Praying with Jesus, Part 4

28 Nov

 

This is the final reflection on praying the Lord’s Prayer with Jesus.

In previous reflections, we contemplated how Jesus intended us to enter into the mystery of the Father’s love, the holiness of his name, the entry into his kingdom, and what it means to be grateful for our daily food and other blessings.

Here we will look into the mystery of God’s mercy and the spiritual demand for us to be merciful – and the need for that final grace at the end of our earthly life.

… and forgive us as we forgive others: God’s mercy does not come gift-wrapped. It is not a commodity. It is God’s essence, his very being. We cannot divide God into various functions. He is all what he is all at once, without change. It is God’s nature to forgive – for God is love, and the one who loves lives in God and God in him or her (See 1 Jn 4:16).

The frightening reality is that we have the power and freedom to reject the mercy and forgiveness God perpetually extends to us. We can choose slavery over freedom, guilt over clear conscience.

Since we are made in God’s image, it is also in our power to forgive. Forgiveness is in the very nature of God and his plan for his creatures – a people of all colors and languages bound together in love and rooted deeply in his very being.

So, if we fail to forgive others, we are rejecting God himself, his own mercy toward us. It was Jesus who said, “Whatever you do to the least of my brothers you do to me (Cf Mt. 25:40).

If we do not forgive, we reject love. If we reject love, we reject God – and his mercy.

… and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: How this puzzled me for so many years! Why would God lead me into temptation? Why would he want to make it ever harder for me? Is God really that mean?

Then, it was explained that God does not will temptation upon us, nor does he tempt us. He permits it. Then I learned the distinction between his ordaining will and his permitting will. For example, he ordained that Jesus would die for us; he permits Satan to tempt us – and he gives us free will to choose God or Satan.

In recent years, I’ve read that some Scripture scholars now read this phrase this way: “Put us not to the final test.” In other words, “God, in our final moments before death, when we feel both helpless and totally vulnerable, do not let Satan get the best of us. Come with your grace and aid. Protect us as your own. In the name of Jesus, save us.”

Of course, those last moments will be less fearful and we will feel less vulnerable if we have, indeed, known God as Abba, if we have held his name as holy; if we have embraced his will and kingdom now; if we have given thanks for all good things come from him; and if we have indeed forgiven others as he forgives us.

Amen! So be it!

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