The Our Father

10th Sunday after Pentecost
Beloved in Jesus Christ, this past spring, in a small town in Ohio, moments before the high school graduation, the senior class secretly made a decision that would make national headlines. For over 70 years, their public school had a tradition at graduation of singing the Our Father. Catholics and Protestants alike, and any others who wished to join in, sang the Lord’s prayer at their graduation.
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But this year, the school district banned the song to appease a group of ‘perpetually-offended atheists,’ it might be better to call them ‘bullies,’ none of whom even live in town. The decision devastated the community. So that day, as the students were lining up, some of them began talking about how wrong it was that their beloved tradition had been outlawed. ‘Pretty much everyone was in agreement,” said senior Bobby Hill. The class thought it was wrong.
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Bobby’s father was sitting in the auditorium when he received a text message from his son: the students were going to take a stand for God. After the valedictorian welcomed the crowd, the seniors rose to their feet and began committing an act of disobedience. They had been told they could no longer ‘sing’ the Our Father, and so instead, they recited it…. ‘Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name…’ The people cheered. They cheered for God, and for freedom to pray.
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Friends in Christ,’ Today in the Gospel, our Lord shows us two examples of prayer. The phony prayer of the Pharisee, and the humble sincere prayer of the Publican. Prayer is not just some ‘add-on’ to our life; if vitamins and minerals are essential to the health of the body, prayer is essential to the health of the soul.
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One time Christ’s disciples asked him to teach them to pray. Now all though there are many ways to pray, Jesus taught them the Our Father. They said, ‘Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples. And he said unto them, ‘This is how you should pray, Our Father, who art in heaven….’ And he taught the Lord’s prayer. On two different occasions he did this: the one recorded by St. Luke is briefer, the one recorded by St. Matthew is exactly the Our Father as we say it today.
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This prayer is the only prayer given to us directly by God. Jesus Christ himself gave this prayer to us. Now I am certain that everyone here says this prayer even more than once a day. It can be said in our morning prayers or night prayers. As I was preparing this homily, I wondered how many times I pray it each day and I counted about 30; for sure it is and must be an important part of our daily life.
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Growing up, our family always prayed, along with the meal blessing, the Our Father. (We also prayed the Hail Mary and the Glory Be, and a prayer for Missionaries, and for our deceased relatives.) If you pray a rosary, you are saying the Our Father six times. St. Ambrose says, ‘Say the Our Father at least 3 times a day that you may be worthy to be children of your Father in heaven.’ But regardless, a day should never pass in our life, in which this prayer is not on our lips and our children’s lips.
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This prayer has worked wonders: it brings immediate peace to a troubled soul, drives out demons, repels temptation, and has worked miracles. A woman was completely mute, unable to speak at all. But one day at Mass, as the Our Father was begun, she was miraculously cured. The Lord’s Prayer shows us that we are children of God. No other religion on earth calls their creator ‘Father,’ but we do. ‘Pater Noster, qui es en coelis….’
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Some people add to the end of the Our Father, ‘For thine is the kingdom and power and glory… A person asked me once, ‘why don’t you Catholics add that part?’ I said, because it’s not in the bible! We use the Our Father just as it was taught to us by Christ in the gospel of St. Matthew. That extra phrase is called a ‘Doxology,’ a short prayer of praise. In the early Church, especially in the east, such Doxologies were often added to things in prayers.
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Well, the bible before the 15th century was copied entirely by hand – very arduous – and it seems that a monk or someone wrote an aspiration – a doxology – in the margin of his book. The next copiest must have thought that it belonged in the text and put it in.  Of the Greek manuscripts we have of the bible, some of them have this Doxology added to the Our Father. When Protestants translated their bible during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, this translation was used and brought into the King James Bible.  They used the Textus Receptus text, which has this error.  Scripture scholars all agree now, that this doxology is not part of the Our Father given to us by Christ and is therefore not found in modern bibles. So we can just say, ‘we don’t use it because it’s not in the bible. It’s a nice prayer of praise, but it wasn’t given to us by Christ.
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Since the earliest days of the faith, the Lord’s Prayer was prayed right before receiving Holy Communion, it has always been connected with Holy Communion.[i] In fact, in the true Greek, in which the Our Father was written, it doesn’t say give us our ‘daily bread,’ but rather, ‘give us this supernatural bread.’ The bread that we are asking for in the Our Father, is the Bread of Life from the altar. So it is appropiate that many people come to weekday Mass as well, to receive daily, this ‘supernatural bread of angels.’
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And it is interesting, that in the gospel of St. Luke, where he teaches the Lord’s Prayer, right after that, he tells the story about the man knocking and demanding to receive some bread. It is not a coincidence.
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In the early Church, no one ever spoke publically about the Mass, nor ever spoke the Our Father out loud. This was called the ‘discipline of the secret.’ These were Secrets of our Faith, and no one was to know them except those who were members. These are the Sacred words, and although today we allow non-Catholics to know of them, the Our Father is still the secret words of love that we pray to our Father in heaven.
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May the Blessed Virgin help us in the coming days, especially to pray often, this sacred prayer taught to us by Jesus.

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[Entrusted to the prayers of St. Bernadette]

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[i] Jungman, Vol. II, p. 285.

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