THE GOSPEL OF MATTHEW
Lesson 10: Chapter 6
The Sermon on the Mount Continued
Teaching About the Private Life of the Christian Disciple and the Practice of Righteousness

Holy God, our Father,
In the covenant at Sinai, You betrothed Yourself to Your Bride, Israel, expressing Your love for Israel in the gift of the Law and receiving Israel's returned love in her obedience to Your Law.  But the Law that the Old Covenant Church received as her betrothal band was also a law in anticipation of a future greater Law.  In the fullness of time, You bound the New Israel of the universal Catholic Church to her Bridegroom, Jesus Christ, through the fulfillment and transformation of the Old Covenant Law in the ministry and the sacrifice of the Messiah.  Jesus' New Covenant Law was also conceived in love that was to be put into action through the obedience of faith.  It is a Law that is applied to the hearts of the faithful through the work of our advocate, God the Holy Spirit.  Send Your Holy Spirit to us now, Lord, to guide us in our continuing study of the application of the New Covenant Law in the lives of Your Christian children.  We pray in the name of God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Amen.

+ + +

From the Sermon on the Mount onwards, Jesus insists on conversion of heart: reconciliation with one's brother before presenting an offering on the altar, love of enemies, and prayer for persecutors, prayer to the Father in secret, not heaping up empty phrases, prayerful forgiveness from the depths of the heart, purity of heart, and seeking the Kingdom before all else.  This filial conversion is entirely directed to the Father. CCC 2608

JESUS' TEACHING ON THE PRIVATE LIFE OF THE CHRISTIAN DISCIPLE

In chapter 6 Jesus continues His homily, moving from teaching on the commands of the Old Testament law to teaching on other standards of Christian discipleship.  Jesus warns His disciples against external actions that are not generated from a sincere heart but offered in order to be seen and admired.  He gives three examples of acts that should be offered in secret in the private lives of Christians in order not to divert glory to God into glory to self:

  1. almsgiving (Mt 6:1-4)
  2. prayer (Mt 6:5-15)
  3. fasting (Mt 6:16-18)

The interior penance of Christians can be expressed in many ways, but Sacred Scripture and the Fathers of the Church insist that the most important expressions of interior penance, aside from the purification of Christian Baptism and the purification of martyrdom for the faith, are found in the practices of almsgiving, prayer and fasting. 

Question: These three acts of Christian virtue express continual conversion in turning away from sin in what three ways?

Answer:

  1. Almsgiving: conversion in relation to others
  2. Prayer: conversion in relation to God
  3. Fasting: conversion in relation to oneself

Each of these acts of religion offers the Christian the means of obtaining expiation of sins (CCC 1434).

Jesus will continue to use the authoritative "I say" in Matthew 6:2, 5, 16, 25, and 29 as His homily continues with His teaching concerning the hidden motives of the heart and interior holiness.  He discusses the righteous Christian's obligations in giving to the poor, in prayer, and in fasting. These three acts continue to be the hallmarks of Christian penance (CCC 1434, 2043, 2447, 2462, 2744-45), and the Catholic Church continues to encourage these three necessary acts of holiness: The interior penance of the Christian can be expressed in many and various ways.  Scripture and the Fathers insist above all on three forms, fasting, prayer, and almsgiving, which express conversion in relation to oneself, to God, and to others... (CCC 1434).

JESUS TEACHES ABOUT AMSGIVING

Therefore, do not make any judgment before the appointed time, until the Lord comes, for he will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will manifest the motives of our hearts, and then everyone will receive praise from God.
1 Corinthians 4:5

Jesus' teaching to His disciples and the twelve Apostles continues on the Mt. of the Beatitudes as Jesus defines genuine acts of righteousness.

Matthew 6:1-4 ~ "[But] take care not to perform righteous deeds in order that people may see them; otherwise, you will have no recompense from your heavenly Father.  2 When you give alms, do not blow a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets to win the praise of others.  Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward.  3 But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your almsgiving may be secret.  And your Father who sees in secret will repay you."

Jesus is not questioning the giving of charity to the needy.  This is an obligation commanded in the Law of the Sinai Covenant (for example see Ex 21:2; 22:20-26; 23:10ff; Dt 15:11).  Jesus is instead criticizing the intent of giving "the misuse of charity for self-glorification.  He is contrasting the insincerity of the "hypocrite" with the right conduct required of His disciples. 

Question: What is Jesus' emphasis concerning Christian conduct?
Answer: Once again His emphasis is on the internal origin of true holiness. 

In verse 2 Jesus condemns the blowing of trumpets: When you give alms, do not blow a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets to win the praise of others. This may or may not have been a practice of the wealthy when going to the Synagogue or the Temple to give alms in the 1st century AD.  It also may have been an exaggeration on Jesus' part to condemn the ostentatious way in which some wealthy Jews and Israelites drew attention to themselves and flaunted their alms-giving.  Jesus' use of the word "hypocrites" is interesting because there is no counterpart for this Greek word in Hebrew or Aramaic (the common language of Jesus' time).  In Greek the word refers to "playing a part" in Greek drama.  In other words, the insincere almsgiver is only "play acting" for an audience and not sincerely giving from the heart. 

St. Augustine writes: A hypocrite is one who pretends to be something one is not.  This person pretends to be righteous yet shows no evidence of righteousness ... they receive no reward from God the searcher of the heart "only reproach for their deceit.  They may have a human reward, but from God they hear, "Depart from me, you workers of deceit.  You may speak my name, but you do not do my works" (St. Augustine, Sermon on the Mount 2.2.5).

