|Posted by cfcbermuda on August 18, 2010 at 6:35 AM|
The daughter of Karl Marx, the founder of Communism, once confessed to a friend that she had never been brought up in any religion and had never been religious. "But," she said, "the other day I came across a beautiful prayer which I very much wish could be true." "And what was that prayer?" she was asked. Slowly the daughter of Karl Marx began repeating in German, "Our Father, who art in heaven..."
Jesus has told us that no one knows the Father, but only the Son (ch 10). The disciples discern this as they observe Jesus praying, They want to know the one who keeps their Lord so absorbed in prayer. They realize that there remains something more to their relationship with Jesus - something only Jesus can reveal to them. As they watch Jesus pray, they recognize their own vital need to pray. They cannot know Jesus completely until they pray like him - and with him.
However, no one could have expected what Jesus teaches them in response to their request. For it was unheard of in Jesus' time to address God personally as "Father" Such a thing would have been considered shocking and sacrilegious. Yet since his childhood, Jesus has been busy about his Father's affairs as he revealed in the temple. It had been promised to Zechariah that John the Baptist would turn the hearts of children to their fathers. In an extraordinary way, in Jesus' revelation, that prophecy now comes true.
Just as Jesus' whole life is focused on the Father, so too is Christian prayer. Jesus emphasizes two dynamics of prayer: Persistence and paternal care. You and I may wonder why Jesus endorses the efficacy of persistence over the exigencies of friendship. Yet, there is a divine logic to his plan. True friends accommodate even the least requests of their friends - at times in a lavish, non-discriminating, no-questions-asked kind of way. Love wants to please the beloved. Yet to pray with persistence purifies the desires of our heart. It filters out mere impulse and caprice. Persistence blesses you and me with real certainty about what we want. You and I will persist in only those things that truly matter. A lack of persistence often betrays a lackadaisical spirit about our soul's longing. It is just this sort of persistence later in Luke's gospel that returns the prodigal son to the arms of his father.
Thus you and I must ask like the blind man whose petition the disciples tried to squelch (ch 18 ). We must seek like the woman in search of her lost silver piece (ch 15). In this regard, you and I imitate Jesus himself who has come to seek out and save what was lost (ch 19). We must know, for God will treat us like the servants responding to the knock of their master when he comes. By virtue of all these efforts you and I offer the Father the chance to manifest his paternal love and care. Conversely, the lack of persistent, faithful prayer renders our knocking useless (ch 6).
It is the hallmark of the Father to be good to the wicked. Even on the natural plane, fathers cannot resist the entreaties of their children. God the Father gives us what you and I ask, not because we are good, but because God is good. Jesus today asks, "What father would give his child a snake or a scorpion?" Unfortunately, you and I hear of far worse fathers in the news. But God the Father gives his children power to tread on snakes and scorpions. In other words, to pray the way Jesus teaches us - to pray to the Father - invests us with the very authority of the Father. Thereby you and I can rise above our natural wickedness and be compassionate as the Father is. (ch 6)
In our first reading, we saw Abraham bargaining with God over how many just people it would take to save Sodom and Gomorrah. But like when children bargain with parents, they know there is a line in the sand. In this case it was ten good people.
The Father draws you and me into the fullness of love that he shares with his Son by giving us the Holy Spirit in Baptism and Confirmation. Thus, when you and I pray the Our Father, we are transformed in holiness like John the Baptist, the Blessed Virgin Mary, Elizabeth, Zechariah and Simeon at the beginning of Luke's gospel - all of whom were filled with the Holy Spirit as a fruit of their prayer. In short, as we pray the Our Father, Jesus does not simply reveal the Father to us - in the Lord's prayer, Jesus reveals you and me to ourselves.
Do you and I understand God as "our Father" merely as a metaphor or as reality? Do we pray the Lord's Prayer daily with child-like trust?