We must speak to God as a friend speaks to his friend, servant to his master; now asking some favor, now acknowledging our faults, and communicating to Him all that concerns us, our thoughts, our fears, our projects, our desires, and in all things seeking His counsel.--St. Ignatius of Loyola
(Gospel Text: LK 11:1-4)
Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, "Lord, teach us to pray just as John taught his disciples." He said to them, "When you pray, say: Father, hallowed be your name, your Kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread and forgive us our sins for we ourselves forgive everyone in debt to us, and do not subject us to the final test."
We need to get past the notion that our task as Jesus’ disciples is simply to follow the rules and receive the sacraments. Those aren’t our goals; they’re means to our goal which, as disciples, is to proclaim and show by our lives what God’s Kingdom is like, to show how God wants things to run in human affairs. If we really do that with all our strength, we will arouse opposition from the power structures that rule the world in the human way. And when we encounter that opposition we’re tempted – tempted to back off, not to make waves, to “go along”.
We have to face that, in the Lord’s Prayer, we ask God to establish His reign now, “. . . on earth as in Heaven.” And if that were to happen, all our societal structures would be turned upside down. Debts would be forgiven. People would be given what they need – by other people – whether they’re “deserving” or not. Humans would be divided into two camps. That’s why Jesus said He had come not “to bring peace, but a sword.” (Matt 10:34). That’s why it is truly daring to say this prayer. [Note the introductory words before the Lord’s prayer at Mass “. . . . we dare to say. . . .”]
Despite Jesus’ focus on the end time in the petitions of the Lord’s Prayer, we pray it today, for today, not just for some future catastrophe that most of us will probably never personally experience. The Kingdom comes in a great number of small steps, each calling even the bystanders to choose to be for or against God’s ways. We can’t avoid the testing.
Simply being pious and religiously observant won’t be enough – It isn’t enough.
There is no single right way to respond to these numerous challenges. But we can ask God for guidance, just as Jesus did when He went off to pray alone at night. We can ask for the light to recognize these in-breakings of the Kingdom for what they are. We can ask for the wisdom to discern what our response should be. We can ask for the courage to be the prophetic people God has created in His spirit-filled, post-Pentecost church.