Some scholars have suggested that Jesus' use of this Greek word indicates that He spoke the Greek language.  If Jesus spoke Greek that would not be unusual; Greek was the international language of the Roman world at this time in history and had been for more than two centuries.(1)

Matthew 6:3-4 ~ But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your almsgiving may be secret.  And your Father who sees in secret will repay you."

Jesus uses hyperbole to make His point as He did earlier in verses 29-30

Question: Giving alms to the poor was an obligation under the Sinai Covenant.  Is it Jesus' suggestion that the giving of alms is only an option for the Christian?
Answer: No.  Jesus says "When you give alms" not "if you give."

Question: Why does Jesus say that knowledge of your acts of charity should not be openly shared with friends and acquaintances?
Answer: Because their admiration will be your reward, but if you act in secret, your heavenly Father will reward you "a much greater blessing than mere temporal acknowledgement and praise.

Question: What does the Catholic Church teach about almsgiving?  See CCC 1434, 1438, 1969, 2447, 2462.
Answer:

In the book of Tobit, the archangel Raphael praises prayer, fasting and almsgiving as virtuous acts, but he especially commends almsgiving saying: Prayer and fasting are good, but better than either is almsgiving accompanied by righteousness.  It is better to give alms than to store up gold; for almsgiving saves one from death and expiates every sin.  Those who regularly give alms shall enjoy a full life; but those habitually guilty of sin are their own worst enemies (Tobit 12:8-10).

JESUS TEACHES ABOUT PRAYER

Let us tell Him we love Him.  We might ask Him what He wants of us, what are His wishes.  Sometimes we might ask Jesus something for ourselves and something for others.  One can speak to Jesus as brother to brother, as friend to friend, more so, since it often happens that men do not understand us, whereas Jesus understands each of us always.  Such conversations are pleasing to Jesus.
St. Maximilian Kolbe

Those who pray are certainly saved; those who do not pray are certainly damned (St. Alphonsus Liguori)

Matthew 6:5-8 ~ "When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, who love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on street corners so that others may see them.  Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward.  6 But when you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret.  And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.  7In praying, do not babble like the pagans, who think that they will be heard because of their many words.  8 Do not be like them.  Your Father knows what you need before you ask him." 

Speaking to an Israelite and Jewish audience, Jesus' words "When you pray" not only refers to communal prayer in the local Synagogues but probably also refers to the observed traditional hours of private prayer, both of which corresponded to the daily Temple liturgical worship services.(2)  Before the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple in 70 AD, religious Jews observed both morning prayer and evening (our afternoon) prayer in association with the most sacred sacrifice of the Sinai Covenant, the daily offering of the Tamid lambs in God's holy earthly Sanctuary: one lamb brought to the altar at dawn and offered in the morning service from 9-11 AM, the third to the fifth hours Jewish time, and the second in the "evening" service (their evening is our afternoon) with the lamb brought to the altar "between the twilights" or noon and offered in sacrifice in a liturgical service that lasted from 3-5 PM, the ninth to the eleventh hours Jewish time (Ex 29:38-42; Num 28:3-8). 

In Acts 3:1 Sts. Peter and John attended the afternoon liturgical service at the Temple: Now Peter and John were going up to the Temple for the three o'clock hour of prayer. The term "hour of prayer" refers to a part of the day devoted to prayer.  The hours of prayer were determined by the "perpetual sacrifice" of the Tamid lambs around which the entire day's liturgy in the Temple revolved).(3)

For those not attending the Temple service, private morning prayer (in Hebrew Shacharit, meaning morning) was acceptable until noon, as was observed by St. Peter while visiting in the city of Joppa: Peter went up to the roof terrace to pray at about noontime (Acts 10:9).  While the Jews were in exile in Babylon, they continued observed these prayer times, as did the prophet Daniel: I was still occupied with my prayer, confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel, presenting my petition to the LORD, my God, on behalf of his holy mountain "I was still occupied with this prayer, when Gabriel, the one whom I had seen before in vision, came to me in rapid flight at the time of the evening sacrifice (Dan 9:20-21).  Note: their "evening" was our "afternoon" since one day ended and the next began at sundown.  The "holy mountain" refers to the Jerusalem Temple that stood on Mt. Moriah.

Question: Do you notice something interesting about the two times for prayer in association with the offering of the two lambs of the daily Tamid worship services in the Temple: 9AM and 3PM?  Hint: see Mk 15:25; Mt 27:45, 46.
Answer: These times correspond to Jesus' hours on the cross from 9AM when He was crucified (according to Mark 15:25) 3PM when He gave up His life. 

Once more Jesus addressed the necessity of seeking an interior desire to please God rather than exterior actions gaining the attention and approval of men, and once more Jesus used the Greek word "hypocrites."   Jesus first used this word in Matthew 6:2.  He will use this word 12 times in Matthew's Gospel "six of those times in Matthew 23:13-29, applying the insult directly to the "teachers of the law" and the Pharisees.

Question: How does Jesus recommend that the Christian disciple pray?
Answer: Communal prayer must not be the only form of prayer; he stresses the necessity for private prayer alone with God.

Question: Can you think of a time when Jesus practiced the example of private prayer?  For a few of many examples see Mt 14:23; Mk 6:46; 14:32, 34-35; Lk 6:12, 9:28; 22:40-46 and Mt 26:36-46.
Answer: He illustrated the importance of withdrawing for private prayer with God before beginning the Sermon on the Mount when ...he departed to the mountain to pray, and he spent the night in prayer to God (Lk 6:12).  At many times during Jesus' ministry He found it necessary to withdraw from the crowds and from His disciples to pray in solitude to His Father as He did in His last prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane.

