Fr. Roger J. Landry
Acton University 2016, Grand Rapids, MI
Thursday of the Eleventh Week in Ordinary Time, Year II
June 16, 2016
Sir 48:1-14, Ps 97, Mt 6:7-15
To listen to an audio recording of this homily, please click below:
The following points were attempted in the homily:
- We are now 192 days into the 349-day extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, which is meant to influence everything the Church and we as individual Catholics do over the course of the year. Today is one of three occasions daily Mass-goers have to ponder the Lord’s prayer during this Year and it would be worthwhile to do us from within the prism of the Lord’s mercy. At a superficial level, we could say that this is the prism through which Jesus wants us looking at it most, since immediately after teaching his apostles how to turn to God the Father in prayer and entrusting to them seven different petitions, he commented only on one, one explicitly about our mercy toward others and God’s toward us: “If you forgive others their transgressions, your heavenly Father will forgive you,” he said. “But if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your transgressions.” Our reception of God’s mercy, which is an expression of God’s unconditional love, is conditioned by the mercy we have for others. Our heart must have systolic and diastolic movements for it to function: if we’re not pumping out the mercy given us in Christ’s blood, our heart will stop being able to receive the mercy God wants to pump in. As Christ would say elsewhere, the measure with which we measure we will measured back to us and it’s only a person open to forgiving others their debts of 100 denarii that will be capable of genuinely receiving God’s forgiving us of our debts of 10,000 talents (or 60 million denarii).
- But the entirety of what Jesus teaches us in the Lord’s prayer can be understood within the prism of mercy, because it’s meant to help us to relate to God the Father of Mercies in such a way that, through ordering our desires to God, we might become “merciful like the Father” (Lk 6:36), the motto of this Jubilee. Let’s briefly touch on these ways.
- First, the whole fact that Jesus teaches us how to pray correctly is an act of mercy. We’re not called to babble like the pagans, but to recognize that God already knows what we need and will respond with paternal merciful care. Jesus has us pray even though the Father knows what we need so that we might be purified in what we ask for by bringing it before him.
- That’s why Jesus teaches us to pray first for three things that will cure us of selfishness and help us to align our lives to God. We pray not for our name to become famous, but for God’s to be hallowed; not for our kingdom to come, but God’s; not for our will to be done, but for his. One of the greatest gifts of God’s mercy is to liberate us from our worldliness and lift us up. God’s name will be hallowed, his kingdom come, and his will be done precisely when we receive his mercy and share it with others.
- The very fact that Jesus reveals God as “our Father” implicitly shows us already this two-fold dimension of mercy: we don’t have a distant deity dispassionate about our struggles and needs, but, like earthly dads, one who would never give us a stone when we ask for bread or a poisonous eel when we ask for a fish. The revelation that God is like this is already an act of mercy; the reality of it is an even greater one! But at the same time Jesus has us pray not to “my Father” but to “our Father,” a simple adjective (or possessive genitive in Greek, with the same consequence!) that indicates to us our relationship to each other: we are brothers and sisters of each other, called to relate to each other as loving siblings, as chips off the old divine Merciful Block.
- Then Jesus turns to the four other petitions that bring us more deeply into a prayerful communion with the Father’s glory, kingdom and will.
- We pray first, “Give us each day our daily bread,” which is a prayer of mercy in at least three ways. First, we acknowledge our need and that God the Father each day responds to that need. Second, we recognize that God feeds us not by raining down physical manna from heaven each day, but through the hard work and generosity of so many. That leads us, through the “our” contained in the prayer to become extensions of God’s providence in seeking to provide for others. And third we know that the adjective normally translated “daily” is epi-ousios, which means “super-substantial,” something that the Fathers of the Church interpreted as a reference to the Eucharist, to the “true Manna” God gives us each day to nourish our souls, to bring us into communion with our Merciful God and allow that Mercy to flow through us to others.
- Next we pray, “Forgive us our trespasses just as we have forgiven those who have trespassed against us,” which is a clear acknowledgement of our and others’ sinfulness and need for mercy, but also is a clear summons for us and others to forgive.
- Third, we beg, “Lead us not into temptation,” which is a recognition of our and others’ weakness and a cry for God to sustain us whenever we’re tempted lest we fall.
- Lastly, we implore, “But deliver us from evil,” so that we and others might share in Mary’s enmity in rejecting Satan, his evil works and empty promises, and share in Christ’s triumph over the devil and all his wiles.
