Homily on the Our Father

Author: Fr. Miguel Marie Soeherman, MFVA

Homily on the Our Father

Fr. Miguel Marie Soeherman, MFVA

Wednesday, 27th Week in Ordinary Time
11 October 2006, 7:00 am
Our Lady of the Angels Monastery
Hanceville, Alabama 

Our Dear Lord teaches His disciples to pray.  He teaches them the "Our Father" — the prayer with which all of us are very familiar.

 You notice though what St. Luke writes in his gospel.  It is not the same as the version that we pray often.  It is much shorter than the version we pray.

The "Our Father" is commonly known as the prayer with 7 petitions.  The #7 always symbolized perfection so the "Our Father" is the prayer with 7 perfect petitions.  In other words, any petitions we pray in our own words can be found in any of these 7 petitions of the Lord Prayer.

Now St. Luke's version does not have 7 petitions.  We only heard 5 petitions in today's Gospel passage:

                        1)        Hallowed be Your Name

                        2)        Your kingdom come

                        3)        Give us each day our daily bread

                        4)        Forgive us as we forgive others

                        5)        And lead us not into temptation.

Compared to St. Matthew's version, two petitions are not heard in today's passage:

                        1)        Thy will be done

                        2)        Deliver us from evil

Matthew's version is the one we're very familiar with.  Matthew's version is the one which the Church naturally used since it's more developed and complete.

The one thing to notice is the context when the "Lord's Prayers" is given.  St. Matthew's version (the more complete version) is given in the context of the Sermon on the Mount.  Specifically, it is given as part of Our Lord's teaching on how to pray.  St. Luke's version, on the other hand, is given in one of those occasions just after Our Lord has been at prayer.  So the Lord's Prayer is given in two different contexts.

There is nothing surprising about Our Lord teaching the same things on different occasions. — not always using the same words, not always at the same length, but always stressing the same basic points.

Just like Our Beloved Mother Angelica — she used to give lessons to the brothers on Wednesday morning — which we used to call it our  "Wednesday Audience with Mother".  She used to give daily lessons to our dear Sisters privately in the Monastery.  And when she's on the air during her "live" shows, frequently she would teach the same basic points as she taught us or the Sisters earlier.  So the teachings were done on different occasions — not always using the same words, not always at the same length, but always stressing the same basic points.

And that's the reason why there are two different versions of the "Lord's Prayer", but Our Lord is stressing the same basic points:  the prayer of the "Our Father" which has 7 perfect petitions.

John Paul II:  "Everything that can and must be said to the Father is contained in those 7 requests which we all know by heart.  There is such a simplicity in them that even a child can learn them, but at the same time such a depth that a whole life can be spent meditating on their meaning".

The Lord's Prayer is a simple prayer but it has such a depth that many Saints have written books or meditations just on the Lord's Prayer.  Our Holy Father St. Francis wrote one; St. Theresa of Avila wrote one; St. Augustine wrote one and that's just some of the examples.

Often times we're so used to praying the Lord's Prayer that we don't really think of what petitions we are really asking the Father.  As I have been mentioning, the Lord's Prayer has 7 petitions.  The first 3 petitions are requests for the Father's glory and the other 4 petitions are requests for ourselves.  And this morning I just want to briefly go over each of the 7 petitions of the Lord’s Prayer.

1st Petition  Hallowed be Thy Name  (Sanctificétur Nomen Tuum)

Here we're entering into God's plan and His plan is the sanctification of His name by us and in us, in every nation and in each man (cf. CCC 2858).

2nd Petition Thy Kingdom come (Advéniat Regnum Tuum)

Here we are looking first to Christ's return and we're looking to the final coming of the Reign of God.  We are also praying for the growth of the Kingdom of God in our own lifetime, not just the future growth, but asking to happen during our own lifetime as well (cf. CCC 2859).

3rd Petition They will be done on earth as it is in Heaven

(Fiat voluntas tua, sicut in coelo, et in terra)

Here we are asking the Father that our will be united to that of His Son so that we would fulfill His plan of salvation for the life of the world (cf. CCC 2860).  And this is the essence of holiness as Mother often reminded us — to do the will of the Father.

4th Petition  Give us this day our daily bread

(Panem nostrum cotidianum da nobis hodie)

Here we are asking not only nourishing for our body but also for our soul.  Of course, ultimately the super-essential nourishment for our soul is the Eucharist (cf. CCC 2861).

5th Petition  And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.

(Et dimitte nobis débita nostra, sicut et nos dimittimus debitoribus nostris)

Here we're begging for God's mercy.  This is the one line that causes many to stumble praying the Lord's Prayer.  If it just contained the first part no one would ever stumble with it (forgive us our trespasses) but the second past is there too:  forgive us our trespasses AS we forgive those who trespass against us (cf. CCC 2862).

In other words, we're telling the Father:

                        Father, please forgive all my offenses to you and to my neighbor, but do me a favor Father, forgive me only as I forgive others.  If I don't forgive even one person, then don't forgive even one of my sins.  This is the one line that causes many to pray with difficulty. 

But always keep in mind — forgiveness is not a feeling, but it is an act of the will.  The bitter memory may not be forgotten completely, the painful feeling of past hurts may still be there.  As long as our will is to forgive, then it truly is an act of forgiveness on our part.  St. John Chrysostom:  We cannot call God our Father in all sincerity if we harbor in ourselves a hardened heart.  If this is the case, we do not live in the spirit of goodness of our celestial Father.

6th Petition  And lead us not into temptation (et ne nos inducas in tentationem)

Here we are asking the Father not to allow us to take the path that leads to sin.  This 6th petition also ask for the spirit of discernment and strength.  We are asking to grace of vigilance and final perseverance (cf. CCC 2863).

7th Petition  But deliver us from evil (Sed libera nos a malo)

We are asking the Father here to show us the victory over the "ruler of this world" — victory over Satan — the fallen angel and his cohorts who are personally opposed to God and His plan of salvation.  We pray that the human family be freed from Satan and his works.  We also ask for the precious gift of peace and the grace of perseverance as we wait for the coming of Christ who will free us definitely from the Evil One (cf. CCC 2864).

So there's the brief tour of the Lord's Prayer which is based from the “IN BRIEF” of the Catechism.  For the complete version of its treatment, I refer you to the Catechism #2777 until the end.

Tertullian said: The Our Father is the "summary of the whole Gospel".

St. Thomas Aquinas said: It is "The Perfect Prayer".

The Lord's Prayer is: The essential content of the Gospel in the form of prayer.Our Lord Jesus has given us the model of all prayer.  May our Mother Mary help us to pray it while savoring each of the 7 petitions because if we really mean that God is Our Father, we will struggle and believe as His worthy children.