THE GOSPEL OF MATTHEW
Lesson 11 Chapter 6
The Sermon on the Mount Continued
Teaching About the Private Life of the Christian Disciple and the Practice of Righteousness
Your Son taught us to pray to You with this most intimate form of address, and so we come to You as little children seeking the tender guidance of a beloved and honored Father. Lead us in the path of righteousness, our Father, as we humbly kneel at Your throne, looking toward heaven as the home You have prepared for us. Send us Your Holy Spirit to guide us in our study Jesus' great prayer of love and unity that is prayed by all Christians from childhood to death throughout all generations. We pray in the name of God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Amen.
+ + +
For me, prayer is a
surge of the heart; it is a simple look turned toward heaven, it is a cry of
recognition and of love, embracing both trial and joy.
St. Therese of Lisieux
Prayer is the
raising of one's mind and heart to God or the requesting of good things from
St. John Damascene
In Matthew chapter 6 Jesus is teaching on the virtues of discipleship in the Christian's private and public life. He begins by focusing on the practice of almsgiving, prayer and fasting. In His teaching about prayer, Jesus gives His disciples a prayer of unity and identity that we call "The Lord's Prayer" or the "Our Father." This special prayer, like all prayer, is one of the great mysteries of the faith:
Continuing with the study
of the Lord's Prayer
A review of Last week's lesson
|Invocation and 7 Petitions||Interpretation|
Our Father in heaven
|We become children of God in our baptism into the family of God when we receive the gift of divine son/daughter-ship extended to us through God's only begotten Son. God is "our" Father because He has gathered us together in one holy, universal family "the Catholic Church. Heaven is the home of our Father and therefore our true home. Sin exiles us from our true home but repentance and conversion of heart enables us to come home to God our Father through the blood of Jesus in which heaven and earth are reconciled.|
Holy be Your Name
|We sanctify His holy Name by living holy lives. This petition also includes the plea 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.|
The Divisions of the Petitions of Lord's Prayer 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 it is in heaven|
|The division between our 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|
Petition #2: "YOUR KINGDOM COME"
The LORD's [Yahweh's]
throne is established in heaven; God's royal power rules over all.
Then the kingship and
dominion and majesty of all the kingdoms under the heavens shall be given to the
holy people of the Most High, whose kingdom shall be everlasting: all
dominions shall serve and obey him.
What is the kingdom of God in this petition? Use Psalm 103:9 and Daniel 7:27,
listed above, as well as Matthew 9:35 to help you with your answer: Jesus
made a tour through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues,
proclaiming the good news [gospel] of the kingdom and curing all kinds of
disease and all kinds of illness.
Answer: One aspect of God's kingdom is heaven, as expressed in the verse in the Psalms, but the kingdom of God is also linked to the "good news" " the Gospel of Jesus Christ, which establishes Jesus' Davidic Kingdom of Heaven on earth "the universal Catholic Church.
The Kingdom of God is so identified with the life and work of Jesus Christ that the Gospel or "good news" of the Kingdom of God promised in Isaiah 40:9-11 is in the New Testament referred to as the Gospel of Jesus Christ: Go up onto a high mountain, Zion, herald of glad tidings; cry out at the top of your voice, Jerusalem, herald of good news! Fear not to cry out and say to the cities of Judah: Here is your God! Here comes with power the Lord God, who rules by his strong arm; here is his reward with him, his recompense before him. Like a shepherd he feeds his block; in his arms he gathers the lambs, carrying them in his bosom and leading the ewes with care. It is St. John the Baptist who first links this Isaiah passage to the coming of the Messiah and God's Kingdom in Matthew 3:3 when he claimed to be the "prophetic voice" of Isaiah 40:3.
As we discussed in an earlier lesson, the kingdom of heaven has a present as well as a future reality. That present and future reality was expressed in the Beatitudes which began and ended with a present tense verb in the promise of the Kingdom while all other blessings and promises were expressed in the simple future tense. The coming of the Kingdom of God is the realization of God's plan of salvation in the world. The Kingdom establishes itself in the core of our being, raising us up to share in God's own inner life. This elevation has two stages:
For our part we need to respond to God with humility, love, trust, and obedience and service to His Church. It is the Kingdom of Heaven on earth that is His vehicle to help advance the faithful to that state of grace that will make entrance into the heavenly kingdom possible.
St. John Chrysostom teaches in his homily on the Lord's Prayer that the Kingdom of God comes in the life of the Christian whenever he or she willing takes up the "yoke" of Jesus Christ (Chrysostom, Homilies on the Gospel of Matthew, 19.7). In Matthew 11:28-30, Jesus invited the faithful: Come to me all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.
