17th Sunday Year C - Homily 2


Homily 2 - 2019

To hear Luke’s version of the Lord’s Prayer that we had tonight can be quite a shock. We are more familiar with the longer version found in Matthew’s Gospel. I want to focus right now on sharing a few of my own reactions to the prayer based on Luke’s shorter version. It won’t take us so long!

It starts simply, “Father”. Jesus’ Jewish contemporaries were used to talking about God as “Father”; but Jesus seems to have been unique in personally addressing God as “Father”. On his lips, the greeting expresses wonderful intimacy and warmth. To some, it may have sounded awkwardly intimate, even scandalously so. Today, some people wonder if the word “Mother” might convey an even more breathtaking intimacy. Whatever about that, Jesus leaned spontaneously to the masculine title because, according to the limited biological knowledge of the time, fathers were assumed to be the sole life-givers with mothers providing no more than the necessary but secondary nourishing seed-bed of their wombs. Jesus rejoiced not only in the depth of his warm, intimate relationship with his God, but also in its powerful energizing, life-giving effect on him.

What is God’s effect on you, now; and what word sums it up best for you?

The prayer continued, “May your name be held holy”. What sense do you make of that? And why is it apparently so important? To me it has the meaning, ‘I want to take you seriously; and I wish the whole world would take you seriously, too’. Yet this respect, this reverence before God, is neither more important nor less important than my appreciation of God’s warmth and tender, supremely personal, affection. We need to go no further in our prayer until we can spontaneously hold both convictions equally strongly in our hearts. We don’t, after all, need to get to the end of the prayer straight way.

When we feel right, Jesus suggests then that we move further on with our prayer: “Your kingdom come”. This thought focuses us firmly on our mission to this world. We can forget about heaven for the moment; God already looks after that. It cannot be other than it is. But in the meantime, we have a task to perform. Remember the commission of the risen Jesus, “As the Father sent me, I now send you…”.

When we celebrate the feast of the Kingship of Christ, the Church uses words like ‘justice, truth, freedom, peace’. When we hear the word justice in the context of God’s justice or of God’s wishes for the world, I think that most people instinctively think first of retributive justice, of punishment or reward, of law and order. Some may think of distributive justice, but usually in the sense of people getting what they deserve. Few think spontaneously of God’s justice which is overwhelmingly restorative justice – a bit like the judgments made by doctors when we go to visit them. They check out our symptoms and then ask themselves what might be causing them. Once they ascertain that, they set about determining how best they can restore us to health. That is what God does. God’s justice is also distributive justice, but not as most of us see it. God’s distributive justice does not ask what people deserve, but what they need; and God distributes his bountiful grace and mercy accordingly.

In an encyclical letter he wrote not long before he retired, Pope Benedict XVI instructed us to approach ‘justice, truth, freedom and peace’ as concrete expressions of a prior and over-arching attitude of love. We need to look at our world always through the lens of God’s unconditional love and mercy. That way of seeing takes time and maturity. I think, it also takes support from other like-minded disciples.

There is more to look at, even if we stick to Luke’s shorter version of the Prayer. If we really take it seriously, perhaps we may never get to the end of it. To get there calmly, totally honestly, may take a lifetime.