Here is an interesting hypothetical question; What would you ask Jesus if you had the chance face to face? There are numerous instances in the bible where different individuals had that opportunity; the rich young man ask how he could attain eternal life, the disciples asked who would be greater in heaven, Martha asked Jesus to get Mary to help her, the Samaritan woman asked why He was asking her for water, Pilot asked Jesus if He was a king … These are all good questions but the question that led to today’s gospel was a really great question.
“Jesus, can you teach us how to pray?”.
It is interesting, if you were to read yesterday’s gospel Jesus gives a slightly less detailed answer to that question. ”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.
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.”
Today’s gospel begins out in a similar manner: “In praying, do not babble like the pagans, who think that they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them. Your Father knows what you need before you ask him.”
So why ask? If our father knows what we need before we ask Him then, why are we praying to Him at all? Well, that line doesn’t say that we should stop talking with God, but maybe we should stop asking for so many things.
The way that Jesus teaches us to pray begins with a salutation and then a point of perspective. “Our Father”, because we are all God’s children. And “Who art in heaven” just in case we forget where we are heading and wanting to go.
When I was in CCD classes a nun taught us that there are 9 parts / concepts to the Our father. Starting with “Our Father” and ending with “deliver us from evil”, she would tell us that you could mix and match these 9 parts to compose your own version for a given day.
“Our father, forgive us our trespasses and deliver us from evil.” I do not remember what this exercise was supposed to accomplish unless it was her way of getting us to memorize all 9 parts. For me it was not the parts that we remembered, it was the part that we sometimes forget.
At the end of today’s reading, we heard something that was almost added as a footnote, “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.” I said that it was almost as if it was a footnote because the concept is covered in the body of the earlier text, “forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us” so why the added emphasis? Perhaps to remind us to the “new commandment” that He was sent to give us, perhaps so that we will not forget that love our enemies as our friends”. Who knows, the problem with hypothetical questions is that they will always remain hypothetical.
What would we ask Jesus if we were to meet Him face to face? The good news is that we don’t have to ask Him how we should pray, he answered that for us in today’s gospel.
Mary set out
and traveled to the hill country in haste
to a town of Judah,
where she entered the house of Zechariah
and greeted Elizabeth.
When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting,
the infant leaped in her womb,
and Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit,
cried out in a loud voice and said,
“Most blessed are you among women,
and blessed is the fruit of your womb.
And how does this happen to me,
that the mother of my Lord should come to me?
For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears,
the infant in my womb leaped for joy.
Blessed are you who believed
that what was spoken to you by the Lord
would be fulfilled.”
And Mary said:
“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord;
my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.
From this day all generations will call me blessed:
the Almighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his Name.
He has mercy on those who fear him
in every generation.
He has shown the strength of his arm,
he has scattered the proud in their conceit.
He has cast down the mighty from their thrones,
and has lifted up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.
He has come to the help of his servant Israel
for he has remembered his promise of mercy,
the promise he made to our fathers,
to Abraham and his children for ever.”
Mary remained with her about three months
and then returned to her home.
June 15, 2022
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