Psalms 86:3-4, 5-6, 9-10
“Lord, teach us to pray.”
In today’s Gospel, the disciples ask Jesus to teach them to pray. In the midst of these weeks of national tragedy, surely this cry lies within our hearts too, “Lord, teach us to pray.” Amidst the mixture of emotions—outrage, fear, devastation, sadness, hope, vulnerability, love—what does Jesus’ answer say to us this day?
“Father, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come.”
Immediately Jesus draws us into relationship with God as “Father.” The deepest significance here lies as we admit that we are “children:” dependent, weak, unknowing, and little ones who receive everything as gift. If we let ourselves think about this for a minute, this interior place is disarming. Immediately what is exposed is our pride: our desire to do it alone, our independence, and our lies that we are the ones who must be responsible. The truth is that, as we taste a “holy humility,” we know great relief. Of ourselves, we cannot save ourselves or those we love. We can act as best we know, but we need God, to lead us and to guide us, to protect us and to save us. In this posture of heart, as children receiving, we know great wisdom, strength, courage and tenderness. Surely that has been our experience in these weeks as countless people have reached out to each other in care, support, unity and prayer. Surely we have been part of a nation and a world where people have responded from the goodness of their hearts. This is the kingdom of God!
“Give us each day our daily bread.”
Jesus tells us to “ask.” In other parables Jesus tells us to ask and you shall receive, knock and it shall be opened to you, seek and you shall find. The petition here comes with a promise: that God knows what we need and is eager to give us all that we need. However, He will never force Himself on us. He wants us to ask so that He might provide not only the bare necessities but also so much more.
“Forgive us our sins, for we too forgive all who us wrong; and subject us not to the trial.”
One of the graces that St. Ignatius Loyola asks those making certain retreats to pray for is “the grace to know myself as the greatest sinner.” This isn’t a mind game, but rather an entry into realizing that of ourselves, we would be helplessly lost. The astonishing grace that is offered here is one of knowing the unbelievable love of God for us. I recently spoke with a young woman about how her dad told her that “God expects us to mess up. But He is always there; never doubt His unconditional love for you.” I was so touched by this man’s wisdom and love. As you and I know God’s deep, deep love, we know compassion and how to respond to one another.
Out of tasting God’s love and forgiveness of our sins, Jesus asks us to forgive. How can we “forgive” those who so inhumanly have killed thousands? How can we “forgive” those who plot and scheme violence? If you listen to Jesus’ life, He separates the acts from the person. He never accepts evil as a good. He condemns it outright. In these days, what is important is to cry out in lament with Jesus as He weeps over Jerusalem at the outrage in our hearts. Simultaneously, we must ask for the grace to pray with Jesus on the cross, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” This leads us to pray for those who terrorize us and to ask God for His justice to reign. Our prayer for the grace to forgive and our asking Jesus to forgive in ways that we can’t forgive right now, is the strongest “counterattack” to evil there could be. Here lies the truth of seeking a holy justice.
So, let us pray in the words Jesus taught us that we might taste the kingdom in our hearts and in our world.
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