A yoke was a device laid across the necks of domesticated draft animals (particularly oxen) by which the master could control the animal and the path that master wanted the animal to travel. The Israelites, like stubborn oxen, were often "stiff-necked" and refused to bend to God's "yoke" "His divine will (Ex 32:9; 33:3, 5; 34:9; Dt 9:6, 13). To teach the people to submit to God's plan for Israel's prosperity and to cooperate with God's plan for salvation history, God sometimes disciplined the Old Covenant people by allowing them to bear the "yoke" of other nations when they resisted His "yoke."
Answer: As opposed to the heavy "yoke" of oppression of earthly kings, Jesus calls us to take upon ourselves the "yoke" of obedience to His word and to live out the blessings and promises of the Beatitudes in which we will find the "rest" of eternal life; this is the fulfillment of the Kingdom of God in our lives.
Petition #3: "YOUR WILL BE DONE ON EARTH AS IN HEAVEN"
(Jesus said) Not everyone who says to me, Lord, Lord shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Matthew 7:21
Yes, I know what plans I have in mind for you, Yahweh declares, plans for peace, not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. Jeremiah 29:11 [NJB]
Teach me to do your will, for you are my God. Psalms 143:10
This 3rd petition expresses two desires.
Question: What is the first desire of the petition: "Your will be done..."?
Answer: The petition concerns God's "will" and the fulfillment of His "will." The first desire of this petition is that we identify humbly and unconditionally with God's will "to abandoned ourselves in the arms of our Father and to the fulfillment of His plan for our lives.
Question: If you believe God has a plan for your life, how do you access God's plan?
Answer: We become partners in God's plan through continual prayer, in living the Beatitudes daily, in participating in the life of Christ through the Sacraments He has given us, and faithful obedience to the teachings of Mother Church.
To pray "Your will be done" is to seek the heart of God, meaning to seek all that humans, in their limited capacity, can experience of God in their lives. How hard is it for you to submit yourself to the will of God in every aspect of your life? Read the following verses to help you seek the heart of God and to trust Him with your life:
Question: What is the second desire of this petition in the phrase: on earth as it is in heaven... and in what three aspects?
Answer: In the second part of the petition, it is our prayer that just as the angels and saints in heaven are fully at one with God's will, so too, it is our desire that the same union of will should true on earth:
To be part of this union we cooperate with God's will for us in full freedom; for example God's will is to be found in the moral aspect of the divine law "but this law is not forced on us. One of the signs of the coming of the Kingdom is our loving fulfillment of God's will from an internal desire to conform to the image of Christ.
Petition #4: "GIVE US TODAY OUR DAILY BREAD"
I am the bread come down from heaven... I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world. John 6:41, 51
This is the turning point in the prayer. The first set of 3 petitions address God: "Your name," "Your Kingdom," and "Your will."
Question: Looking at
Matthew 5 verses 10c-13 what does the second set of 4 petitions concern and what
is the subject of each petition?
Answer: The second series of 4 petitions concern us: "give us," "forgive us," "lead us not" (or "let us not be led") and "deliver us;" the subject is "us".
In the petition Give us today [or this day] our daily bread, the Greek word, which most Bible translators have translated as "daily," is the Greek word epiousios. This word is a grammatical anomaly and the derivation and meaning of epiousios is one of the great unresolved puzzles of New Testament lexicography. The word epiousios is only found here in Matthew 6:11 and in Luke's account of the Lord's Prayer in 11:3. This Greek word does not occur anywhere else in Greek literature except in Christian documents related to this prayer or the subject of the Holy Eucharist. This word is so unique that it was unknown even in the times of the early Church Fathers. Origen of Alexandria, designated by Christian historians as the greatest biblical scholar of antiquity, suggested that epiousios is a word invented by Matthew and adopted by Luke since there was no Greek word in existence that would adequately described the supernatural character of the "heavenly bread" [Origen, De orat. 27.7]. Nor does there seem to be any link in the Exodus passages referring to the manna from heaven: lehem minhassamayim = "bread rain down from heaven for you" or debar yom beyomo = "a daily portion" or the Aramaic pitgam yom beyomeh.(1)
Scholars have proposed 4 different meanings for this word:
St. Jerome's definition was "super-substantial" or "necessary for existence." In any case, from the times of the Fathers of the Church this word has always been taught as a reference to the Holy Eucharist:
What miracle in the Old Testament prefigures the first promise of our
super-substantial bread? Quote the passage from the book of Exodus.
Answer: In the miracle of the manna from heaven: Yahweh then said to Moses, Look, I shall rain down bread for you from the heavens. Each day the people must go out and collect their ration for the day... (Ex 16:4, NJB).
Question: Where in the New Testament does Jesus promise "bread from heaven"? Hint see John chapter 6 and quote a significant verse.
