“Jesus Said What?!“ – Mt 6:9-15

I just found out that a friend from my EMS days has just died.  Please keep him, his family and friends, and all public service workers in your prayers today.  Lent is a time for preparation to see Jesus.  Charlie, with God’s Grace, you are with Him now in heaven.  God Bless You Charlie!


Is it wrong to love this time of the year?  The weather is in a continuous state of change.  Literally, in the St. Louis area at this time of the year, one day could be in the 60’s and 70’s, with everyone outside in shorts, and all windows in the house open; and the next below zero degrees outside, with several inches of snow; and then the next being a day of severe thunderstorms.  The saying in St. Louis is, “If you don’t like the weather, wait 10 minutes!”   


The same goes for our faith.  Anticipated joy is tempered with Lenten acts of almsgiving, meditation, sacrifice, and preparation for Easter.  But even these six weeks of lent are broken up with six “mini” days of joy: Sundays.  Sundays are always days of the celebration of Jesus’ resurrection, and times to rejoice in our salvation through Him.


The first prayer I, and most other Christians learned, is the topic of my reflection today.  It is also the gospel reading in today’s Mass at all Catholic Church’s.


Quote or Joke of the Day:


“When the devil reminds you of your past… remind him of his future!” – St. Teresa of Avila


Today’s Meditation:


“This is how you are to pray: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven. Give us today our daily bread; and forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors; and do not subject us to the final test, but deliver us from the evil one. 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.”  (NAB Mt 6:9-15)


I love the “Our Father” prayer.  I bet most Catholics don’t know there are actually two versions of this beautiful prayer, and I am not talking about the “Catholic” and “Protestant” versions.  Matthew’s form of the “Our Father” follows the liturgical tradition of the Jewish church.  Luke’s less developed form also represents the liturgical tradition known to him, but it is probably closer than Matthew’s to the original words of Jesus.  Again, we have a case for a conceptual view, and a direct and literal view of the same prayer. 


“Our Father in heaven” is found in many Jewish prayers created after the period of the New Testament.  “Hallowed be your name” refers to the “hallowing” or reverence done to God, through human praise, and by obedience to God’s will.  In this case, it is more probably more of a petition that God manifest his glory through a powerful action: the establishment of His kingdom on earth. 


“Your kingdom come” sets the tone of the prayer.  In this great prayer, it trends more towards divine action, rather than human action in the petitions of the prayer.  “Your will be done, on earth as in heaven” exclaims that the divine purpose is to set up the kingdom on earth; already present in heaven. 


“Give us today our daily bread” is from a rare Greek word “epiousios,” that only occurs in the New Testament here, and in Luke 11:3. The word probably means “daily” or “future;” but other meanings have also been proposed. This verse of the “Lord’s Prayer” signifies the want of a speedy coming of the kingdom: i.e., today.  The kingdom of God is often portrayed in both the Old and New Testaments as an image of a feast  (look at my post from a few days ago).  


“Forgive us our debts” is a metaphor for our sins, and for forgiveness at our final judgment. 

Jewish writings prophesize a period of severe trial before the end of time.  This last part of the prayer asks that believers in Jesus (thus God) be spared any final test. 


“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 believe most of us do not read this sentence completely, or have a selective understanding of this two-part petition.  The first part asks for forgiveness from God.  We all have no problems with this portion: it’s the next that seems to cause the real concern.  If we do not forgive, neither is God.  Any resentment towards another, will be dealt with some type of “resentment” when it comes to eternal paradise.  So, to put this part of the prayer in perspective; God is only going to forgive us to the exact amount we have forgiven ALL that have sinned against us!  If we want total forgiveness for our sins, we have to forgive EVERYONE, IN FULL, for any sins, actions, words, behaviors, lies, or thefts they have done against us.  Sounded easy at first: didn’t it?  


These seven or eight petitions give us a formula for the perfect prayer.  Jesus proves His divinity, in the beauty and sincerity of such simple phases. 


“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. Amen.”


