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Letter to Parishioners

The Catholic Faith in Slow Motion (no. 50)

“We Dare to Say. Our Father . . . .”
            “The Lord's Prayer is truly the most perfect of prayers” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2773, 2774). As Christ is the perfection of humanity, so the Our Father is the perfection of prayer.
              Our Father . . . . We may tend to think that “Father” is a universal way of addressing God. However, “the expression God the Father had never been revealed to anyone” (Tertullian, cf. CCC 2779). For Jesus to address God by so intimate a title as abba, was entirely new. We dare to say, Our Father” only because the only begotten Son of the Father has come to share with us his own relationship with his Father. This is the meaning of the traditional expression, “The Lord's Prayer”. It is his prayer before it is ours. As St. Paul wrote, “The Father sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” (Galatians 4:6).
Hallowed be thy Name . . . . It is the first of the seven petitions. We pray that God will hallow his name in our hearts, in the Church, in the world. For only God can rightly hallow the name of God. Only God the Son can rightly hallow the name of God the Father.
Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven . . . . The second and third petitions pray that we might live our lives not according to our self will, not according to the old world of selfishness and sin (which we mistakenly call the “real world”), but in the new world to come. We pray that we might live in and toward our heavenly future. To give up our will for God's will is to be granted a foretaste of heaven on earth.
Give us this day our daily bread . . . . To truly address God as our father, to pray that we might abandon self-will for God's will, leads us to a childlike trust. We live in his today. We pray for our daily physical needs, we pray for the daily bread of love—enough courage, enough patience, enough faith, enough wisdom for today. The prayer evokes the miracle of the daily manna from heaven that kept God's people alive in the wilderness. If the people hoarded the manna, storing it away for tomorrow, they found it had spoiled during the night (Exodus 16). The prayer for bread also “contextualizes” the Lord's Prayer in the Holy Eucharist, where the Our Father becomes the table prayer of the Church.
Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us . . . The fifth petition dramatically and unmistakably binds our prayer to the prayer of Jesus, who prayed from the Cross: Father, forgive them. The one who joins in the Son's filial prayer to the Father, lives each day by the “bread of forgiveness—forgiveness received and forgiveness given. Because the grace that forgives is the same grace that enables us to forgive.
Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil . . . . Here, temptation means especially all that would tempt us to abandon our child-like trust in the Father. For this would mean to deny our faith in Christ who has imparted to us his own sonship, his own relationship to his Father. This, after all is the hidden threat within any and every evil from which we cry to be delivered—the betrayal of our Father in heaven who has been revealed to us by his Son our Savior.

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