Answer: In the Bread of Life Discourse: So Jesus said to them, "Amen, amen, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave the bread from heaven; my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world" (Jn 6:32-35).
Question: When does Jesus fulfill this promise?
Answer: It is fulfilled at the Last Supper in Jesus' statement, "This is my Body..." and it is fulfilled at every Mass when the priest stands "in the person of Christ" and says the words of consecration which begins the transformation by God the Holy Spirit of our gifts of bread and wine into the very Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of our Savior, Jesus! This is our heavenly bread that our heavenly Father provides to nourish us on our spiritual journey to the promised land of heaven, just as He gave manna to the Children of Israel on their physical journey to the Promised Land of Canaan.
Do we interpret this petition as the daily nourishment that we need to survive physically or spiritually? The Church Fathers do acknowledge that all "bread," heavenly and materially, does indeed come from God, and we do provide, in cooperation with God's creation, the bread that supernaturally becomes the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ. However, the Fathers warn this interpretation of bread for our physical nourishment must also include the acknowledgement that this petition also refers to the heavenly bread that is Christ our Savior. In sacred Scripture, "table bread" is always an anticipation of the heavenly banquet (Mt 26:26; Mk 14:22; Lk 22:19; Lk 24:30-31). Every meal over which Jesus presided in the New Testament had deep eschatological significance "every meal was a salvation meal which looked forward to the "final feast." The material bread that God provides for us daily on our own tables symbolizes and foreshadows the heavenly reality that we see in the real presence of Christ in the holy Eucharist which is the visible reality of a heavenly promise when we are called bodily to the heavenly Communion of Saints.
Petition #5: "AND FORGIVE US OUR DEBTS AS WE FORGIVE OUR DEBTORS"
Who but God can take away sins. Mark 2:7
5th petition: forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors ...
This petition probably refers to:
The Greek word opheilema which can be translated "trespass" or "debt" is found only here in Matthew chapter 6 and in Romans 4:4 in the New Testament. The transliteration of this Greek word is "what is due" or "an obligation, a debt." But here it clearly has a moral connotation, meaning "the debt of sin." This interpretation is supported by Luke's version of the Lord's Prayer where he uses the Greek word hamartias' which means venial sins. Jesus was probably speaking in Aramaic and in Aramaic the word hobha means debt or sin. In the Old as well as in New Testament times, sin was conceived of in terms of a debt. Since for his Greek readers Luke translated the Aramaic word into the Greek word hamartias, meaning "sins" we should obviously understand it in that sense.
Question: According to the Bible what is the only way in which a "debt of sin" can be paid?
Answer: In the Old Testament as well as in the New Testament a "debt of sin" can only be paid with blood: [please note: NJB = New Jerusalem translation]
It is interesting that the last words of the Passover celebration were It is finished or fulfilled, these were the same words (teltelestai in Greek) that Jesus cried out on the cross before He gave up His spirit (Jn 19:30). In the time that Jesus lived, the word "teltelestai" was also an accounting term that was announced when a debt was paid. Jesus paid our debt of sin on the Cross.
Answer: Since Adam and Eve's fall from grace, through sin death has reigned over man's life which, ever since, has been measured by time. But, Christ has claimed victory over sin and death and has shared that victory with those who believe in Him. All those who die in Christ's grace become participants in the death of the Savior with the promise that they can also share in His Resurrection.
Answer: In loving gratitude for the debt He paid for our sins, we in turn forgive others. If we refuse to forgive others our sins of unforgiveness will separate us from God's forgiveness.
The "Eighteen Benedictions" of the Jews also has a petition for forgiveness, but no condition is attached to that petition unlike the Lord's Prayer. Once again, Jesus has "raised the bar" or intensified the righteousness required of the New Covenant believer. This is the only petition to which Jesus will return and reemphasize at the end of the prayer.
Petition #6: "AND DO NOT SUBJECT US TO THE FINAL TEST"
Lean upon Him, because if
the Lord is not your support and your strength, then you will fall and you will
be afraid of everything.
St. John of the Cross, Sermons, 9, first Sunday of Lent
But the souls of the upright are in the hands of God, and no torment can touch them. [...]. God was putting them to the test and has proved them worthy to be with him; he has tested them like gold in a furnace, and accepted them as a perfect burnt offering." Wisdom 3:1, 5-6 [N.J.]
In this petition we recognize that our human efforts alone do not take us very far in trying to cope with temptation, and we must turn to God to get the strength we need. St John of Avila, wrote God is strong enough to free you from everything and can do you more good than all the devils can do you harm.
all the same, should we expect trials? Does God send us into evil to test
us? See Sir 15:11-20; Mt 5:10-12; Jam 1:12-15.
Answer: Yes, we should expect trials but God does not tempt us with evil; God wants only what is good for us.