Pax et Bonum

Dan Halley, SFO




Catholic Saint of the Day: Saint Polycarp


 Imagine being able to sit at the feet of the apostles and hear their stories of life with Jesus from their own lips. Imagine walking with those who had walked with Jesus, seen him, and touched him. That was what Polycarp was able to do as a disciple of Saint John the Evangelist.  

But being part of the second generation of Church leaders had challenges that the first generation could not teach about. What did you do when those eyewitnesses were gone? How do you carry on the correct teachings of Jesus? How do you answer new questions that never came up before?  

With the apostles gone, heresies sprang up pretending to be true teaching, persecution was strong, and controversies arose over how to celebrate liturgy that Jesus never laid down rules for.  

Polycarp, as a holy man and bishop of Smyrna, found there was only one answer — to be true to the life of Jesus and imitate that life. Saint Ignatius of Antioch told Polycarp “your mind is grounded in God as on an immovable rock.”  

Polycarp faced persecution the way Christ did. His own church admired him for following the “gospel model” — not chasing after martyrdom as some did, but avoiding it until it was God’s will as Jesus did. They considered it “a sign of love to desire not to save oneself alone, but to save also all the Christian brothers and sisters.”  

One day, during a bloody martyrdom when Christians were attacked by wild animals in the arena, the crowd became so mad that they demanded more blood by crying, “Down with the atheists; let Polycarp be found.” (They considered Christians “atheists” because they didn’t believe in their pantheon of gods.) Since Polycarp was not only known as a leader but as someone holy “even before his grey hair appeared”, this was a horrible demand.  

Polycarp was calm but others persuaded him to leave the city and hide at a nearby farm. He spent his time in prayer for people he knew and for the Church. During his prayer he saw a vision of his pillow turned to fire and announced to his friends that the dream meant he would be burned alive.  

As the search closed in, he moved to another farm, but the police discovered he was there by torturing two boys. He had a little warning since he was upstairs in the house but he decided to stay, saying, “God’s will be done.”  

Then he went downstairs, talked to his captors and fed them a meal. All he asked of them was that they give him an hour to pray. He spent two hours praying for everyone he had ever known and for the Church, “remembering all who had at any time come his way — small folk and great folk, distinguished and undistinguished, and the whole Catholic Church throughout the world.” Many of his captors started to wonder why they were arresting this holy, eighty-six-year-old bishop.  

But that didn’t stop them from taking him into the arena on the Sabbath. As he entered the arena, the crowd roared like the animals they cheered. Those around Polycarp heard a voice from heaven above the crowd, “Be brave, Polycarp, and act like a man.”  

Because of Polycarp’s lack of fear, the proconsul told him he would be burned alive but Polycarp knew that the fire that burned for an hour was better than eternal fire.  

When he was tied up to be burned, Polycarp prayed, The fire was lit as Polycarp said Amen and then the eyewitnesses who reported said they saw a miracle. The fire burst up in an arch around Polycarp, the flames surrounding him like sails, and instead of being burned he seemed to glow like bread baking, or gold being melted in a furnace. When the captors saw he wasn’t being burned, they stabbed him. The blood that flowed put the fire out.  

The proconsul wouldn’t let the Christians have the body because he was afraid they would worship Polycarp. The witnesses reported this with scorn for the lack of understanding of Christian faith: “They did not know that we can never abandon the innocent Christ who suffered on behalf of sinners for the salvation of those in this world.” After the body was burned, they stole the bones in order to celebrate the memory of his martyrdom and prepare others for persecution. The date was about February 23, 156.  

(From http://www.catholic.org/saints/ website)


Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule #23:


Requests for admission to the Secular Franciscan Order must be presented to the local fraternity, whose council decides upon the acceptance of new brothers and sistersAdmission into the Order is gradually attained through a time of initiation, a period of formation of at least one year, and profession of the rule.  The entire community is engaged in the process of growth by its own manner of living.  The age for profession and the distinctive Franciscan sign are regulated by the statutesProfession by its nature is a permanent commitment.  Members who find themselves in particular difficulties should discuss their problems with the council in fraternal dialogue.  Withdrawal or permanent dismissal from the Order, if necessary, is an act of the fraternity council according to the norm of the constitutions.  


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