Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Our Father

Gathered together after the eucharistic prayer, the congregation together prays the Our Father. And if you think about it, those first two words are themselves quite a statement. On the one hand, how bold it is for us to profess ourselves the kin of God.

And on the other, what responsibility lies in the fact that we say not "My Father" but "Our Father." Jesus' ministry and preaching were marked by his ability to see all those around him, even his persecutors, as human beings. He dined with tax collectors (who often ripped off the people), with prostitutes, with non-Jews, with his enemies, and with women. He allowed himself to be touched by those who were impure, like the lepers or the bleeding woman, and stopped for those who society refused to notice, like children, the blind or the poor. And he challenged the authorities and ordinary folks insofar as they allowed rules or old enmities to hide the humanity before them.

One of the best pictures of Jesus with children to be found online. (Click to make it bigger.)

When we say "Our Father", we are acknowledging that we are all one another's brothers and sisters, no matter whether we are friends already, strangers or enemies, and that the same One who loves us and forgives us all our sins does the same for them. And just like that, the justifications we sometimes seek for our grudges, prejudice or plain self-centeredness grow shaky. We might have been wronged, or be heavily burdened with other things; but it's not so easy to just turn the page.

And at the same time, we're not in it alone. That's the point of the prayer; we turn to God who is our parent to mentor us, to support us and to liberate us as we try to look past one another's failings and cruelties; as we try to overcome the limits of our own perspectives; and as we try to get beyond our own agendas and be friends to one another.