The fact that Luke places the Our Father in the context of Jesus’ own praying is significant. Jesus thereby involves us in his own prayer; he leads us into the interior dialogue of triune love; he draws our human hardships deep into God’s heart, as it were. This also means, however, that the words of the Our Father are signposts to interior prayer, they provide a basic direction for our being, and they aim to configure us to the image of the Son. The meaning of the Our Father goes much further than the mere provision of a prayer text. It aims to form our being, to train us in the inner attitude of Jesus.
This has two different implications for our interpretation of the Our Father. First of all, it is important to listen as accurately as possible to Jesus’ words as transmitted to us in Scripture. We must strive to recognize the thoughts Jesus wished to pass on to us in these words. But we must also keep in mind that the Our Father originates from his own praying, from the Son’s dialogue with the Father. This means that it reaches down into depths far beyond the words. It embraces the whole compass of man’s being in all ages and can therefore never be fully fathomed by a purely historical exegesis, however important this may be.
1, 132-3 Nazareth
Reflection – Well, this is certainly a mouthful to ponder, perhaps not just for a day, but for a life. I don’t know about you, but I can certainly rattle off the Our Father, in Mass, in the Office, in the rosary, with hardly a thought about any of it. Ourfatherwhoartinheavenhallowedbethyname… Inattention, habit, spiritual shallowness can all make of it an exercise with seemingly little value. So it’s good to read things like this, that remind us of just how deep this prayer is, just what depths of God it contains, just how far into the mystery of God it takes us, if we consent to be taken.
Our Father—perhaps the first two words alone are enough to ponder on. That God is Father, that the ultimate reality is not some nebulous ‘energy’ or some unfathomable unreachable mystery. He is Father—there is a relationship, a possibility of intimacy. There is provision and protection, care and concern, a rushing out of the house to embrace the son in love (cf. Luke 15). Everything good that we can say about the word ‘father’, all that we hope for and desire and perhaps experienced (or, sadly, maybe not) from our earthly fathers, all of this is who God tells us He is in a surpassing way.
But there’s more yet. God is Father in that our whole being comes from Him. He fashions us forth and shapes us into true sons and daughters, bearing his name and image. Our whole self and all it means is from Him and towards Him. God is Father… we can meditate on this one word for months without moving an inch further in the prayer.
He is also ‘our’ Father. And this too has great significance. I am not separated from you. We are not mere atoms bumping up against each other in the cosmic soup. I have a Father and you have a Father and He is the same Father of us both. So you are my brother, my sister. He is ours, and so this whole life of ‘from the Father/towards the Father’ is also a life of you with me and I with you. Called to communion with God, and in God, with one another. And this is the call of the Church.
And it is Jesus who ushers us into all these realities, not as mere words of some fool of a blog from some fool of a priest, but as a living reality, as food and drink for our souls, as a foundation we can live on, a height to which we can ascend. Jesus is the Son, and only in his Sonship and in our shared life with Him, can we know the Father in truth.
So that’s the first two words of the prayer. Perhaps the most important two words in the prayer; arguably the rest of the prayer is a commentary on how to live with God as our Father. But there is a call in all this, and a good call it is in this Year of Faith, to really slow down and look at these basic faith elements, these most common prayers and practices, and really delve into what they mean, why we do them, where they take us.