And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
Reflection – On last Friday’s blog the Pope wrote about the Our Father as a prayer which uniquely bears us into Christ’s own prayer to his Father, and hence into the very heart and life of the Trinity. He urged us to study the words of the prayer carefully, as the deepest truths about God, and hence the deepest truths about man, are held within it. So, being shepherded by our good German in that way, I am blogging my way through the Lord’s prayer for a few days.
‘Oh, we got trouble (oh, we got trouble). Right here in
(right here in River City ). With a capital T and that rhymes with P and that stands for pool!’
Yesterday in the prayer we hit the trouble, trouble, trouble—not the fake moral
panic type of Henry Hill in The Music Man, and not just in River City . Trouble in the depths of our
hearts, the trouble of sin and moral failure in the life of every human being.
And so to enter into the relationship of the Son to the Father, the heart and
life of the Trinity, the healing of mercy and forgiveness is necessary. River City
Today we see that there’s more trouble-with-a-capital-T yet, and this time it’s not within us only. We live in a world of peril and are called to live out our divine filiation, our communion with the Father as his sons and daughters, not in the sublimity of the eternal Triune bliss but in a world of conflict, struggle, encounter with evil, temptation, death.
These last petitions of the Lord’s prayer are essentially an acknowledgement of our own weakness, and a humble request to God that our lives not be too hard, that we not be tested beyond our strength.
People get a bit hung up sometimes on the ‘lead us not into temptation’, and why on earth we would think God would lead us into temptation. Isn’t it bad to lead other people into temptation? Of course it is bad if I lead you into an occasion of sin for you. This is because I have no idea whatsoever what degree of virtue you have attained and what you are or are not capable of. It is grossly uncharitable of me to willfully expose you to temptations.
God, on the other hand, knows me better than I know myself, and so can justly allow me to be exposed to temptations, to confirm me in virtue and build up my resolve to overcome sin in my life… or to expose to me my own weakness and total need for His mercy and grace. What is utterly wrong for one finite limited creature to do to another finite limited creature may not be wrong for the All-Knowing and All-Loving One to do to us.
But really, the key of the intention here is that to be childlike and simple, to say in effect to God, ‘You know just how weak I am; you know I’ve already got trouble in my own heart with my own trespasses; please deliver me from assaults from outside, as much as possible.’ In other words, this is a prayer against presumption, where we go haring off into battles God has not asked us to fight and difficulties He is not giving us the grace to withstand.
It does indeed all come back to living as sons of the Father, living within the communion of the Son with the Father. To refer everything to God, to know that all is for Him, all is from Him, all is directed towards Him. Our very path through a truly dangerous world, a world of spiritual as well as physical dangers, is from Him and towards Him. These last petitions of the Our Father commit this path to His care, and beg Him for the grace to walk it successfully and not be brought down by the genuine difficulties of life.
One of my favorite desert father stories is of a monk who was shown by God all the snares the devil was laying for the faithful in the world, and it was such a morass of snares and traps and pitfalls that he cried out, “What can see us through this?” The answer came from heaven, “Humility.”
Humility is the key to this whole last half of the Lord’s prayer. We are called to a sublime life, a life of true communion with the Trinity, a true unity in love with Our Father in heaven. We are wholly unable to do this and need daily bread; we are wounded deeply in our own spirits by sin and need forgiveness; we are beset by difficulties on all side and need protection and deliverance from evil. We have to know all this, and cry out to God for help, and so help is given, and our lives become a beautiful reflection of Christ’s own life in and for the Father. Pretty nice prayer, eh?