The "final test" can mean:
St. James, first Christian Bishop of Jerusalem and kinsman of Jesus wrote: Blessed is the man who perseveres in temptation, for when he has been proved he will receive the crown of life that he promised to those who love him. No one experiencing temptation should say, "I am being tempted by God"; for God is not subject to temptation to evil, and he himself tempts no one. Rather, each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire conceives and brings forth sin, and when sin reaches maturity it gives birth to death (Jam 1:12-15).
St. James was put to the test. In the interim between the death of one Roman governor and the installation of the next governor who was in route from Rome, the High Priest saw his chance to rid himself of the troublesome Christian Bishop of Jerusalem who was bringing many Jewish converts to Christianity. James, kinsman of Jesus of Nazareth, to whom Jesus had appeared after His resurrection (1 Cor 15:1-8), was recognized as one of the pillars of the Church along with Sts. Peter and John the Apostle (see Gal 1:19; Acts 12:17; 15:13; 21:18; and the Letter of St. James to the universal Church). This pious man was even regarded by the Jews as a man of great holiness and was affectionately called "old camel knees" because of the condition of his knees after many, many hours of prayer before God for the sins and salvation of his people.
In his account of the martyrdom of St. James, Bishop of Jerusalem, Bishop Eusebius, writing in the 4th century AD, records the account of Hegesippus, who Eusebius cites as "living immediately after the Apostles" and the account of St. Clement, disciple of St. Peter and 4th Bishop of Rome (martyred 96AD). He records that James was told his life would be spared if only he would renounce Jesus as the Messiah. When James refused, he was cast down from the height of the Temple. After surviving the fall, the people, at the instigation of the High Priest, began to stone him. James' dying words were those same words uttered by his Savior from the Cross, Father, forgive them for they know not what they do (Lk 23:34). James did indeed pass the final test and the courage of his martyrdom won many Old Covenant Jews into the New Covenant in Christ Jesus (see Eusebius, History of the Church, chapter XXIII and also see the account of James martyrdom in Antiquities of the Jews by the 1st century Jewish historian Flavius Josephus [circa 37-100 AD]. See Antiquities Book 20, chapter 9.1).
Question: If God does not tempt us, then why do we even pray And do not subject us to the final test or as this petition is sometime translated, And lead us not into temptation; a better translation is And let us not be led into temptation ... ? See Wis 3:1-9 and Ps 37:23-24
Answer: God would never tempt us to do evil, but He will allow Satan to tempt us and when we rise above that temptation we are strengthened and purified by the experience: But the souls of the upright are in the hands of God, and no torment can touch them. [...]. God was putting them to the test and has proved them worthy to be with him; he has tested them like gold in a furnace... Wisdom 3:1a, 5.
Take courage when you are tested and remember Psalms 37:23-24:The steps of the godly are directed by the Lord. He delights in every detail of their lives. Though they stumble, they will not fall, for the Lord holds them by the hand. When my children were little and we were walking on an icy surface I would admonish them "Don't run; you'll fall!" Invariably they wouldn't heed my words; they'd run and they'd fall and after I had picked them up and dried their tears they would take my hand and say, "Don't let me fall, Mommy." This is our plea in this petition: "You warn me of the pit-falls of sin Lord. I will try to avoid them but when I fall, please forgive me and pick me up that I might try again, Lord."
Temptation is part of this world and we must face it every day, but what promise
does God make us as we face temptation and trial? Read 1 Cor 10:13 for
Answer: It is God's solemn promise that He will not let you be tried beyond your strength; but with the trial he will also provide a way out, so that you may be able to bear it. We must turn to God to get the strength we need to resist the temptation to sin, and through the work of the Holy Spirit to fight the battle against sin in order to live the victory of a holy life. Such a battle and such a victory are only possible if we remain vigilant, if we remain obedient, and if we are strengthened through prayer and the sacraments Jesus gave to His Church.
Petition #7 "BUT DELIVER US FROM THE EVIL ONE"
Jesus' prayer to the Father on behalf of His disciples: I do not ask that you take them out of the world but that you keep them from the evil one. They do not belong to the world any more than I belong to the world. John 17:15-16
This petition asks that we be delivered from the "evil one," also known as the devil or Satan who is the author of all the evils and sorrows to which we are subject in this world. In 1 John 3:8, St. John writes: Whoever sins belongs to the devil, because the devil has sinned from the beginning. Indeed, the Son of God was revealed to destroy the works of the devil.
These verses from Scripture describe the Adversary, Satan:
The Fathers of the Church wrote that the 5 "I wills" of Satan in Isaiah 14:12-15 were answered by the 5 wounds of Christ on the Cross!