Question: What does Jesus teach about prayer offered to God in these passages: Mt 6:5-8; 7:7-11; 18:19-20; 21:22; Mk 12:40; Lk 11:9-10; 18:1-8, 10-14; Jn 14:13-14; 15:7, 16; and 16:23-27?
Answer: Throughout His ministry Jesus taught His disciples:

  1. Prayer offered to God should come from a humble heart whether offered in private prayer or while praying with others. 
  2. When two of more of us pray together in agreement on a petition, He gave us assurance that God hears our prayers.
  3. Prayer should come from the depth of one's heart rather than only from the lips.
  4. In our prayers we should make our petitions trusting not in our needs but in God's goodness because our Father knows what we need before we ask Him.
  5. We should be direct and persistent in our prayers.
  6. Prayer must be made with faith and offered in the name of Jesus, asking only for what is good and trusting God to meet our needs.  Whatever we ask in prayer with faith, we will receive what we need.
  7. Those who pray with a false heart or in pretense of righteousness will receive a severe judgment.

In his commentary on this passage, St. John Chrysostom wrote about the spiritual healthy practice of continuous prayer: Nothing is equal to prayer; for what is impossible it makes possible, what is difficult, easy .... For it is impossible, utterly impossible, for the man who prays eagerly and invokes God ceaselessly ever to sin.  And the Catechism teaches:

Prayer is a vital necessity.  Proof from the contrary is no less convincing: if we do not allow the Spirit to lead us, we fall back into the slavery of sin.  How can the Holy Spirit be our life if our heart is far from him? (CCC 2744).

Matthew 6:6But when you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret.  And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.

Question: What did Jesus mean when He said go your inner room, close the door and pray to your Father in secret
Answer: When not praying as a faith community, Jesus may be recommending that we literally pray in a confined space to avoid earthly distractions, or He may be referring figuratively to the "inner room" of our inner-most hearts and minds when we shut out the distractions of the world and focus entirely on speaking with God.

The second interpretation is the way St. Augustine interpreted His words: What are those bed chambers but just our hearts themselves ... Hence the door is to be shut, i.e. the fleshly sense is to be resisted, so that the spiritual prayer may be directed to the Father, which is done in the inmost heart, where prayer is offered to the Father which is in secret.  Whether literally or figuratively, we must be able to pray in a way where one's complete attention can turn to God.

Matthew 6:7In praying, do not babble like the pagans, who think that they will be heard because of their many words.  8 Do not be like them.  Your Father knows what you need before you ask him." 

In the conclusion to His teaching on prayer, Jesus contrasts desired Christian conduct in prayer with the conduct of the pagans who "babble" in their prayers. 

Question: Is Jesus forbidding public prayer or repetitive prayer like the rosary in this passage?  See Mt 6:9-14 and Lk 11:2.
Answer: Jesus obviously does not mean to forbid repetitive prayer because in the very next passage He gives His disciples the most often repeated prayer in the history of salvation, and in Luke 11:2 before praying Luke's version of this prayer He commands His disciples to repeat it as an introduction to prayer saying "When you pray say:..."

Jesus was also not banning public prayer which He often led during His ministry (see Mt 11:25ff; Mk 6:41; Lk 11:1; Jn 11:41-42) and which was an important part of liturgical worship in the Temple and in communal worship in the local Synagogues.  Nor can Jesus be referring to the reciting of the rosary which is not "meaningless babble."  Praying the rosary fills the mind of the individual with the life, ministry, passion and glorification of Jesus Christ as experienced in the life of His mother, Mary of Nazareth.  The beads of the rosary do not distract us in our prayer but focus our attention on our prayers in order to concentrate our minds on the visions of the events in the lives of our Savior and His mother.  It is only prayer that is self-centered instead of God-centered and the meaningless chanting of repetitive words or sounds in pagan prayer which often consisted of repetitive chanting of the god's name in order to compel the deity to respond to the worshipper's desired petition that Jesus is condemning. His point is that prayer is for God alone and the Christian soul in prayer must be turned to God alone. 

THE PATER NOSTER [in Latin "Our Father"] also called THE LORD'S PRAYER

For those who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God.  For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you received a spirit of adoption, through which we cry, Abba, "Father!"  The Spirit itself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs,  heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if only we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.  Romans 8:14-16

The New Law practices the acts of religion: almsgiving, prayer and fasting, directing them to the “Father who sees in secret,” in contrast with the desire to “be seen by men.” Its prayer is the Our Father. CCC 1969 

In His teaching about prayer, Jesus taught His disciples how to pray by giving them a prayer to unify and identify themselves as His disciples.

Matthew 6:9-15 ~ "This is how you are to pray: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, 10 your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven. 11 Give us today our daily bread; 12 and forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors; 13 and do not subject us to the final test, but deliver us from the evil one. 14 If you forgive others their transgressions, your heavenly Father will forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your transgressions."

This is the prayer that our Lord Jesus gave to us, His beloved disciples of every generation, and therefore we give the prayer the title "the Lord's Prayer."  Christians have also given this prayer the title taken from the first two words of the prayer "the "Our Father," in Latin, "Pater Noster."  This prayer has been part of the Church's liturgy since apostolic times, and the petitions of the prayer, made in the name of God the Father, and are a concise synthesis of Christian faith in the Fatherhood of God.  It was part of the profession of faith for the reception of catechumens into the Church and is the best known bond of unity between all Christian denominations.  

Scholars have suggested that it was common for Rabbis to teach their disciples a specific prayer to unify and identify them as a community.  It is this prayer of the Son that unifies and identifies us as children in the family of His Father.  It has been the central prayer of the Catholic Church from the time Jesus first taught it to His followers.  Together with the "Hail Mary" prayer, it is one of the first prayers we learn as little children and it will undoubtedly be the last prayer that we will pray when we come to the end of our lives on this earth.  From childhood to death, the prayer which begins with the intimate words "Our Father" is the prayer which fills us with faith, hope, and consolation. 

