- St. Augustine
Last night I was working with my daughter on her homework for the Catholicism 101 class she’s taking. The topic of the week was prayer, and the lesson fittingly touched on the Our Father prayer. The Gospel reading for Mass today contained Luke’s version of the prayer (the shorter, less popular version).
After the apostles asked Jesus to teach them how to pray, two words came out of his mouth that in one sense changed everything, and summed up the whole story at once: “Our Father”.
The Jewish people at the time of Jesus had great respect for the name of God. In fact, there were only a few times a year that God’s name could be pronounced, and then only by the high priest. Even today, many Jewish authors will not even type the word God, but instead type G-d out of respect. You also hear many Jews refer to God as “Hashem”, which means “The Name” in Hebrew.
When Jesus used the word “Father” he revealed both who he was (the Son of God), but also who God was (a Father). It was revealed to the apostles that G-d did indeed did deserve the utmost respect, but not as a distant unknowable deity, but as a father. The Jewish practice of referring to God with a formal third-person title could now be replaced with a personal second-person pronoun.
It was not terribly uncommon for people in the 1st century to adopt adults. When an adult was adopted, two important things occurred. First, the person was given every benefit of being part of that family that any natural children were. So that means that any inheritance, legal status, etc. was granted to them at that point. And secondly, the person was forgiven of any debt or liability that would have pertained to them as a member of their formal family.
With the word “Our”, Jesus informed us of our chance at adoption. Our chance to exchange an inheritance of sin, death, and darkness for an opportunity to enter into a new family whose inheritance included truth, life, and love. To stake claim to our inheritance as brothers and sisters Jesus, and as children of God. “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light,” and that light was sitting before them.
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.