July 24, 2016
The lesson today is about prayer, and the teacher is Jesus. He teaches us
concisely everything we need to know in order to pray well: what to say, what
to ask for, and how.
1- He teaches us the Our Father, which is the compendium of everything we can
and should ask from the Lord. We ask him for happiness, we ask him for the
things that lead us to happiness, and we ask him to deliver us from those
things that prevent us from attaining happiness.
First we ask him for happiness: “Hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come.”
Happiness is to be loved by the one we love. We do not quite understand this
sometimes, but the only infinite thing that exists, and so the only thing that
can satisfy the longings of our heart is God, God himself. When we say
“Hallowed be thy name,” we ask him that we may always recognize that he is so
good, that there can be nothing better than him, that nothing is more desirable
than him. We ask him the most important thing: that we may always realize that
he is our happiness. And when we say “Thy kingdom come,” we ask from him to
enjoy his goodness and his sweetness, to always enjoy his love: we ask him for
the true happiness, which is the perfect good: something that cannot be lost
and that completely satisfies our longings. We ask him for the kingdom of Heaven, which is himself
for us, forever.
Second we ask him for the means to obtain that happiness. The first, is the readiness to obey his will: “Thy will be
done.” If we love him, we need to do the commandments. But this is difficult.
So we ask him to help us. “Thy will be done,” means “give me always the grace
to do your will, to do everything I do in order to please you.” The second
thing we need to obtain happiness is to receive the sacraments: “give us this
day our daily bread.” Our daily bread is mainly the spiritual food for the
journey of life: the word of God, and the Eucharist. “Whoever eats my flesh and
drinks my blood has eternal life… if you do not eat the flesh of the Son of Man
and drink his blood, you do not have life in you” (cf. John 6:53-54).
Our “daily bread” may also be the other things we need in order to do the will
of God, like the material bread. We ask that we may always have the spiritual
food that we need, in order to persevere in doing his will.
Third, we ask the Lord to deliver us from the obstacles to attain
happiness. The first obstacle is sin: “Forgive us our trespasses.” But we add:
“as we forgive.” We should not expect from God our Father, the forgiveness we
don’t give to our brothers or sisters. Another obstacle is the temptation:
“lead us not into temptation.” And finally, the action of the devil and other
evils of life that can make difficult our path towards God: “deliver us from
evil” of “from the evil one,” as in other translations. These things are all we
need in order to be happy. The first, a desire for the true
happiness, which is to be with God and enjoy his company. The second, we
need the concrete things that take us to heaven: to do his will every day, and
to be fed by his word and his sacraments. The third, we need his protection
from the things that prevent us from doing his will: sin, temptation and some
other evil things. Jesus has taught us what to pray for.
2- But he also taught us how to pray. With insistence.
Not because he is not a good friend, but because insistence makes our heart
grow in desire. When they make you wait, your desire grows because of the
expectation. In spiritual life, the more you desire, the more you get. It is
like food: the best sauce is hunger, and the more you need food, the more it
profits you. Also, we do not appreciate so much the things that are easy to
get. God wants us to pray insistently, because in that way we get ready to
welcome properly his great gifts.
Finally, he tells us to pray with confidence. He is a powerful, almighty
Father. Because he is powerful, he can do whatever he wants. Because he is a
Father, he wants to do anything that is truly good for us, anything that would
make us truly happy. Parents are not always understood, even when they mean good
for their children. We sometimes misjudge God because he does not give us
something we have asked for. But if we knew how much he truly loves us, and if
we knew what he has in store for us for the little afflictions on earth, we
would say with St. Paul: “The sufferings of this present age are nothing
compared with the glory that will be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18) We
have to pray with confidence: the one who promised heaven can do whatever he
wants. The one who promised heaven wants to do for us much more than we expect.
He is good. Let us ask. Let us not ask as those who “try”, as those who “test”
to see if God is good or not. Let us ask with confidence for what we need! I am
convinced that God does not do more miracles only for this reason: because we
do not trust him, we do not pray with the certainty that if it is good for us,
God will certainly do it, no matter how difficult it seems to us.
Let us learn the lesson. Jesus taught us to pray, because he wants to give
us what we ask for. He taught us what to pray for, because he wants to make us
happy, but not without our consent. Our prayer is an answer to his love. He is
ready to give what we ask, because it is he himself who asked us to ask for
those things. Let us always pray, and may God grant us the happiness we
desire. –Fr. Andrew