Gospel Reading: Matthew 6:7-15
7 "And in praying do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard for their many words. 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. 9 Pray then like this: Our Father who art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. 10 Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, On earth as it is in heaven. 11 Give us this day our daily bread; 12 And forgive us our debts, As we also have forgiven our debtors; 13 And lead us not into temptation, But deliver us from evil. 14 For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father also will forgive you; 15 but if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
Old Testament Reading: Isaiah 55:10-11
10 "For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and return not thither but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,11 so shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and prosper in the thing for which I sent it.
God wants his word to guide and shape the way we think, act, and pray. Ambrose, a fourth century church father, wrote that the reason we should devote time for reading scripture is to hear Christ speak to us. "Are you not occupied with Christ? Why do you not talk with him? By reading the scriptures, we listen to Christ."
We can approach God confidently because he is waiting with arms wide open to receive his prodigal sons and daughters. That is why Jesus gave his disciples the perfect prayer that dares to call God, Our Father. This prayer teaches us how to ask God for the things we really need, the things that matter not only for the present but for eternity as well. We can approach God our Father with confidence and boldness because Christ has opened the way to heaven for us through his death and resurrection. When we ask God for help, he fortunately does not give us what we deserve.
Instead, he responds with grace, mercy, and kindness. He is good and forgiving towards us, and he expects us to treat our neighbor the same. God has poured his love into our hearts through the gift of the Holy Spirit (Romans 5:5). And that love is like a refining fire – it purifies and burns away all prejudice, hatred, resentment, vengeance, and bitterness until there is nothing left but goodness and forgiveness towards those who cause us grief or harm.
Consider what John Cassian, an early church father who lived for several years with monks in Bethlehem and Egypt before founding a monastery in southern Gaul (360-435), wrote about the Lord’s Prayer and the necessity of forgiving others from the heart: “The mercy of God is beyond description. While he is offering us a model prayer he is teaching us a way of life whereby we can be pleasing in his sight.
But that is not all. In this same prayer he gives us an easy method for attracting an indulgent and merciful judgment on our lives. He gives us the possibility of ourselves mitigating the sentence hanging over us and of compelling him to pardon us.
What else could he do in the face of our generosity when we ask him to forgive us as we have forgiven our neighbor?
If we are faithful in this prayer, each of us will ask forgiveness for our own failings after we have forgiven the sins of those who have sinned against us, not only those who have sinned against our Master. There is, in fact, in some of us a very bad habit.
We treat our sins against God, however appalling, with gentle indulgence: but when by contrast it is a matter of sins against us ourselves, albeit very tiny ones, we exact reparation with ruthless severity.
Anyone who has not forgiven from the bottom of the heart the brother or sister who has done him wrong will only obtain from this prayer his own condemnation, rather than any mercy.”
Do you treat others as you think they deserve to be treated, or do you treat them as the Lord has treated you – with mercy, steadfast love, and kindness?