was born. Daddy was not a person whom I feared, but loved. When he passed away sixteen years ago (His death anniversary is March 3), the term, “daddy” when I pray and talk to him wherever I am (as I prepare for mass, as I face a problem, when I am hurt, or when I need someone to talk to), is very much the same as the first word in the Lord’s Prayer. Jesus, like me, talked to His father intimately. And he teaches us to talk to God, our Father as intimately as possible.
This is definitely a great relief for us: Jesus has brought God into our hearts and intimately involved in our lives. You see, in our study for ancient culture, there were many gods.
Our. Our tells us that Jesus’ father is the father of us all. And thus, with one father, our relationship with one another is defined and clear: we are brothers and sisters. And yes, when we die, even our parents and grandparents are our brothers and sisters. And our experiences may tell us our shared humanity. I think this is behind the gesture of holding hands during the Lord’s Prayer at mass: that we acknowledge our oneness culturally. And this is why the Lord’s Prayer when sung should be sung together (not just the choir) or recited as one family of God.
Today, we reflect on our relationship with God. Who is God to you? You can have several indicators. When we sin, do we avoid the Church because we believe that God will punish us? Do we feel so unworthy of coming to mass so we avoid going to mass because we know our sins? Or, do you have a belief that God will get back at you when you do wrong?
Second, how do we regard pain? When I was young, the smack on the buttocks was a punishment for the faults I have. Now that I have disciplined my students as a teacher (or as father to them), I realize that I too do not want to hurt them, but I have to for them to learn. The father who disciplines, also gets hurt in the process. The pain we experience sometimes brings us some good: when we are in pain, we know that something is wrong. Pain becomes a wake-up call. Without pain, we wouldn’t know when something is wrong. It is like a loving father disciplining us. When we experience disappointments, failures, heartaches or even physical pain, how do we regard them: as punishment, discipline, or as challenge? These may indicate how we truly regard God.
As we enter into the season of Lent, we redefine our relationship with God who is father to us all.
*photo from Getty Images.