St. Augustine says that the Lord's Prayer is so perfect that it sums up in only a few words everything man needs to petition God. For the righteous Old Covenant men and women who were Jesus' disciples, The "Lord's Prayer" is similar to the "Eighteen Benedictions" [Shemoneth Esreh], prayed by righteous Jews three times daily.  The Didache, the first catechism of the Church, also required that the "Lord's Prayer" be prayed three times a day (Didache, 8:3).  The first part of the prayer, apart from the intimate invocation to God as "Father," also shows similarities to the Aramaic Kaddish, a prayer used in the Synagogue liturgy with its central petition calling for the coming of God's kingdom to earth by establishing His peace and justice through the exercise of His divine will.  The last line of the Kaddish is a petition to God who makes peace in the heavens to bring peace to all mankind (The Jewish Book of Why, vol. I, page 72).  The prayer of the Jewish Kaddish was answered in the coming of Jesus the Messiah and the establishment of the Kingdom of heaven on earth "the New Covenant universal Church, in which God's peace and justice for all eternity is extended to all humanity.

There are two versions of the "Lord's Prayer" in Scripture.  The prayer in Matthew opens with an invocation followed by seven petitions.  There is also a shorter version found in the Gospel of Luke 11:2-4 that opens with an invocation followed by five petitions.  Jesus probably taught this prayer many times during His three year ministry.  In Luke's version of the "Lord's Prayer," Jesus stresses the "fatherhood" of God, acknowledging Him as the One to whom we own our daily sustenance (Lk 11:3), our forgiveness (11:4a), and our deliverance from a final covenant ordeal (11:4b).  The Navarre scholars write in their commentary on the Gospel of Matthew that "there can be no brotherhood without parenthood." It is the Fatherhood of God that gives us the grace to extend true Christian brotherhood to all men and women of all races.

A Comparison of the Lord's Prayer in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke
Matthew 6:9-13 Luke 11:2-4
Invocation: Our Father in heaven Invocation: Father
Petition 1: Hollowed be your name Petition 1: Hollowed be your name
Petition 2: Your kingdom come Petition 2: May your Kingdom come
Petition 3: Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven  
Petition 4: Give us today our daily bread Petition 3: Give us each day our daily bread
Petition 5: And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors Petition 4: And forgive us our sins for we ourselves forgive everyone in debt to us
Petition 6: And do not subject us to the final test Petition 5: And do not subject us to the final test
Petition 7: but deliver us from the evil one  
Michal E. Hunt © 2011

Up to this point in salvation history, no human being had enjoyed Jesus' unique relationship to God.  It is a relationship He extended to those who believed in His name, meaning believing everything Jesus taught about Scripture, about Himself and about the Most Holy Trinity and who, through the sacrament of Baptism, became sons and daughters in the family of God.  Key passages which explain the extension of this relationship are found in Matthew 11:25-27 and Hebrews 2:13.

Question: How do the passages in Matthew 11:25-27 and Hebrews 2:8-18 explain the extension of Jesus' unique relationship with God the Father to His disciples?  How is this relationship different from what Moses experienced in Exodus 3:5?  Note: Heb 2:13 is a quote from Is 8:17-18.
Answer: In Matthew 11:25-27, Jesus prayed to the Father: I bless you, Father, Lord of heaven and of earth for hiding these things from the learned and the clever and revealing them to little children.  Yes, Father, for that is what it pleased you to do.  Everything has been entrusted to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, just as no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.  In the revelation of God from the burning bush, Moses heard a voice saying to Him, Do not come near; put off your shoes from your feet for the place on which you are standing is holy ground  (Ex 3:5).  It was only God the Son who could cross that holy threshold, a crossing into the presence of God the Father that He has made available to us through His suffering.  As the inspired writer of Hebrews tells us, when Jesus made purification for sins, He brought us into the Father's presence to proclaim Behold, I and the children God has given me' (Heb 2:13). It is only through our relationship to Jesus that we can called "holy brothers" (Heb 2:11) who call God "Father" because God the Father is revealed to us by His Son-become-man, through the power of God the Holy Spirit.

Through His death and resurrection, Jesus has brought us into the Father's presence to proclaim "Here am I and the children You have given me."  Article # 2780 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church states: The personal relation of the Son to the Father is something that Man cannot conceive of nor the angelic powers even dimly see; and yet, the Spirit of the Son grants a participation in that very relation to us who believe that Jesus is the Christ and that we are born of God.

The invocation: "OUR FATHER IN HEAVEN"

"For in Him we live and move and exist."
Acts 17:28

The Father, Creator of the Universe, and the Word Incarnate, the Redeemer of humanity, are the source of this universal openness to all people as brothers and sisters, and they impel us to embrace them in the prayer which begins with the tender words: Our Father.'
Pope John Paul II, Letter to Families 4

The opening invocation of the "Lord's Prayer" places us in the presence of our Father.  The prayer is usually seen as consisting of an opening address or invocation followed by 7 petitions which are divided into a set of 3 petitions followed by a set of 4 petitions (see the chart below).  In Scripture 3 is the number of fullness and importance and for Christians 3 is the number signifying the Trinity.   The number 4 in Scripture, however, usually represents the number of the world (see the document "The Significance of Numbers in Scripture" in the Documents section of the website).  St. Matthew makes rather frequent use of the number 7 in his Gospel.  It is interpreted in the oral tradition of the covenant people as one of the four "perfect" numbers (along with 3, 10, and 12).  The recorded expression of this symbolism not unexpected from an Apostle who was, according to tradition, a member of the Levitical priesthood (Mk 2:13-17; Lk 5:27-32). 