- Here at Acton University, as we ponder the Entrepreneurial Vocation, the underpinnings of the Free and Virtuous Society, and so much more, it’s good for us to insert it within what Jesus teaches us today about God’s glory, kingdom and will, and how each of them flourishes in the lavish outpouring of God’s mercy toward us in all the blessings and talents he’s given us, in all the ways he’s given us second opportunity and seventy-time-seven chances, and how he wants to transform us to be merciful like God in the way we relate to others and serve them lovingly not as strangers but as spiritual siblings. Our work, our vocations, are caught up in the mystery of this two-fold mercy, which is at the foundation of his kingdom, and the summit of his will. Elijah, as we hear at the beginning of today’s first reading, and Elisha with him as we hear at the end of this passage from Sirach, were both people who hallowed God’s name, did God’s will and prepared people for his kingdom precisely through calling people to God, converting from whatever was incompatible with him and to everything that was. Even though are contexts are different, even though the specific work God has given us may be different from theirs, each of us is, like them, called to receive God’s mercy and pay it forward.
- Today as we celebrate this Eucharist together, we can’t help but notice how the Church has us pray the Lord’s prayer right after we’ve finished the Eucharistic Prayer with the Great Amen, right after we have welcomed Christ onto the altar. We pray it then, rather than, for example, as a preparatory prayer for the Mass, to communicate, I think, that we pray that prayer together with Christ who in the Eucharist not only wants to bring us into communion with the Father’s mercy — since he gave his Body and Blood in the Upper Room and on Calvary “for the forgiveness of sins” — but into communion with each other, summoning us to leave our gift before the altar and reconcile with each other first, so that the Holy Spirit truly can, without the impediment of a stony heart in us, make us “one body, one Spirit” in Christ. As we pray the Eucharistic Prayer followed by the Lord’s Prayer today, let us ask Jesus whom we’re about to receive, God the Father who gives him to us out of love and to whom Jesus teaches us to turn as a Dad, and the Holy Spirit through whom we cry out “Abba!,” to transform us by his mercy to understand all that we are learning during these days within the prism of mercy and motivate us to imitate God’s mercy in putting those truths into action.
The readings for today’s Mass were:
whose words were as a flaming furnace.
Their staff of bread he shattered,
in his zeal he reduced them to straits;
By the Lord’s word he shut up the heavens
and three times brought down fire.
How awesome are you, Elijah, in your wondrous deeds!
Whose glory is equal to yours?
You brought a dead man back to life
from the nether world, by the will of the LORD.
You sent kings down to destruction,
and easily broke their power into pieces.
You brought down nobles, from their beds of sickness.
You heard threats at Sinai,
at Horeb avenging judgments.
You anointed kings who should inflict vengeance,
and a prophet as your successor.
You were taken aloft in a whirlwind of fire,
in a chariot with fiery horses.
You were destined, it is written, in time to come
to put an end to wrath before the day of the LORD,
To turn back the hearts of fathers toward their sons,
and to re-establish the tribes of Jacob.
Blessed is he who shall have seen you
And who falls asleep in your friendship.
For we live only in our life,
but after death our name will not be such.
O Elijah, enveloped in the whirlwind!
wrought many marvels by his mere word.
During his lifetime he feared no one,
nor was any man able to intimidate his will.
Nothing was beyond his power;
beneath him flesh was brought back into life.
In life he performed wonders,
and after death, marvelous deeds.
PS 97:1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 7
The LORD is king; let the earth rejoice;
let the many isles be glad.
Clouds and darkness are round about him,
justice and judgment are the foundation of his throne.
R. Rejoice in the Lord, you just!
Fire goes before him
and consumes his foes round about.
His lightnings illumine the world;
the earth sees and trembles.
R. Rejoice in the Lord, you just!
The mountains melt like wax before the LORD,
before the Lord of all the earth.
The heavens proclaim his justice,
and all peoples see his glory.
R. Rejoice in the Lord, you just!
All who worship graven things are put to shame,
who glory in the things of nought;
all gods are prostrate before him.
R. Rejoice in the Lord, you just!
“In praying, do not babble like the pagans,
who think that they will be heard because of their many words.
Do not be like them.
Your Father knows what you need before you ask him.
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.’
your heavenly Father will forgive you.
But if you do not forgive others,
neither will your Father forgive your transgressions.”