In the book of Revelation the angel/messenger of the Church at Smyrna warns the congregation of the dangers they, and we, will face from Satan: Do not be afraid of anything that you are going to suffer. Indeed, the devil will throw some of you into prison that you may be tested and you will face an ordeal for ten days*. Remain faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life (Rev 2:10). *This is not a literal number but is symbolic of the length of time prescribed by God according to His plan "a very short time compared to the blessings of eternity; see the document "The Significance of Numbers in Scripture in the Resources section.
And Jesus warned Simon Peter, and all of us, about the enmity of Satan toward those who belong to Him: Simon, Simon! Look, Satan has got his wish to sift you all like wheat; but I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail, and once you have recovered, you in your turn must strengthen your brothers (Lk 22:31-32).
But we also have this promise from the Apostle John to encourage us in the struggle: Children, you are from God and have overcome them [those who belong to Satan], because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world (1 Jn 4:4).
Does the Devil have any power over God?
Answer: No, he is still essentially God's servant as he was before he fell from heaven.
What promise does God make to us in Romans 8:28 that gives us comfort in the
times when evil seems to surround us?
Answer: Romans 8:28 ~ We are well aware that God works with those who love him, those who have been called in accordance with His purpose, and turns everything to their good [NJB].
We must remember that Jesus is victorious over sin, death, and Satan. The victory is ours but we must continue to claim our victory by resisting sin and thereby, resisting Satan. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is stronger than the devil. When Jesus first sent the disciples out to preach the Gospel He congratulated them on the dramatic results of their mission: The seventy [two] returned rejoicing, and said, Lord, even the demons are subject to us because of your name.' Jesus said, I have observed Satan fall like lightning from the sky. Behold, I have given you the power to tread upon serpents and scorpions and upon the full force of the enemy and nothing will harm you (Lk 10:17-19). Jesus is characterizing the preaching of the Gospel of salvation as a symbolic fall of Satan. Then as now, as the kingdom of God is established and sustained, evil in all its forms is being defeated and the dominion of Satan over humanity and the earth has come to an end. He can still cause trouble but he cannot take away our salvation unless we, through the exercise of our free will, give it up ourselves!
Look once again at Romans 8:28. Does the "everything" in Romans 8:28
include suffering? See Rom 8:17.
Answer: Yes it does! We must be ready to suffering to gain the Kingdom of Heaven. Suffering for the Kingdom of Heaven is a result of fully living the Beatitudes, for nothing makes Satan more enraged than a holy life used by God to bring a greater harvest into the storehouse of heaven.
In a way this petition sums up all the other petitions. We are asking our Father to free us from everything our enemy does to tempt us into sin, but we cannot be free of him unless God Himself frees us in response to our prayers. The sacraments, which Jesus gave us strengthen us on our journey through this life and protect us from sin. Along with the sacramental grace that is ours in living the Sacraments of our faith, prayer is our most powerful weapons against Satan. It is important for us to remember that it was through prayer that Jesus vanquished Satan throughout His public ministry and in His last struggle in the Garden of Gethsemane! We can be sure that our prayers will be heard because Jesus, when He was on the point of leaving this world, prayed to the Father for the salvation of all of us. In John 17:15 Jesus prayed to the Father, I am not asking you to remove them from the world, but to protect them from the Evil One. They do not belong to the world any more than I belong to the world. Consecrate them in the truth; your word is truth.
This last petition is the end of the Our Father prayer, but there is a doxology (not found in Scripture) that we add to this prayer:
The doxology: "For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory, forever."
At some time in the liturgy of the first century Church this doxology was added to the final petition of the Lord's Prayer. It is found in the Didache, also called "The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles," the first catechism of the Church, which may have been written as early as 50 AD.(3) Most conservative scholars place the writing of this document in the 1st century AD after the Council of Jerusalem, but it could not be written later that the mid 2nd century because we have manuscripts dating to that period in which the Didache is quoted. The Greek word didache means "instruction or teaching." This document contains instructions for gentile converts to the New Covenant faith. Included in these instructions the Didache commanded that Christians recite the Lord's Prayer three times daily: Say this prayer three times a day [Didache, article 8:3]. The second century AD Roman lawyer turned Catholic priest/apologist, Tertullian, wrote that Christians prayed at 9AM, noon, and 3 PM, which corresponds to the Jewish prayer times and the Tamid sacrifice in Jesus' day as well as the hours of His sacrifice and death (Ancient Christian Writers: The Didache, pages 19 & 158-159). The command to pray the Lord's Prayer 3 times a day is also found in the later Latin translation of the Didache known in English as the Apostolic Constitution in article 7.24. The practice may attest to the age of the document. In the very earliest years of the Church the majority of Christians were indeed former members of the Old Covenant Church, and to these former members of the Old Covenant Church reciting the Lord's Prayer three times daily at these times may have seemed a reasonable continuation of an old custom with a new custom that recalled the hours of the Passion of Christ, replacing the prayers of the "Eighteen Benedictions" which righteous Jews prayed 3 times daily and the hours of prayer associated with the daily liturgy of the Tamid sacrifice.