Examples of St. Matthew's use of 7 as a "perfect number":

The Division of the Petitions in "Lord's Prayer" found in Matthew 6:9-13
The Invocation: Our Father in heaven
Petition #1 Holy be Your name
Petition #2 Your kingdom come
Petition #3 Your will be done on earth as in heaven
The division between the address to God followed by our needs
Petition #4 Give us today our daily bread
Petition #5 And forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors
Petition #6 And do not subject us to the final test
Petition #7 But deliver us from the evil one
Michal E. Hunt © 2011

Referring to the chart above:

Question: To whom are the first 3 petitions addressed?  What is the focus of the first three petitions?
Answer:  The first series of three petitions concern God our Father and are addressed to Him in the possessive pronoun "Your" = "Your name", "Your kingdom" and "Your will."  The first 3 petitions concern the acknowledgement and praise of God.

Question: What is the focus of the last 4 petitions?
Answer: The last 4 petitions are concerned with the needs of the men and women struggling to follow Christ in this earthly exile.  Those four petitions are identified by the pronoun "us": "give us", "forgive us", "do not subject us" and "deliver us."

"OUR FATHER"

The new man, reborn and restored to his God by grace, says first of all, "Father!" because he has now begun to be a son. 
St. Cyprian

Question: In the invocation, to who does the word "Father" refer?
Answer: "Father" refers to the one, holy and eternal God "the God of Adam, the God of Abraham, the God of Israel ""our" God and Father.

Question: Jesus encourages us to address God as "our Father."  What does this intimate address suggest?  See CCC 2786-87.
Answer: This intimate address indicates an entirely new relationship with God based on the gift of a new and eternal covenant in His Son, Jesus the Messiah. 

In the first words of the prayer we should express the blessing of our adoration before we express our supplication.  It is by the grace of God that we can recognize Him as "our Father."  This recognition is a gift and we should give Him thanks and praise for having revealed the intimacy of His name as "Father."

Question: In what three ways are we blessed to address God as "Father" that we should give thanks?

Answer:

  1. We give thanks to God for having revealed His name to us
  2. We give thanks for the gift of believing in His divine Fatherhood
  3. We give thanks for the indwelling of His divine Presence in us that makes us His children

St. Paul wrote: But when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to ransom those under the law, so that we might receive adoption.  As proof that you are children, God sent the spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying out, "Abba, Father!"  So you are no longer a slave but a child, and if a child then also an heir, through God (Gal 4:4-7).  We adore the Father because, through the sacrifice of our Savior, Jesus Christ, He has caused us to be reborn to His life by adopting us as His children and by baptism He has incorporated us into the Body of Christ (CCC 2782).

Question: In addition to submitting to the Sacrament of Christian baptism, does the free gift of our adoption that gives us the right to call God "Father" require any continual action on our part?  See CCC 2784.
Answer: Yes.

  1. We have been created in His image but we are restored to His likeness by the grace imparted to us by the Holy Spirit, and we must respond to His grace by continual conversion in living our new life "in the Spirit." 
  2. As children in the family of God, we must continue to behave as sons and daughters of our heavenly Father by showing mercy to others as He has shown mercy to us and by dying to self in order to live in Christ.

That Jesus should directly address God as "Father" was shocking to 1st century AD Jews.  Sacred Scripture had addressed angels, Davidic kings, prophets and the children of Israel collectively as "sons of God," but never had anyone dared to address Yahweh publically as "Father" "for the 1st century Jewish authorities, this was blasphemy, an accusation leveled against Jesus and one of the reasons His enemies sought to kill Him:  But Jesus answered the, "My Father is at work until now, so I am at work."  For this reason the Jews tried all the more to kill him, because he not only broke the Sabbath but he also called God his own father, making himself equal to God (Jn 5:17-18).  Tertullian, the 3rd century Roman jurist who surrendered his life to Christ to become a priest and Christian apologist, wrote that before Jesus ... the expression God the Father' had never been revealed to anyone.  When Moses himself asked God who He was, he heard another name.  The Father's name has been revealed to us in the Son, for the name Son' implies the new name Father.'

Question: When did God become God the Father?  Was it in the Incarnation of the Son?  Hint: what is the second line of the Nicene Creed?
Answer: No.  God the Father did not become "Father" only after the Incarnation of the Son.  He has been "Father" for all eternity because the Most Holy Trinity has always lived in perfect communion through all eternity "3 in One " God the Father with His Son and united with the Holy Spirit.  It is what we profess in the creed: I believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God eternally begotten of the Father ...

It is not God who has changed but through our baptism we have changed and as a result our relationship with God has changed.  God is Father to Jesus, but it is Jesus who shares His divine Sonship with us.  It is through Jesus that we are made "sons in the Son" through our baptism and become partakers of the divine nature, no longer to be called the sons and daughters of Adam but the sons and daughters of God.  St Peter wrote: Through these, he has bestowed on us the precious and very great promises, so that through them you may come to share in the divine nature, after escaping from the corruption that is in the world because of evil desire.  And St. Cyprian wrote, The new man, reborn and restored to his God by grace, says first of all, "Father!" because he has now begun to be a son (2 Pt 1:4; also see CCC#2782).

God the Father is Father because He has eternally "fathered" the Son.  He was a "father" before there were human fathers.  St. Ephraim noted that earthly men are called fathers, but He is the true Father.  He also wrote of the earthly relationship of "fathers" and their "sons" that The terms father' and son' by which they have been called are borrowed names that through grace have taught us that there is a Single True Father and that He has a Single True Son."

