6 As we move along in our study of prayer, the best prayer is the prayer Jesus taught: the Our Father. A few years ago one of our R.C.I.A. members shared how he came to seek out what being Catholic would look like. He was from no religious background. Somewhere he had come across the Our Father and decided to simply pray this prayer - over and over. Many times, every day he prayed the Lord's Prayer and slowly it brought him to a deep relationship with God; and by that point he had come to the R.C.I. A. to find out as much as he could about this God with whom he now had a powerful relationship.
St. Theresa of Avila, the great "doctor" (or teacher) of the Church taught that one only really needs to know the Our Father and Hail Mary in order to grow to spiritual maturity.
So, let's now take an in depth look at each line of the Our Father. In this posting let's just look at the first two words: Our Father.
"OUR" - When we pray as a a Christian we never appear before God with out bringing everyone else. Yes, there are many times in our personal prayer that we think our special time of prayer is "between me and God" but the bigger picture is that we are bringing with us the whole fabric of humanity of which each of us is only a small part. Therefore, when Jesus taught us this prayer He invited us to speak to God as a representative of all of humanity. This initial word of the Lord's Prayer colors the rest of this prayer and hopefully over time enlarges our concern to be a concern for the whole human family.
As Americans we have a cultural bent in favor of individualism. "I" tend to be concerned about "me" and "mine". Even when we attend Mass our cultural emphasis can lead "me" to think of Mass as either helping "me" in "my" one hour with God, or "my" not getting anything out of it. When the emphasis is on "me", we are missing that big picture that this initial word of the Lord's Prayer is inviting us to.
When I approach Mass as my being part of a worldwide body (the Body of Christ) gathering for "our" encounter with the living God, then we enter into God's mixing with His Church to enliven us to collectively be His presence in the world as His people who are Eucharist-fed and brimming over with His holy Word.
FATHER - Jesus invites us to address God as Father. The actual word He used was "Abba." Even today in the Holy Land you can hear a young Arab or Jew calling out to his father by calling him Abba, maybe as we might call our own father, Dad, Daddy, or Poppa. By Jesus' choice of this word, He is inviting us into a trusting, personal relationship with God who will take care of us just as a poppa would take care of his own children.
The God Jesus is inviting us to know is not a power, or a force, or an energy. God is a poppa. That means we can trust in our Abba, we can turn to Him when we are frightened, or when we are in trouble, or when we don't know what to do. Our Abba will take care of us. He might make things tough for us so we can grow up and be more mature, but He will never leave us alone.
Some years ago there was a movement to stop calling God "Father." Some seemed to prefer calling God: Creator, or simply God. Anything to avoid the use of the gender based word that Jesus gave us for the First Person of the Holy Trinity. Surely for those whose personal experience with their own father was tortured, one can see how calling God "Father" could be a problem. In fact, because our religion uses a lot of familial terminology, Catholics whose families are dysfunctional can have a dysfunctional spiritual life as well. But the cure for this spiritual problem is not to make the rest of the Church lose this key insight into God as Father that Jesus reveals to us.
The catechetical moment here is to allow the familial terminology to assist all families, dysfunctional and healthy, to aspire to a higher way of being as typified by our calling God our Father and Jesus as our Brother and Mary as our Mother and the whole Church as well, Holy Mother Church.