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Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Homily: Matthew 6 - The Lord's Prayer

I worked at a men’s maximum security prison for a year and when I met with them for weekly prayer, one of the guys would start out by shouting out a question, “Whose Father?” to which everyone responded “Our Father, who art in heaven.” At first I thought it was a bit hokey, but it stayed with me because of the unity that it signified in their worship. This is certainly Our Father who we come to worship each day at Mass.

The first reading shows great unity in worship as the author of Sirach sings praises to the great prophet Elijah. This reveals a community that is happy and at ease with itself.

As I reflect upon the unity that we have under our Father in heaven, I look at ways in which we come to worship. We do so much of it as individuals rather than as a community and we have to strive to bring the community dimension to the foreground. Let’s look at some of the ways we act as individuals.

• No one knows if we go to the Sacrament of Reconciliation because it is a private affair.
• We schedule infant baptisms to be held after Mass.
• Weddings have become private celebrations.
• At Mass, we might not joyously greet our brother or sister by extended arms of peace. Some of us might withhold it for only those we care for most closely. Some won’t even smile or look at each other in the eyes.
• We sit in rows where we don’t have to look at another person and we certainly would get bent out of shape if someone sat in our seat.
• We stand in line to go to communion while in the past we lined up side by side and we knew our neighbor would receive the bread of life (not that we ought to return to this way.)
• We choose which celebrant we want to hear; we drive to go to a parish that suits our needs.

When did our communal worship become privatized? These are not necessarily negative aspects, but it creates a challenge for us to realize that we are of one family, one community under God, who is our Father, or as some experience, Mother, loving creator, and this God wants us all to do better than just get along. This God wants us to share the song of praise of one another just like the author of Sirach has for Elijah. We can come to see the world and love the world in a way that resembles how God sees the world and its people. This is the purpose of St. Ignatius’ Spiritual Exercises.

I invite you to glance around the chapel today and really take notice of your neighbor because he or she has been invited by God to be here with you. Reflect upon the goodness of the person next to you or across the room from you. Appreciate that you are not alone and that God is working thoroughly through your fellow disciple of Christ. We do this together. Put on the mind of Christ as we go to the table in a few minutes and do the same when we pray the words that he taught us. It is our Father in heaven who provides for all of our needs and has given us the perfect prayer as strength to live joyfully as a united family.

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