8 March 2022 – Tuesday of Week 1 of Lent
Optional Memorials: St John of God; St Senan
(1) Isaiah 55:10-11
God’s word comes down from heaven like rain, to make the earth fruitful
For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return there until they have watered the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and succeed in the thing for which I sent it.
Responsorial: from Psalm 34
R./: The Lord will rescue the just from all their distress
Glorify the Lord with me.
Together let us praise his name.
I sought the Lord and he answered me;
from all my terrors he set me free. (R./)
Look towards him and be radiant;
let your faces not be abashed.
This poor man called; the Lord heard him
and rescued him from all his distress. (R./)
The Lord turns his face against the wicked
to destroy their remembrance from the earth.
The Lord turns his eyes to the just and his ears to their appeal. (R./)
They call and the Lord hears and rescues them in all their distress.
The Lord is close to the broken- hearted;
those whose spirit is crushed he will save. (R./)
Gospel: Matthew 6:7-15
Guidance about prayer and the spirit of forgiveness
Jesus said to his disciples, “When you are praying, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.
“Pray then in this way: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And do not bring us to the time of trial, but rescue us from the evil one.
For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; but if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
Safe in his hands
Each Lent we focus again on hearing and pondering God’s word. Carefully listening to that WORD is a lifelong task. This cycle of life is symbolized by rain and snow, falling from the sky and soaking the earth, then rising towards heaven as bushes and trees. Divine inspiration is the rain and snow, our inspired lives are the bushes and trees. This image concludes the great section of Isaiah 40-55, some of the most sublime literature of the Old Testament. The lines of this exalted poem show all the hallmarks of human genius, well trained and carefully exercised. They seethe with hopes and ideals, with courage and persistence, calling us to trust in God. The author of this sublime poetry was “Second Isaiah” the great unknown genius of the Old Testament.
“See!” God says through the anonymous prophet, “I have written your name on the palms of my hands” (Is 49:16). And why? “Because you are precious in my eyes and because I love you” (43:4). Divine love appears as unconditional forgiveness. This is the type of love that we aspire to as we pray the Our Father. Hope, confidence and security are planted in our hearts and genuinely confessed, when we say: “Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread, forgive us… and deliver us…” These beautiful words (of a kingdom to come, of fresh, daily bread, of gentle forgiveness from depths of understanding, of deliverance from anxiety, of soothing every wrong) allow the soul to develope from a new embryo into a fully formed man and woman of God.
A concern for growth breathes through the liturgy of Lent. This year let it not be just another Lent, but a time for the divine word to be fully alive in us, “achieving the end for which I sent it.” From all their needs God will deliver his people. Look to him that you may be radiant with joy!
What our prayer could become
The evangelists show Jesus at prayer many times, and sometimes they give us the content of his prayer. However, only once is he presented as teaching his disciples a specific prayer, which is known to us as the Lord’s Prayer. It has had a privileged place in the Christian tradition because it is the only prayer explicitly taught by Jesus. Despite all differences of denominations, this prayer is one that all Christians have in common. In giving us this prayer, Jesus was also giving us a lesson on how to pray. He urges us to focus on God’s will above our own preferences. We adore God’s name, God’s kingdom, God’s will. Prayer is first a letting go to God, a yielding to what God wants for his world and for us. Only then do we focus on our own needs. The Lord’s Prayer encourages us to pray about fundamental needs, our need for sustenance, both material and spiritual, our need for forgiveness, our need for God’s deliverance in times of crisis.
In those second set of petitions, the Lord’s Prayer teaches us to focus on ourselves not as individuals but as members of a community. It is a prayer that speaks of ‘our’ needs rather than just ‘my’ concerns. In praying those petitions, I pray not just for myself but for others. We pray the Lord’s prayer as members of a community of faith. True prayer is always a going out of ourselves towards God and towards others.