Our theme this evening is the Lord’s Prayer and the Passion, the Our Father in the light of Jesus’ suffering and death.
Now it’s true that God is the Father of every human being in the sense that He made us each and every one, as the Catechism teaches us to say, “I believe that God has made me.” But we have lost the right to call Him “Father.” For beginning with the Fall of Adam we have all turned our backs on Him, rebelled against Him. C.S. Lewis put this in a memorable way: “Fallen man is not simply an imperfect creature who needs improvement: he is a rebel who must lay down His arms.” And that is true of you, of me, of all whose nature is now thoroughly corrupted: not only turned away from God but actively turned against Him. We are, as we say in the Catechism, “lost and condemned creatures,” in need of a Savior – and a Savior we have been given! In the beautiful words of John Henry Newman:
O loving wisdom of our God!
When all was sin and shame,
A second Adam to the fight
And to the rescue came.
Jesus teaches His disciples to pray, “Hallowed be Thy Name, Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven,” and in Jesus’ passion God’s Name is kept holy, His kingdom – His gentle rule of mercy – comes, and His will is perfectly done on earth as it is in heaven. As we sing:
No work is left undone
Of all the Father willed;
His toil, His sorrows, one by one,
The Scriptures have fulfilled.
“Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Himself sinless, Jesus cannot ask forgiveness for Himself but prays for all us mortal sinners and goes on loving to the end, “sincerely forgiving and gladly doing good to those who sin against” Him: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
“But deliver us from evil.” The wages of sin is death and so, as our Substitute, as the Lamb of God who bears all sin, He endures death for us; but because He is Himself the sinless Son of God, death had no claim on Him, death could not hold Him, and death itself is dead, the Last Enemy conquered – so that “when our last hour is come” He will “graciously take us from this vale of tears to Himself in heaven.”
And so we see that every petition is not only commanded by Jesus but also fulfilled by Him who is Himself the fulfillment of all God’s promises, the great “Amen!” to all our longing. As Saint Paul writes to the Church at Corinth: “For the Son of God, whom we preached among you was not Yes and No; but in Him it is always Yes. For all the promises of God find their ‘Yes‘ in Him. That is why we utter the “Amen” through Him to the glory of God.”
The martyred third century Bishop of Carthage, Saint Cyprian said, “When we pray the Our Father, we are praying to God with words given by God” – and we might add, with words not only given by God but in fact lived by the God-Man. And so, when we pray these words our Savior taught us, our hearts and minds are thereby being conformed to His. For the prayer He taught His disciples to pray is not only a prayer to be prayed but also a way of entering into His very life, shaping our lives as we pray in harmony with Him, “with all boldness and confidence,” as those who through Holy Baptism have been made the children of God, the brothers and sisters of Jesus, His Father our Father, His prayer our prayer, prayed in union with all who are His.
“Help us,” dear Savior, “this and every day to live more nearly as we pray.” Amen.