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7/24/22 Homily: Our Father

Sunday's readings can be found: [HERE]


Not everyone may knows this, but there are actually two versions of the Our Father. The one we’re perhaps more familiar with is the one from Matthew, Chapter 6. It’s the one we pray at every Mass before making the sign of peace.


But today, we hear another version of the Our Father; this one, from Luke. And the context of hearing it, is that one of the disciples observes Jesus praying, and asks him: “Lord, teach us to pray.”


It’s a beautiful request, which should be the preoccupation of every disciple. All disciples should want to be better at praying. After all, prayer is the language in which God and his saints communicate. Studying any language can be enjoyable and worthwhile. How much more so learning the language of heaven?


Today, I’d like for us to get a greater appreciation for the Our Father. We can say a lot about the entire prayer, both from Matthew and Luke, but in the time we have together today, I’ll simply focus on the first two words: Our and Father. We’ll begin with Our.


Man, by nature, is a social creature. That’s how God created us. By faith, we believe that God created mankind in his image. And as the One God is a community of Divine Persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; so also, we more fully live according to our nature when we’re living in community with others, even in the community of a single household between husband and wife. By faith we believe this.


But even outside of faith, we know that man’s nature is social. Language, for example, is a sign of this. That we’re each capable of language points to the reality that we’re meant to live and thrive with others. Language makes that possible.


The many civilizations that have existed throughout history also point to man’s social nature. No civilization can be established through the genius or talent of any one person, no matter how gifted. It takes a society to build one.


Likewise, our sense of worship is social. Religion is the word we attach to societal worship. Every ancient civilization practiced some sort of religion. There’s no escaping the religious dimension of mankind. Even today, the secular culture, which certainly doesn’t profess the Christian faith, nevertheless reveals a certain religiosity.


Think of the so-called “cancel culture.” What is “canceling” other than an excommunication from society for perceived blasphemy against any secular idol or object of worship. Don't believe me? Just say anything in the hearing of a secular crowd that goes against a modern golden idol or a secular sacrament and see how quickly you're excommunicated from modern society. We’ve all witnessed members of society denounce religion, irconically, with a fervent religious zeal.


When we pray, as taught by our Lord, and invoke that first word, Our, we tacitly admit that our faith is indeed communal. Our faith is deeply personal, but it’s never private. Faith inevitably includes others. When humanity is social by nature, it’s unfathomable to think that one’s most deeply held beliefs exclude society.


That word Our is a recognition that the faith we profess goes beyond you or me individually. Our faith encompasses us. It also includes those who came before us, and those who will follow after, long after we’re gone. When we say Our, we access that common bond that unites us across generations and places. We lay claim to that shared reality that does not belong to you or me alone, but to all of us, all with that simple word: Our.


And we conclude that line with Father.


God is not some unfeeling, distant, or uncaring force or power. He does not exist beyond our reach. He’s not detached from our suffering, nor dispassionate towards our troubles. As Christians, we believe in a deeply personal God. Through the Our Father, we direct our prayer to the First Person of the Holy Trinity.


He is the love that brought the universe into being. He loves more deeply than you and I can imagine. He is closer to each of us than we are to ourselves. He aches for our well-being at a level we cannot begin to contemplate.


That’s why Jesus tried to encourage the crowds with consoling words such as: “Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” [1] “Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin; yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his glory was clothed like one of these… “If God so clothes the grass of the field… will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith”[2]


Jesus didn't pray to God in an impersonal way. He didn't say, "I love you, God" or "God, please hear me." Without exception (to my knowledge), he addressed God as Father. And in giving his disciples the Our Father, he invited the disciples to pray the same way.


Now, we do believe in One God, who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. And when we pray to God, we pray to all three. But we can also pray to each Divine Person individually. The Our Father is one of those ways in which specifically address the Father.


As Christians, we have a particular claim in addressing God as Father. That’s because when we were baptized, we became inseparable from Christ, the Eternal Son of the Father. In Christ, we are the Father's children.


The Our Father was given to us by Jesus. But the entire Mass is also a prayer to the Father given to us by Jesus. It’s Christ’s greatest prayer to the Father. In Christ, let us continue this prayer to Our Father.

[1] Cf. Mt. 6:26 [2] Cf. Mt. 6:28-30