Just believe what Jesus said
Gospel Reflection for Thursday, June 22, 2023
How intimidating it is to write the Gospel Reflection in which our Lord gives us the “Our Father”, or “Lord’s Prayer”! Just the other day, we read that Jesus spoke of the religious Jews of His time as “sheep without a shepherd.” We know the “scribes and pharisees” and religious leaders of the time were highly educated men. They followed the Law to the letter and recited formulaic prayers with the same observance to detail they gave to the many rituals prescribed in the Torah. Yet, Jesus calls them “hypocrites” and “whitewashed tombs”… outwardly they were rabbis, in the stead of Moses. Yet, the “people of God” could no longer find salvation in their rituals because the Messiah had come; their time and their role had ended.
Perhaps, that is why He makes a rather shocking comparison to the prayers of pagans… His statement certainly would have been quite surprising and controversial to those who heard it. Afterall, for a few thousand years or so, salvation had only come through strict adherence to the Law, ritual, formula and temple worship, sacrifice and tithes. Now, the Messiah had come. He would soon bear the penalty of the Law, dying for all the sins of humanity from the first day until the last. The Law of Moses would be, as the early Church often stated, nailed to the cross with Jesus. As Jesus lay in the tomb on the Jewish sabbath, the law would die with him and be buried. On Sunday, Jesus rose again, and with him a new Church… indeed, a new religion, a New Covenant. The Old Law was Dead. The Christian became a new man, born again, under a New Law, the sacraments and doctrines of the new Church, founded by Jesus upon the “rock” that was Saint Peter and the Holy Apostles.
It was in this way that the “Prince of Peace” brought “the sword" that would divide families and friends. The old was no more and He made “everything new.” The Christian was now the man of Sunday, no longer going to the Temple on the last day of the old week, but embracing new life on the first day of the new week. When Jesus was crucified, natural signs and disasters shook the old world to its core and the curtain of the Temple was shorn. All that was, was torn asunder. From the time of Adam and Eve until that moment, death that was the penalty of sin under the Law had ruled. Jesus conquered death. All of creation entered a new era. The entire universe and all that was in it and ever was or will be was transformed in ways we can barely comprehend. Soon the Temple would be destroyed, that focal point of the worship of the true God, and a new Church would rise that would spread across the world. In just the first few hundred years of the Catholic Church, not only did at least half of the Jews convert to Christianity, but Greece, Rome, the Germanic tribes, the Celts and Saxons, central Asians and Arabs, Africans, Norse, etc. etc. would largely abandon their pagan religions and traditions and embrace Christianity and soon it would spread across the world. The main rival to Christianity would also be a new religion based in the Abrahamic tradition, Islam. Although the story takes centuries to unfold and is by no means concluded, truly, the old order had ended. A new calendar was necessary as the dividing point of all time must be fixed upon the Christ.
The vast sweep of history and the profundity of the crucifixion and resurrection of our Lord can be a bit overwhelming. But, in today’s Gospel, we find the simplicity that is the heart of the Gospel. Just as Jesus told the man who asked Him that what was necessary for salvation was that he must love God with all his heart and his neighbor as himself, never mentioning Temple worship or the Mosaic Law, He now gives us the most simple but meaningful of prayers.
Jesus said to his disciples:
"In praying, do not babble like the pagans,
who think that they will be heard because of their many words.
Do not be like them.
Your Father knows what you need before you ask him.
"This is how you are to pray:
'Our Father who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name,
thy Kingdom come,
thy will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread;
and forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us;
and lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.'
"If you forgive others their transgressions,
your heavenly Father will forgive you.
But if you do not forgive others,
neither will your Father forgive your transgressions."
Truly, every man and woman of good will and all of creation had waited for the Savior who would replace the Temple “built by hands” with the temple that would be in the heart of every Christian. No longer would holiness reside in one, physical place, but the Holy Spirit would fill our hearts and abide with each of us who is baptized, confirmed in the Catholic Church and who received the Eucharist in communion with the Church. So reconciled to God, we can now call Him Father, and Jesus our Brother and Lord…. no longer slaves to the Law, but “heirs”. How many millions lived, died and longed to see what we too often take for granted? In the blood and wine of the Eucharist, on the altar withing each Catholic Church, consecrated by the hands of priests in every place on earth, every hour of every day is the LIVING GOD! With our “amen”, our affirmation and acceptance of His real presence and our faith, we participate in the undoing of the “wages of sin”, the rebellion of our first parents through whom death came into the world. Filled with the very life of God, heaven and earth are joined within us and we bring the light of God into the world. In each one of us, is the Catholic Church and the very Glory of God and His Heaven, we are the Body of Christ and absolutely joined to all of the angels and saints.
If every man and woman on earth could even once perceive the reality of the Eucharist, the power of the sacraments and the profundity of the Our Father, reality as we know it would end. All willing humanity would turn from evil and reconcile to God. Evil, at its core, is confusion and disorder. One simple glimpse would rectify all things, bringing all into truth and the order of love. It is because God respects our free will that He does not present Himself to us forcefully, but as gently as a lamb. Christianity is not Moses proclaiming the Law and condemning sinners to death. Nor, is it Islam with conversion by the sword. It certainly is not the gulags and mass murders of communism and similar ideologies that seek to replace religion with secular politics. Christianity is as simple as a child trusting in his father, as simple as water, bread and wine, and as simple as the most basic of human emotions, love. Just as a child comes into the world naturally loving his parents and the parents’ natural emotion is to love the child, Christianity is profoundly simple and natural. Just believe what Jesus said and do what He asked. Go to His Church and follow its teachings because He said, “those who hear you hear me.” Love God, love each other. Christianity is elegantly simple. Complications and division arise from confusion and confusion is not of God.
Judson Carroll is the author of several books, including his newest, Confirmation, an Autobiography of Faith. It is Available in paperback on Amazon:
His new podcast is The Uncensored Catholic https://www.spreaker.com/show/the-uncensored-catholic