It cannot be denied that from the birth of the Church this beautiful prayer, given to us by Christ Himself, has been faithfully recited down through the centuries and is contemporary to every generation of Christian believers. It is one of the first prayers we learn as children, it will be one of the last prayers on our lips at the end of our exile on this earth, and it will continue to be faithfully recited by succeeding generations of Christians until Christ comes again in glory to call His Bride home to His heavenly kingdom.(2)
Catechism of the Catholic Church # 2565 beautifully expresses the dimensions of Christian prayer as taught to us by Jesus in the Lord's Prayer: In the New Covenant, prayer is the living relationship of the children of God with their Father who is good beyond measure, with his Son Jesus Christ and with the Holy Spirit. The grace of the Kingdom is the union of the entire holy and royal Trinity...with the whole human spirit.' Thus, the life of prayer is the habit of being in the presence of the thrice-holy God and in communion with him. This communion of life is always possible because, through Baptism, we have already been united with Christ. Prayer is Christian insofar as it is communion with Christ and extends throughout the Church, which is his body. Its dimensions are those of Christ's love.
Matthew 6:14-15 ~ 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.
Question: After concluding His example for perfect
prayer Jesus returns to what petition from the Lord's Prayer in Matthew 6:14-15?
Why does He emphasize this petition?
Answer: He returns to the subject of forgiveness in petition #5.
These verses reflect a set pattern which theologians call the "Principles of Holy Law." The main thrust of this passage is that forgiveness of our fellow man/woman is crucial to our relationship with the Father through the Son. We cannot ask God to forgive us if we withhold our forgiveness of others. Jesus wants us to understand that unwillingness to forgive means that we have withheld our love and therefore we condemned ourselves in the Final Judgment, for the refusal to forgive is the antithesis of love (also see Mt 18:21-35). St. John wrote to the universal Church on the power of Christian love in 1 John 4:16c-19, giving us this assurance: God is love, and whoever remains in love remains in God and God in him. Love comes to its perfection in us when we can face the Day of Judgment fearlessly, because even in this world we have become as he is. In love there is no room for fear, but perfect love drives out fear, because fear implies punishment and whoever is afraid has not come to perfection in love. Let us love, then, because he first loved us.
A review of the Lord's Prayer in this lesson:
Your Kingdom come
|The coming of the Kingdom of God is the realization of God's plan of salvation in the world. The Kingdom establishes itself in the 1st stage in the core of our being, raising us up to share in God's own inner life which we live by God's grace through the sacraments of our faith in the kingdom of heaven on earth "the Church. The 2nd stage is the promise of eternal life, where our elevation to the supernatural level is fully completed. For our part we need to respond to God with humility, love, trust, and obedience and service to His Church, the Kingdom of Heaven on earth.|
Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven
|This petition concerns God's "will" and the fulfillment of His "will." First we must identify humbly and unconditionally with God's will "to abandoned ourselves in the arms of our Father and to His plan for our lives. To pray Your will be done is to first seek the heart of God. The second part of the petition: on earth as it is in heaven, means that just as the angels and saints in heaven are fully at one with God's will, so too, it is our desire that the same union of will should true on earth "for us individually, for our faith communities and for the universal Church as a whole.|
Give us today our daily bread
|From the times of the Fathers of the Church, the rare word epiousios (only here and in Lk 11:3) translated as "daily," has always been taught to be a reference to the Eucharist. It is the "bread" our heavenly Father provides to nourish us on our spiritual journey to the promised land of Heaven, just as He daily gave manna to the Children of Israel on their physical journey to the Promised Land of Canaan. But our bread from heaven is the very Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus our Savior.|
And forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors
|The Greek word translated as "debt" has a moral connotation, meaning "the debt of sin" (Lk 11:4). Forgiveness of our fellow man/woman is crucial to our relationship with the Father through the Son. We cannot ask God to forgive us if we withhold our forgiveness of others. At the end of the prayer, Jesus returns to the subject of this petition in 6:14-15 and teaches that unwillingness to forgive means that we have condemned ourselves to God's Judgment. Jesus warns: If you forgive others their transgressions your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your transgressions.|
And do not let us be subject us to the final test
|In this petition we recognize that our human efforts alone do not take us very far in trying to cope with temptation and sin. Therefore, we must turn to God to get the strength we need to resist the temptation to sin and, through the work of the Holy Spirit, to successfully fight the battle against sin to live the victory of a holy life. Such a battle and such a victory are only possible if we remain vigilant and obedient and if we are strengthened through prayer and the Sacraments, we need not fear the Final Judgment.|
But deliver us from the evil one
|This petition asks that we be delivered from the devil or Satan who is the author of all the evils to which we are subject in this world and over whom we have been promised victory.|
|Michal E. Hunt © October 2005 www.AgapeBibleStudy.com|
Jesus continues to teach on the private practice of Christian virtues:
TEACHING ABOUT FASTING
The world only
admires spectacular sacrifice, because it does not realize the value of
sacrifice that is hidden and silent.
