Daily Reflection
March 14th, 2000
Kathy Kanavy
Institute for Priestly Formation
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Isaiah 55:10-11
Psalms 34:4-7, 16-19
Matthew 6:7-15

Let’s imagine that you and I finally decide that it’s time “to get in shape” through more regular exercise.  So we go to the gym and ask an instructor to guide us in our preferred mode of exercise.  The instructor shows us the basics, gives us the routine, and encourages us to practice these exercises regularly.  The result: within a few weeks we feel much more alive, more like ourselves and much healthier.

In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus, offers us a similar guide to the basics.  He gives us the routine in teaching us what we are always learning and relearning, how to pray.  

Jesus says…”In your prayer do not rattle on like the pagans.  They think they will win a hearing by the sheer multiplication of words….  Your Father knows what you need before you ask him….” 
Jesus urges us to keep it simple and to let prayer come from our hearts, namely from the depths of our deepest needs and yearnings.

And so Jesus gives us “The Lord’s Prayer”.  Let me suggest a way of looking at the “Our Father” not only as a prayer to say, but also as a way that our Teacher, Jesus, instructs us in how to “exercise” our hearts in the Christian life.  How might this prayer be a roadmap for our Lenten journey?

“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name…”     
PRAISE:  We begin all things acknowledging the love of the One who created us, sustains us, and gives us life this day.  This fundamental posture of heart roots us, orders us and opens us to receive from Him who gives us everything.

“Your kingdom come…”
RELATIONSHIP:  The word kingdom can be translated as “relationship”, revealed to us most completely through the relationship of the persons of the Trinity.  In this beautiful reality, each “person” is always “for” the other, lost in a self-forgetfulness.

“Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
HUMILITY:  What peace there is in asking for all that we need and at the same time surrendering our will, our plans, and our desires to be shaped and transformed into His.

“Give us today our daily bread…”
RELIANCE:  To rely on God to give us all that we need for today is to know that what He gives is far more than enough.  

“And forgive us the wrong we have done as we forgive those who wrong us.”
FORGIVENESS:  Daily repentance for attitudes and actions that come out of doing so much on our own leads to a deep grace of knowing ourselves as sinners, poor yet receiving lavish love in the midst of our failings.  This truth spills over into compassion and forgiveness of others.  A colleague of mine often says, “In every act of forgiveness, the Church is reborn.”  How powerful!

“Subject us not to the trial but deliver us from the evil one.”
DEPENDENCE:  Only God can save us.  Only God can protect us and those we love from what we most fear.  He is eager to deliver us…if we let Him.

In simplicity, our Instructor, Jesus, leads us into “exercising” our hearts through praise, relationship, humility, reliance, forgiveness and dependence.  Of these, what Jesus reiterates as most important is forgiveness.  He urges us to forgive as we have been forgiven.  What we’ll find at the end our Lenten journey, we know in hope, is a taste of everlasting joy.  Happy exercising!

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