When we pray the Our Father at bedtime, it is usually a personal and individual prayer. When we pray the Our Father with other Christians, it is the common prayer we all know. At Eucharist, the Our Father is our table prayer before Communion.
People in congregations who join hands to pray the Our Father often act prophetically in the efforts they make to link everyone together to pray. Hands stretch across aisles and pews, out to people in wheelchairs and to those who come to church alone. In these efforts people act out in gesture the kin*dom coming from heaven to earth, of our human community of love mirroring the divine community of love.
The Our Father expresses Jesus’ transforming vision of wholeness for humankind and challenges us to bring heaven down to earth. In Luke, Jesus inaugurates his ministry during a Sabbath service at the synagogue in his hometown, Nazareth. Jesus reads the prophet Isaiah?s promise that the Spirit of God will anoint a prophet to bring good news to the poor, sight to the blind, freedom to captives, liberty to the oppressed (Luke 4.16-19).
Jesus’ sermon on this passage is short. He says, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” With these words, he announces that he is the promised herald of God?s jubilee. His ministry begins the time of God’s favor and blessing that is good news, especially for the least among us.
In the gospels Jesus brings good news wherever he goes. He heals, gives sight and hearing, forgives, shares meals, raises the dead to life, and casts out the evils that possess people. When the imprisoned John the Baptist sends messengers to Jesus they ask, on John’s behalf, whether Jesus is the one God has promised, the Messiah. Or should John look for another? “Go and tell John what you hear and see,” answers Jesus. “The blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have the good news preached to them” (Matthew 11.2-6).
Until December 8, 1965, contemporary Catholics identified more with Jesus’ suffering than with his jubilee mission. We accepted suffering in this world and knew it promised eternal reward in heaven. The second Vatican Council, which ended on that date, called us to stand in solidarity with the poor and to transform the injustice in our world.
The opening sentence of the council’s most innovative document, The Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, called us to continue Jesus’ mission of healing, freeing and raising people up. “The joys and hopes, the griefs and anxieties of the people of this age, especially those who are poor or in anyway afflicted, these, too, are the joys and hopes, the griefs and anxieties of the followers of Jesus Christ.”
Human beings are social, made to live together, incapable of flourishing without parents, partners, and community. Each of us lives in relationships with husbands, wives children, siblings, friends, in-laws, members of our parish, coworkers, fans in the same stand, parents in the same school.
The U.S. Constitution guarantees every individual life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, the freedom to make it on our own. Our Constitution does not obligate us to make certain that even the least among us have food, health care, education, and work. In fact, we American citizens are of a political temper these days to blame those who don’t make it on their own rather that to create new ways to lift them up.
Catholic social teachings hold different standards by which to measure ourselves. Catholic social teaching understands each person’s human right to life, food, shelter, health care, education and employment, as every other person’s duty. For example, each person’s right to shelter is every other person’s obligation to provide affordable housing. When we act in solidarity we bring God’s reign among us.
How did Vatican II change your idea of what it means to be Catholic? St. Basil the Great wrote in the AD 300s: “The garment hanging in your wardrobe is the garment of one who is naked. The money you keep locked away is the money of the poor.” Do you agree with Basil? Which of the following do you agree with most?
- I have faith in free enterprise and competition to generate an economy that is best for the most people.
- I have faith in the communitarian teaching of the Church that calls us to solidarity with the poor.
Think of the images of God you surfaced in part one of this retreat. Read Matthew 25.31-46, the parable of the Last Judgment. Can you also image God as the homeless woman, the hungry family, the sex offender in prison, the man dying of AIDS?