(July 28, 2019 – Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time)
Lord, teach us to pray.
Greetings to you, my dear friends in Christ. While I’m away praying and studying (we can never stop in our learning and growing in faith, you know!), I pray that you are well and recovering from the storms of last weekend. In turn, I would ask you to pray for me (always, please!), that I might be the shepherd that God wants for our community.
Prayer is the meeting of God with us. If that sounds familiar, well, it should! That’s what Holy Communion is! That’s who Jesus is (God and man together). That’s what prayer is. So Jesus’ disciples (seeing Him pray) said to him, “Lord, teach us how to pray”. Jesus then gave them (and us) the great gift of The Lord’s Prayer (the Our Father…).
You might have heard recently about Pope Francis’ initiative to reword the last petition in the Italian translation of the Lord’s Prayer. (For anyone worried about this, there has been no initiative to alter the English translation, so no changes are in the works for us). The point of Pope Francis’ initiative here is to clarify the theology of the prayer for modern folks. He has rightly pointed out that God does not tempt us to sin (the Bible even says that directly in James 1:13). So, the question is, why are we asking God to lead us not into temptation?
The answer lies in the fact that the word ‘temptation’ is most commonly used nowadays for ‘an invitation to commit sin’. But there is another meaning for the same word in the original (Greek) language, and that is: a testing. God has and does often put people to the test. Most famously, Abraham and Isaac had their faith tested in the sacrifice of Isaac (Genesis 22:1-18). Likewise, Jesus tested the faith of the Canaanite woman (Matthew 15:21-28); while He also instructed His closest Apostles to “Watch and pray that you may not be subjected to the test (enter into temptation); the spirit is indeed willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matthew 26:41). This last instance is a direct tie to the Lord’s Prayer: “… Subject us not to the test, but deliver us from the Evil One.”
So, that’s what we’re asking of Our Father as we conclude the Lord’s Prayer. In this petition, God wants us to recognize our dependence on Him – that without His tender mercy to shield and protect us, the Devil’s temptations and manipulations would prove too much for us. In today’s reading, Abraham came to learn that God’s mercy is as abundant for 10 just people as for 50 or 100. How might God’s abundant blessings and mercy change our lives if we have the courage to ask? May we receive a share in the Holy Spirit in all the many activities of our lives together.
Peace to all of you, my friends, this Holy Day, and to all who love the Lord in simplicity of heart,