St. Jose-Maria Escriva, The Way, 185
Jesus now turns to the third topic of the exercise of Christian virtues, fasting.
Matthew 6:16-18 ~ When you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites. They neglect their appearance, so that they may appear to others to be fasting. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. 17 But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, 18 so that you may not appear to be fasting, except to your Father who is hidden. And your Father who sees what is hidden will repay you.
Once again Jesus uses the Greek word "hypocrites" "one who "plays a role." It is not a coincidence that the teaching about fasting should follow the teaching about prayer. Fasting was meant to be a bodily cleansing that accompanies a spiritual cleansing in concentrated prayer. According to the Law of the Sinai Covenant, God's people were required to fast on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement (see Lev 16:31). However, in Jesus' day the practice of regular fasting and prayer was common, especially in a forty day period that led up to the Feast of the Day of Atonement.
The Didache, also called The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles, addresses the importance of prayer and fasting for the Christian. In article 8:1-3 the Didache instructs the Christian: Your fasts should not coincide with those of the hypocrites. They fast on Mondays and Tuesdays; you should fast on Wednesdays and Fridays. And do not pray as the hypocrites do, but pray as the Lord has commanded in the Gospel. The reference to "the hypocrites" in the Didache may refer to the scribes and Pharisees or to all the Jews who refused the New Covenant in general. After this statement the Didache records the Lord's Prayer according to Matthew's Gospel with the doxology (See Ancient Christian Writers: The Didache, pages 19 & 158-159).
Acts 13:1-3 ~ Now there were in the church at Antioch prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Symeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen who was a close friend of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. 2 While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, "Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them." 3 Then, completing their fasting and prayer, they laid hands on them and sent them off.
Acts 14:23 ~ They appointed presbyters for them in each church and, with prayer and fasting, commended them to the Lord in whom they had put their faith.
Question: How did the early Church use the practice of
Answer: In both passages, fasting is associated with prayer. In Acts 13:1-3 the Christian leaders of the Church at Antioch fasted and prayed when making a petition for divine assistance in an important decision "the election of Paul and Barnabas for a missionary journey. In Acts 14:23 at the end of their missionary journey, Paul and Barnabas fasted and prayed when appointing the leaders of the newly founded Christian communities.
Question: When did Jesus fast during His ministry?
What great Old Testament prophet fasted in Exodus 34:28?
Answer: Jesus fasted for 40 days after His baptism by John the Baptist and before beginning His ministry. Moses fasted during his 40 day encounter with God on Mt. Sinai.
John the Baptist and his disciples practiced the discipline of fasting. Jesus was questioned by John's disciples and criticized by the Pharisees for not imposing fasting upon His disciples (Mt 9:14). Jesus told His critics that fasting was not appropriate in times of joy. His reply was that while He was with them, He wanted His disciples to be joyful; they would have plenty of time to fast after His "departure." In His reply to John's disciples and the Pharisees, Jesus was speaking of fasting as a sign of mourning and was comparing the lack of fasting as a sign of joy as in the celebration at a wedding feast. He used this imagery to contrast what He was bringing in His new Gospel of salvation with the Old Covenant in the metaphor of the old and new wineskins (see Mt 9:14-17; Mk 2:18-22; Lk 5:33-29).
Jesus knew that there would be a time when fasting would be appropriate for His disciples and He wanted to prepare them for that time.
Question: With another authoritative Amen, I say to
you in Matthew 6:23, what does Jesus define as the correct Christian
attitude toward fasting?
Answer: Once again the emphasis is on being God-centered and not on being self-centered. Christians are to fast secretly in order to receive a heavenly reward.
Fasting is a form of penance in which a person imposes limits on the kind or quantity of food or drink consumed. Abstinence is defined as refraining from certain food or drink as an exercise in increasing one's spiritual welfare or as prescribed by ecclesiastical law (universally or locally). From the earliest years of the Church (as noted in the quote from the Didache listed above), Christians have observed days of fasting and abstinence, notably during the season of Lent, in commemoration of Jesus' Passion and death. As commonly understood, abstinence is the action which inclines a Christian to the moral virtue of the moderate intake of food and drink as dictated as an act of faith inclined toward his own moral and spiritual welfare, i.e., to refrain from eating meat as a personal sacrifice offered to Jesus. See CCC 2043; 1387; 1434, 1438.
