One Monk of the Order of Saint Benedict

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The Word of God and the Body of God reveal each other -- the homily worships both.

March 03, 2009

For Tuesday of the First Week of Lent

Isaiah 55:10-11
Matthew 6:7-15

In the first reading today, the Lord who is in heaven says his word shall come from his mouth to achieve his will.
His will shall be done.
Then, in his Gospel, the Lord tells us to pray that our Father’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Just before giving us this prayer, Jesus says our Father knows what we need before we ask him.
Our Father already knows, so the prayer Jesus teaches us does not begin with what we need.
The whole first half of the Lord’s Prayer leaves out what we need, and instead calls out for justice towards God.
Justice towards God: that he be hallowed; that his kingship win out; and that all the earth might do his will even as he himself sees to it in heaven.
Thus, the Lord’s Prayer is first of all our act of worship and our oath of obedience.
The prayer first upholds justice towards God, and only after that does it ask God for the mercy he already knows we need.
We need sustenance in time and above time; we need forgiveness; we need deliverance from temptation and all that is evil.
The Lord’s Prayer upholds God first, and only then what we need from him.
As Jesus says later in the same chapter as this Prayer [Mt. 6:33]: “seek first your heavenly Father’s kingdom and his justice, and all these things shall be yours as well.”
After teaching us to pray for mercies from God, Jesus turns immediately to tell us God’s mercy is conditional.
IF you forgive men their transgressions,
your heavenly Father will forgive you.
But IF you do not forgive men,
NEITHER will your Father forgive your transgressions.

While teaching us how to ask God for what we need, Jesus also firmly turns our attention away from ourselves, and toward God and our fellow men.
We can have a tendency to turn prayer around, and make ourselves the focus.
A few years ago, Americans made a bestseller of a book called “The Prayer of Jabez”.
Jabez and his prayer show up only once in the Bible [1 Chron. 4:10], and no more.
Here it is:
Jabez called on the God of Israel, saying,
“Oh that thou wouldst bless ME
and enlarge MY border,
and that thy hand might be with ME,
and that thou wouldst keep ME from harm
so that it might not hurt ME!”

“The Prayer of Jabez” is about ME, MY, ME, ME, ME.
The Son of God teaches us to pray quite otherwise.
To begin, the Lord’s Prayer is not voiced as the prayer of an individual, but as the shared prayer of siblings: not “MY Father”, but “OUR Father who art in heaven”.
In the Lord’s Prayer, justice towards God comes first.
Then, though we pray God for mercy toward ourselves, he gives it only if we give first to others.
Both the Lord’s Prayer and his Eucharistic Prayer turn us away from ourselves.
In the Lord’s Eucharistic Prayer, we hear about “my body” ... “given up for” others, and “my blood” ... shed for many others that their “sins may be forgiven.”
“Do this in memory of me!”
In the Body and Blood of Christ, we are covenant bound with the Way who gives himself to others, the Truth who gives himself to others, and the Life who gives himself to others.

That God Be Glorified in All