Question: Why is God "our Father"?
Answer: God is our Father because He has gathered us together in one family in Christ " established in a universal human family in the Catholic [catholic means universal] Church.  It is our shared Sonship with Jesus which gives us the right to address God as "Our Father" because through the Son we are indeed His children.

The words of the invocation express this unique relationship which we can only claim through the Son.  Before we make this first exclamation we must repent our sins, cleanse our hearts and with humility recognize that no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal Him.  Each of us becomes the little child' that Jesus spoke of in Matthew 18:3-5: Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.  Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven, and whoever receives one child such as this in my name receives me.  Before repeating the prayer Jesus taught us we must step forward in the humility of childlike faith to address "our" Father.

Through the regeneration of our baptism in Christ Jesus, we became reborn and through our spiritual rebirth we became adopted children in God's family:

Question:  What verb precedes the word adoption' in Romans 8:16 (twice) and Galatians 4:5?  Why is this word significant?
Answer: It is the word "receive."  We did not earn this adoption, nor did we purchase it "it was a gift of God's grace that we "received." 

To be adopted into a family is not a feat one achieves, but rather it is a gift one accepts. In an adoption the parents are the active parties.  The same is true with God.  He doesn't adopt us because of what we have.  He doesn't give us His name because of our attitude or our bank account.  He has caused us to be reborn to His life by adopting us as His children in His only Son.  By our Baptism, he incorporates us into the Body of His Jesus and receives us through the anointing of His Spirit who flows from the head, which is Christ, to the members of His Body, the Church. This free gift of adoption requires on our part continual conversion manifested as new spiritual life and on His part, our Father, like any earthly father, calls us to come to Him.

Question: How might you compare our relationship with Father God with a relationship with an earthly father?
Answer: As God's children:

In other words, He creates a home for us, first in Mother Church who instructs and guides us and later in our heavenly home.  Sacred Scripture guides us in our understanding of this relationship.  The following passages are from the New Jerusalem Bible translation:

"IN HEAVEN"
"who is in heaven"

[Christians] are in the flesh, but do not live according to the flesh.  They spend their lives on earth, but are citizens of heaven. CCC#2796

The Catechism of the Catholic Church does not identify the mystery that is "heaven" in earthly terms as a space or a place but as a way of being in which God transcends time and space to be ever present.  When we pray the "Lord's Prayer" we are expressing our union with God through the Covenant family established in Christ.  United with Him in the Covenant, earth no long has a hold on us and heaven becomes our home.  Sin is the force which exiles us from our true home but repentance and conversion of heart enables us to come to God our Father through the blood of Christ in which heaven and earth are reconciled.  "For the Son alone descended from heaven and causes us to ascend there with him, by his Cross, Resurrection, and Ascension" (CCC# 2795). 

Question:  Sacred Scripture defines God's dwelling place or home as "heaven."  Where is heaven and how do we find it?
Answer: Heaven is wherever God is; we find "heaven" through our relationship with God the Son.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church answers this question in article #2796: Our God is not distant.  He is a father whose place is with His family.  In Christ heaven and earth are reconciled and "who art in heaven" refers not to a place but to God's majesty and His presence in the hearts of those made righteous in the blood of Christ. When the Church prays "our Father who art in heaven" she is professing that we are the People of God, already seated "with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus" and "hidden with Christ in God; (Eph 2:6) yet at the same time, "here indeed we groan, and long to put on our heavenly dwelling.

Sacred Scripture defines the concept of heaven:

Question: Why is that the earth is no longer home for Christians?
Answer: It is because our Father's home is in heaven that earth is not our home.  We are in exile here waiting for the time when our Father will call us home.  And like any good and loving Father, our heavenly Father understands our fears when we are "away" from our home.

In the following verse our Father makes a promise that we can claim when we, His children who are away from our heavenly home, become frightened and feel alone.

Question: What are the promised contained in these verses when we acknowledge that our Father rules over heaven and earth:  For I am certain of this: neither death nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nothing already in existence and nothing still to come, nor any power, nor the heights nor the depths, nor any created thing whatever, will be able to come between us and the love of God, known to us in Christ Jesus our Lord (Rom 8:38).
Answer: Nothing can separate us from the love of God.  He is always with us and will never leave us.

Question: What promise did Jesus also make to us after His resurrection in Matthew 28:20b?
Answer:  And behold, I AM with you always, until the end of the age.

Note: in Hebrew "I AM" is God's Covenant name, YHWH (Yahweh).

Question:  God is both creator and father.  How should we respond to Him as both Creator and Father in our lives?  What standard of behavior does God require of His children?  See Exodus 20:11b; Ps 46:11(10) and Matthew 5:48:

Answer: God is not a permissive parent.  We must listen and respond to Him in obedience and in love, acknowledging His sovereignty as Creator and His loving authority as Father over us.  He is a good Father, but we must be good, obedient, loving, children. We must honor "our Father" the commandments teach us.

Question:  Ps 46:11-12 is both a command and a promise.  What are the commands?  Be still and confess that I am God!  I am exalted among the nations, exalted on the earth. The LORD of hosts is with us; our stronghold is the God of Jacob.
Answer: The first command is to "be still," meaning to pay attention, to be obedient and listen to the Father.  The second command is to confess belief in the One True God who has authority over our lives.  The promise is when we are attentive to His words and His commands that we will know we have an intimate relationship with the eternal and supreme God who is always with us. 

A Holy Father deserves holy children.  No matter how "mature" we grow as God's children, we are never too "mature" to accept parental correction from our heavenly Father or from Mother Church.  We never "mature" to the point where we can make our own rules and our own laws apart from the Law of God and His will for our lives.