Question: What are the requirements for fasting and
abstinence for Catholics in North American as set down by our Bishops? See
the catechism references above.
Answer: Abstinence on Ash Wednesday and all Fridays of Lent and to fast one hour before and approximately 20 minutes after receiving the Sacrament of the Eucharist. The obligation of the Catholic to observe days of fasting and abstinence is the 5th Precept of the Catholic Church.
CCC 2043b: The fourth precept ( You shall observe the prescribed days of fasting and abstinence.') ensures the times of ascesis and penance which prepare us for the liturgical feasts; they help us acquire mastery over our instincts and freedom of heart. The Church's universal law, which is found in the Code of Canon Law, states that all Fridays of the year are days of abstinence unless the local bishops' conference has made other provisions (with the approval of the Holy See). The American Bishops' Conference has ruled that abstinence is required only on Ash Wednesday and the Fridays of Lent. Abstinence on other Fridays of the year is, however, encouraged and this devotion may also be expressed by an act of mercy which replaces the penance of abstinence from meat.
Today for American Catholics, fasting is limited to one hour before receiving the Sacrament of the Eucharist. In the early Church, however, fasting was much more severe. In the East and in the West the faithful Catholic abstained on fasting days from fleshy meats and from wine. In the ancient Latin Church the celebration of the Mass was in the late afternoon into the evening during Lent and the fast was not broken before sunset. Prior to 1966 the regulations on fasting prescribed taking only one full meal a day during fast days, along with some food for breakfast and a collation. The days of abstinence and fast for the universal Church were Ash Wednesday, the Fridays and Saturdays of Lent, Ember days, and the vigils of certain feasts. The days of fast were observed the rest of the days of Lent, except on Sundays "a day of rejoicing. The constitution Paenitemini of Pope Paul VI in 1966 instituted changes in the old norm. The penitential nature of the law of fasting remained but the extent of the obligation was redefined. Under the reform the laws of fasting allowed only one full meal a day, but did not prohibit taking some food in the morning and in the evening. This law of the fast was extended to the faithful who had completed their eighteenth year and up to the sixtieth year for older adults. Prescribed days of fast and abstinence for the universal Church are Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.
Questions for group discussion:
Question: The passage from the Catechism in citation 2565 defines prayer as the habit of being in the presence of the thrice-holy God. How often do you pray outside of Mass? How does one develop a healthy prayer life?
Question: St. Ignatius of Loyola once said Pray as if everything depended on God and work as if everything depended on you. What did St. Ignatius mean by this statement?
Question: Sometimes it helps to have a plan for prayer in one's conversation with God. Do you have a plan that helps to stimulate your prayer life?
When you begin to pray, remember Jesus' promise in Jn 14:13-14: And whatever you ask in my name, I will do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask anything of me in my name, I will do it. One plan that helps to stimulate open and heartfelt conversation with God is based on the word ACTS. A = adoration, C = contrition, T = thanks, and S = supplication. Using this plan, you begin by expressing your love for God as you welcome His presence in your time of prayer. Coming into His divine presence, you mourn your sins, the sins of your community and the world. Having been purified by confessing your sins and expressing the intention of taking any grave sins to the Sacrament of Reconciliation, you offer up your thanks for Christ's promise of salvation, for all the good in your life, and also for your personal suffering in those times when you have obediently taken up your personal cross to follow Christ. Finally, you offer God your petitions for good things that will increase your faith and that will be helpful in living a good life as well as making supplication for the needs of others.
Question: Fasting intensifies prayer and worship. When are we required to fast? Do you keep these covenant obligations or do you take on additional acts of penance in the form of abstinence or fasting? Why or why not. See the Catechism citations for 538-40; 2043; 1387; 1434 & 38.
Michal Hunt, Copyright © 2011 Agape Bible Study. Permissions All Rights Reserved.
1. The Greek word epiousios and other words like it that occur only once in the Bible are designated hapax legomenan (Greek for "said once"). There are about 1,500 of these in the Old Testament; but only 400 are, strictly speaking, hapax legomena (plural), meaning the word is absolutely new coinages of roots or cannot be derived in their specific meaning from other occurring root stems. The other approximately 1,100 words, while occurring only once as a form in the corpus of the biblical text, can be connected with other existing words.
2. The Lord's Prayer is inscribed on the walls of the Pater Noster Church in Jerusalem in over 50 different languages. The original church was built in the 4th century AD over the grotto where, according to tradition, Jesus taught His disciples this beautiful and ageless prayer.
3. See the study on the Didache in the Topical Bible Studies section of the website.
Michal Hunt, Copyright © 2011 Agape Bible Study. Permissions All Rights Reserved.
Catechism references for this lesson: see the chart for catechism references for chapter 6 in the previous lesson.