The following meditation is heavily dependent on the very excellent meditation found in the Catechism, part 4, section 2 which I highly recommend you read in its entirety.
Meditation on the Our Father
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name; thy kingdom come; thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
There are two different recordings of the Lord’s Prayer in scripture. The first is in the gospel according to Matthew, chapter 6, verses 9-13 (but be sure to read 14 and 15 too) and is part of the Sermon the Mount. Luke relates the Lord’s Prayer in answer to the disciples question about how to pray and it’s a little bit different.
However what I wanted to focus on was 7 key parts in Matthew’s account.
The prayer starts by address God as Father. God Almighty God All-Powerful, God who created everything out of nothing – God, our Father.
Father is a word that refers to a relationship based on love. This is not a distant deity whom we petition from afar. No! This is our Father, and like a small child we climb up into his lap, bask in his love for us and say Abba, Daddy, I love you.
I don’t know what your earthly fathers are like our whether they’re fathering exemplifies God, Our Father; but our Father in heaven – that “Father” means love, strength, encouragement, mercy, goodness, justice, safety and comfort.
By calling God, Father, we enter into a relationship with him that is intimate and personal and deep, full of love and tenderness.
Hallowed be your Name
Merriam Webster defines ‘hallowed’ as “holy, consecrated; and sacred, revered.” This piece of the prayer gives God honor and glory but also petitions Him to make his name revered through mighty deeds. By saying, ‘hallowed be your Name’ we’re saying in effect – may your name (Father) be revered because of the mighty works you have done, are doing and will do. By saying ‘hallowed be your Name’ we’re saying – do something incredible that will cause you to be glorified, and do it through us.
Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven
These are two petition but both refer to the kingdom of God or the kingdom of heaven (a recurring theme in Matthew) which refers ultimately to the final coming of Christ. However, this coming began with the Last Supper, the institution of the Eucharist, and has been coming ever since. The kingdom of God is not just in heaven or in some final post-Judgment Day paradise. The kingdom is here, now, in our midst. And we are called to work to bring about the coming of the Kingdom of God. This petition requires our action. It requires us to follow and do God’s will, our Father’s will, here in our lives daily, moment by moment just as His will is manifest in heaven
Give us this day our daily bread
This petition reflects our trust that God will provide what we need, when we need it. It focuses our attention on today and today’s problems/worries and forces us to not worry about tomorrow. Father Nagle has said many times, “His grace is sufficient for us today.” That doesn’t mean that his grace is insufficient for tomorrow but simply that today, in this moment we can trust him, our Father, Abba Father, completely and let tomorrow take care of itself.
Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us
This is the most challenging of these petitions. By expressly linking our own acts of forgiveness to our state of being forgiven Jesus is challenging us to be more like him and to forgive, even those who have hurt us the most. He is challenging us and requiring us to love like he does. Luke 23: 33-34 “… Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.”
We have an example of what that love looks like in Stephen, the first martyr. Acts 7:51-60.
Also, in the Sermon on the Mount Jesus says to love our enemies (Matthew 5: 43-48). The greatest way you can love someone who has hurt you or wronged you is to forgive them.
CCC Part 4, Section 2, Article 3, V. 2840 reads: …. Love, like the Body of Christ, is indivisible; we cannot love the God we cannot see if we do not love the brother or sister we do see….
Lead us, not into temptation
God does not know evil and does not tempt us. The Greek word translates poorly into English but it combines the meanings of ‘do not let us enter into temptation’ and ‘do not let us yield to temptation’. Romans 7:15 – 8:2. Paul writes about our new nature being at war with our old nature – our flesh/fallen humanity. This petition is our plea to be delivered from the ‘near occasion of sin’ as well as delivered from yielding to temptation and sin in our lives.
Note that this petition comes immediately after we have dealt with previous sin (forgive us our trespasses). When you go to confession and make the act of contrition it follows this model – first you confess your sins, then you make the act of contrition which ends with “I firmly resolve, with the Help of Thy Grace, to confess my sins, to do penance, and to amend my life.” The petition, lead us not into temptation, is our plea for our Father’s help in avoiding sin in our lives.
Deliver us from evil
Also read as ‘deliver us from the Evil One’. Our enemy, Satan, holds the whole world in his power (1 John 5:19) but our deliverance is from God, our Father, who protects us from Satan’s traps and snares.
Remember how at the beginning I said that ‘father’ meant safety, mercy, justice, encouragement, strength and above all, love? Safety is from the evil one, mercy is for our sins and protection from sin, justice is for our forgiveness of other sins, encouragement is for doing his will on earth to bring about his kingdom, and strength is for hallowing his name by mighty deeds worked through us. Love is this ultimate meaning of Father and that love encompasses everything else.