Question:  But, how do you answer the question Who is God "our Father"?
Answer: The Most Holy Trinity: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit; He who is the One True and Holy God.b

St. Thomas Aquinas defined the Holy Trinity as the Lover (Father), the One Loved (the Son), and the Love that binds them (the Holy Spirit).  St John the Apostle also defined God, eloquently and simply in 1 John 4:16 God is love.

Petition #1: "HOLY BE YOUR NAME"

You shall not misuse the name of Yahweh your God, for Yahweh will not leave unpunished anyone who misuses His name. Exodus 20:7 (Deuteronomy 5:11)

You will not swear by my name with intent to deceive and thus profane the name of your God.  I am Yahweh.  Leviticus 19:12

The Greek word for hallowed or holy is hagiastheto.  It is the aorist passive imperative of hagiazo, the verb meaning "sanctify."  So this prayer literally reads: Let Your name be sanctified.  It is significant that this is the first petition of the Lord's Prayer.  This petition is the primary petition of all petitions.  We should first pray that God's holy name will be sanctified everywhere "on earth, in the heavens, throughout creation in both time and space.  But we also need to make it personal and relevant.  Our cry should be: "Let Your name be sanctified in my life today!"

The Greek word onoma corresponds to the Hebrew word shem, meaning "name," but not as we have mentioned previously, simply as the identification of someone by a label to differentiate one person from another.  Instead biblically, and in other cultures in ancient times, the "name" of a person encompassed everything that the named individual represented "his entire character and personality, including his work, power, authority and reputation. This petition for sanctification of God's "holy name" can be expressed in two ways:

  1. We sanctify His holy name by His command to us to live holy lives, through obedience to His will (Lev 11:44-45; Mt 5:48), and by our reverence and praise offered to God.  If our lives are not holy, we desecrate that sacred family name by which we are called.  We remind ourselves that we are called by our Father's most holy name every time we make the sign of the cross: In the Name of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  His Name is our name because He is our Father.
  2. But also included is this petition is that God make holy His own name by manifesting His power and glory in our lives and in the lives of all members of the family of man by establishing the fullness of His Kingdom.
  3. It may help to understand the dimensions of God's holiness by looking at some of the names/titles of God used in the Bible.  You might also consult the article The Many Names of God in the Resource section of Agape Bible Study.(5)
  4. For ancient peoples one's "name" encompassed everything there was to know about a person: what that person stood for and what that person believed.  Jesus' name in Hebrew, Yahshua (ancient Hebrew) or Yehoshua (in Jesus' time) means "Yahweh saves" or "Yahweh is salvation."

Question: What is the promise of Jesus' "name" in Acts 4:12?  Also see CCC 432.
Answer: The "name" of Jesus signifies the very "name" of God who is united with and present in the person of the Son.  Belief in Jesus Christ is the only path to salvation: Only in Him is there salvation; for of all the names in the world given to men, this is the only one by which we can be saved.

Question:  What is the promise in Romans 10:12-13?  What does "calling on the name" mean in this passage?
Answer:  The same Lord is the Lord of all, and His generosity is offered to all who appeal to Him, for all who call on the name of the Lord will be saved.  "Calling on the name" means all those who claim Jesus' promise of salvation by accepting everything Jesus taught and believe in everything that He did for man's salvation will be saved.

It is not enough to simply acknowledge that there is a God or that there was a man or man-God named Jesus.  Even Satan acknowledges that there is a Jesus who is the Son of God.  His demons even addressed Jesus as the "Holy one of God" during His earthly ministry (Lk 4:34).

St. James writes critically of those who think simple "belief" is enough without faith evidenced by acts of mercy.  Please read James 2:18-24.

Question: What does St. James say is the value of faith without works?
Answer:  Writing forcefully and plainly, James assures us that genuine faith is living, active faith.  He writes: You believe that God is one?  You do well, even the demons believe that and tremble.  Do you want proof, you ignoramus, that faith without works is useless? (Jam 2:19-20), and in 2:24 St. James concludes: See how a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.

Note: this is the only verse in the New Testament which includes the phrase "faith alone."  Martin Luther, in attempting to promote his doctrine of "faith alone" without works changed the Bible text and added the word "alone" to Romans 3:28.   "Saving faith" then requires believing in everything associated with God's Holy Name, including the "name" of God the Son "what Jesus taught us in His ministry, believing in His sacrificial death, in His Resurrection, in His Ascension and in the body of revelation He has revealed to us through the teachings of Mother Church.  Simply acknowledgement is not enough.

Questions for group discussion:

Question: Does showing mercy include the giving of alms?  See Sir 3:29; Tobit 12:9; Mt 6:1-4; Lk 12:33.
Answer: It has always been a teaching of God's covenant people that to give alms to the needy greatly pleases God.  Sirach 3:29 includes the promise Water quenches a flaming fire, and alms atone for sins.  Mercy as an act of atonement endears that sinner to God and atones for sin. 

Did you know that the Church instructs those who do not abstain from meat on Fridays to do an act of charity in place of a meat sacrifice?  See CCC# 1434; 1438; 1969; 2101; 2447; 2462.

Jesus told a parable which illustrates the importance of the giving of alms to the disadvantaged in the parable of "Lazarus and the Rich Man" in Luke 16:19-31.

Question: Was the rich man's disregard for the conditions of the poor and his failure to give alms to the poor man named Lazarus a sin? 
Answer: To accept God's blessing of prosperity and to not use that gift to help the less fortunate is indeed a sin.  The rich man was selfish and hardhearted.  He did not have a heart of generosity and compassion "he failed show mercy.  He had not meant the obligations of the covenant that required him to care for the disadvantaged. 

