In the Roman Catholic Church the so-called twelve apostles are assigned liturgical feast days.
I say so-called 12 because St. Paul was assigned a feast as the apostle to the gentiles from earliest times;
and now at last St. Mary Magdalene is also assigned a feast as an apostle, a feast day celebrated July 23rd.
Thomas Aquinas in the 13th century called her “the apostle to the apostles” because she was entrusted with the joyful news of the resurrection.
That title has fitted her to this day.
Another small “glass ceiling” has broken.
Have you ever acted as if you were the center of the universe?
That is a rhetorical question, of course.
We each act as if we were special or terminally unique from time to time; hopefully it is not all day long, every day.
One manifestation of grandiosity is inordinate fear, anxiety and worry.
When these threaten to take over our lives we can think of nothing else outside of ourselves and our survival.
Luke’s communities have experienced powerful, destructive forces that tempt them to withdraw into a protective stance.
Many of the apostles have already died as martyrs.
Jerusalem as fallen to Roman military might.
The hoped-for second coming of Christ is no longer expected imminently.
Luke approaches the story of Jesus teaching his followers how to pray with this background in mind.
In Luke’s gospel Jesus frequently prays just before or in conjunction with significant action.
As the journey to Jerusalem begins in the chapter preceding this, Jesus has sent out the 70 disciples. When they return, flush with missionary stories, Luke writes:
In that same hour he rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said,
“I thank thee, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to babes;
yea, Father, for such was thy gracious will.
All things have been delivered to me by my Father;
and no one knows who the Son is except the Father,
or who the Father is except the Son
and any one to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”
– Lk. 10: 21-22 (spoken before the “seventy” disciples upon their return from their first missionary journey)
As we work our way through Luke’s Gospel this year we now find ourselves in Chapter 11;
this is part of a lengthy group of events and teachings on the way to Jerusalem.
The journey begins at the end of Chapter 9 and concludes in Chapter 18.
The prayer Jesus teaches his followers, as found in Luke, varies somewhat from the version we are all accustomed to which is found in Matthew’s account of the Gospel, chapter six.
Matthew’s account has 7 petitions.
Luke’s account has 5 petitions; this probably represents an earlier formulation based on other Jewish prayers of the time that were set to a rhyme and cadence similar to this.
Some scripture scholars suggest it has to do with variations in liturgical or worship practices between Luke’s communities and Matthew’s communities.
These petitions reflect the challenges of the post-ascension church. [LaVerdiere, Luke, p. 156]
It is not the prayer of the Jesus of history.
It is the prayer of the followers of the Risen and Ascended Christ now taught by the indwelling Spirit.
This is an important point that I want to return to at the conclusion of this reflection.
Luke’s communities are primarily gentile.
Luke has a particular concern for the poor and the outcasts.
As we hear the all-inclusive “everyone” in the parable that follows we might want to bring to mind people in our various orbits who live on the periphery for any reason.
As we pray in the way taught us by the Holy Spirit dwelling in us we may want to call down that same Spirit to dwell in those outcasts of today so they may have the assurance of an intimate relationship with the creator, protector and provider we have come to know in the Trinity.
In the Rite of Christian Imitation of Adults today, The Christ’s Prayer and the creed are presented to catechumens near the end of their instruction usually in a ritual format during the Lenten season in anticipation of their reception into the church at Easter.
Praying is part of the action or work we do as followers of the Christ.
Praying changes us.
Praying slows us down.
Praying lifts our minds and hearts to God.
Praying is collaboration with God or working with God to bring about God’s plan for creation. Petition, then, is an essential form of prayer. The most important petition is asking for the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. That indwelling makes us one with the Christ, with the Son, enmeshes us in the life of our Trinitarian God. the more we “craft” our petitions in the workshop of trying to live as a community of faith, the more we see the path we are to take as evangelizers, as heralds, as missionaries, as reconcilers, as healers, as teachers, and as apostles.
“May the Holy Spirit come upon us and cleanse us.”
- early church petition prayed in place of “Holy be Thy Name.”
Father, Thy Holy Spirit come upon us and cleanse us. Thy kingdom come. Thy bread for the morrow give us day by day. And forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And do not allow us to be led into temptation.
Allow the Holy Spirit to lead us in this prayer.
Allow the petitions of the prayer to change and transform us as individuals.
Allow the petitions of the prayer to change and transform us in our interactions with one another.
Allow the petitions of the prayer to change and transform us as we engage our wider society with all the systemic injustice that does violence to creation.
Allow the petitions of the prayer to change and transform us in our clans and tribes.
This may be the most challenging of all the change we need in our world today because our subconscious and subliminal messages that we have absorbed over generations have placed us at odds with our neighbor and therefore with our God.
The white male privileges that I have enjoyed since birth need to be transformed in this prayer.
And that is just one example of what I mean by clan or tribe messages that need the change that only the Holy Spirit can bring about.
I now come back to this Christ Prayer as a liturgical prayer.
The adage, “As we pray so we believe.” comes into play.
Our current rendition of the Christ Prayer will change and transform us over time as the petitions challenge our day to day mundane work.
The two parts of this that had the most profound effect in me are “our only home” and “may your day dawn”.
Our only home has made me much more cognizant of my own body as a home for the divine and of the world around me as a home for the divine.
May your day dawn has made me take a step back many times from wanting my own day to dawn.
The challenge for us as a community of faith is to allow the various phrases and petitions of this prayer we hold in common to change and transform us so we can better herald the reign of God in this place and time.
* * * * * * * * * * *
Holy One, we come before you asking and seeking and knocking.
Give ear to our petitions this day.
We give thanks for all those standing for elected office in our land, from municipal office seekers to those running for congress, the senate and the presidency. May they call out the best in us who vote and may we call out the best in them, we pray …
We give thanks for all service workers, farm hands and others who work at minimum wage jobs providing necessities to us. May we always treat them with respect and advocate for the betterment of their pay and working conditions, we pray …
We give thanks for leisure time and the disposable income that allows us to enjoy it. May we cultivate and attitude of gratitude that prompts us to reach out to others who may otherwise feel isolated or sad, we pray …
For the Benedictine Women of Madison that they may grow in love and in numbers we pray …
For what else shall we pray?
Please take time now to mention the names of those whose needs populate your hearts.
For these and all those whose names are written in our book of intentions, we pray …
God our Father and protector,
without you nothing is holy,
nothing has value.
Guide us to everlasting life
by helping us to use wisely
the blessings you have given to the world.