Question: What was ironic about the state of these two men in Sheol?  How did God give justice to Lazarus and does this justice remind you of Jesus' curses of the wealthy in the Sermon on the Plain in Luke chapter 6?
Answer: It is ironic that in Sheol, or Abraham's Bosom as the grave was called in the 1st century AD, the roles of Lazarus and the rich man were reversed just as Jesus had warned would be the case in the Sermon on the Plain. 

Question: What are some of the different kinds of prayer?

Question: Does God always answer our prayers?
Answer: He always answers but the answer may not be what we were looking for.  Sometimes the answer is "yes," sometimes the answer is "be patient," sometimes the answer is "no," and at other times the answer is not for what we asked but for what our Father knows we need.

Endnotes:

1. The people of Asia Minor and the Levant admired and in many cases embraced Greek/Hellenistic culture.  The ruins of many Greek style theaters have been found in the Roman provinces of Asia Minor, Syria, the Galilee, Samaria, and in Judea.  For example, the cities of Sepphoris (administrative capital of the Galilee), Tiberias (on the west side of the Sea of Galilee), and Caesarea (on the coast of the Mediterranean and the residence of the Roman governor) had large 1st century AD theaters where Greek dramas were performed.  The theater at the Galilean regional capital of Sepphoris seated 3,000 citizens and was built during the time Jesus was growing up in neighboring Nazareth.  St. Joseph and his son, trained in the skills of the tekton (a worker in hard materials), may have been conscripted to work on Sepphoris' theater.

2. Every Jew was an Israelite but not every Israelite was a Jew.  An "Israelite" was one who was a member of one of the twelve tribes of Israel, but to be a "Jew" originally meant one who was a member of the tribe of Judah (Judah was the fourth son of Israel).  Later, the designation "Jew" came to mean one who was a citizen of the Southern Kingdom of Judah (composed of the two tribes of Judah and Benjamin) as opposed to the Israelites of the Northern Kingdom of Israel (composed of the other ten tribes).  St. Paul, who was a member of the tribe of Benjamin, identified himself as a "Jew."  However, many of the residents of the Galilee were probably Israelites who had returned to the land of their ancestors after the Assyrian and Babylonian exiles.  Jesus' disciples were both Jews and Israelites.  Jesus identified Nathan, a man from the Galilee, as an "Israelite" and not a "Jew" (Jn 1:47).  In the modern state of Israel, there is no such differentiation; every Israeli is a Jew.

3. Originally there were only two "hours" of prayer observed by righteous Israelites and Jews.  Today Rabbinic Judaism observes three different periods of prayer:

(for the hours of prayer in the Jewish Talmud see Mishnah: Berakhot). 

Morning and afternoon prayer correspond to the hours of the Tamid morning and evening/afternoon sacrifices (Schurer, A History of the Jewish People in the Time of Jesus, II, vol. 1, pages 290-291, n. 248).  Ma'ariv or Evening Prayer was not observed during the Temple period but is a later addition after the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD.  The Jewish Talmud records the late addition of the Ma'ariv service, which is not connected with the sacrificial system (Jewish Book of Why, volume I, page 148; for the times of prayer see A History of the Jewish People, pages 190-91, note 248). 

4. God told David He would be a "father" to David's son Solomon (2 Sam 7:14), and in David's Messianic Ps 89 there is a reference to God's "chosen David, my servant" (verse 21) who shall cry "You are my father, my God, the Rock that Brings me victory!" (verse 27), but these verses do not refer to David but to David's descendant who is Jesus, the promised Messiah, "the firstborn, Most High over the kings of the earth" (verse 28).

5. The Hebrew text of the Bible, there are many different names or titles by which the One True God is called.  The most frequently used names are YHWH (the Tetragrammaton, a term meaning "four letter name"), usually rendered as Yahweh (c. 6,800 times); Elohim, the plural of the word "god" (c. 2,600 times); Adonai, "Lord" (c. 439 times); and El, "god" singular (c. 238 times).  Most of the other names are combinations of these names like El Shaddai, El Eloah, and Yahweh Elohim.  The most commonly used names for God in the modern Jewish and Protestant Bibles, which are used as substitutes for the divine name YHWH, are Ha-Shem (meaning "the name") and used in the modern Jewish Massoretic Text translations of the Bible called the Tanakh, and Jehovah (used in both Protestant and Jewish translations), a name for God that only dates back to the Middle Ages.  The names Ha-Shem and Jehovah are invented named that are not found in the ancient Hebrew or Greek texts of Sacred Scripture.  The use of "Jehovah" arose from the addition of the vowels from the Hebrew word Adonai, meaning "Lord," that were  added to the Tetragrammaton YHWH in Germany in the Middle Ages by Jewish scholars (J is the German Y) to avoid impiously speaking the divine Name when reading Scripture aloud.  "Jehovah" was never meant to be a spoken name but only to indicate that in the biblical text this word was in actuality the holy four consonants which were God's holy Covenant name, YHWH.  The Protestants, however mistakenly adopted this false reading as God's Covenant name into their Bible translations.  Hebrew was originally written only in consonants.

Michal Hunt, Copyright © 2011 Agape Bible Study. Permissions All Rights Reserved.

Catechism references for Matthew chapter 6:1-14 (*indicates Scripture is either quoted or paraphrased in the citation).

6:1-14

1434*

6:8              

4438, 2736*

6:1-6

1430*, 1969*

6:9-13

1969, 2759*

6:2-4

17538, 2447*

6:9

268*, 443

6:2               

1063*

6:10

2632*

6:5

1063*

6:11

1165*, 2659*

6:6

1693*, 2608, 2655, 2691*

6:14-15

2608*, 2792*, 2841

6:7

2608*, 2668*, 2776*