The Book of Sirach contains eulogies to some of Israel’s greatest heroes. Today the prophets Elijah and Elisha are praised for their passionate rhetoric and miraculous powers. Today might be a good day to ask ourselves who our heroes are.
Perhaps we greatly admire a parent, son, daughter, friend, co-worker or neighbor. Maybe it’s someone in the public arena: an athlete, entertainer, political leader, parishioner, historical figure or saint.
Let’s consider today’s Saint, Aloysius Gonzaga. He was baptized in the womb, because his life was in danger, and he made a vow of chastity at the age of nine. When he was sixteen he joined the Society of Jesus and died at the age of twenty-three in 1591 because of his devoted nursing of the plague-stricken.
Why do we admire these individuals and what qualities do they possess that attract us? Is it merely fame, fortune or power, or is it something deeper like integrity, tenderness, courage or devotion to a worthy cause? Our heroes reflect who we are and the values we hold dear.
So, to what extent is Jesus our hero? Jesus was certainly no hero to the Pharisees. The religious leaders became intolerant of Jesus because of their prejudice. Jesus met this defiance with courage and determination to do his Father's will. He used the crisis to teach his disciples an important lesson for God's way to success and victory. The only way to glory in God's kingdom is through the cross of suffering and humiliation - which Jesus endured for our sake and for our salvation.
Jesus warns his disciples not to make prayer something mechanical and devoid of meaning. When Jesus taught his disciples to pray he gave them the disciple’s prayer, what we call The Lord’s Prayer. This prayer asks for the things we need to live as his sons and daughters. Prayer is in the relationship and not in the words. The Lord’s Prayer demands the boldness of faith each time it is prayed. Let’s meditate on the Our Father and see God’ truth, letting the teachings of St. Augustine help us find new life in a very familiar prayer.
“When we pray, hallowed be thy name, we are counseling ourselves to desire that his name, which is always holy, may be held holy among all people. That is, we are praying that his name not be treated with disdain or contempt.
“When we pray, thy kingdom come, which will certainly come whether we want it to or not, we can stir our desire for that kingdom. We can ask that it may come for us personally, and that when it comes we will be worthy to reign with God in his kingdom.
“When we pray, give us this day our daily bread, we mean this present moment. Bread can signify whatever will be sufficient for us to live today, but it can also refer to the sacrament of the Eucharist, which is our spiritual food here and now.
“When we pray, forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us, we are advising ourselves both as to what we should ask for, and what we should do to be worthy to receive it.
“When we pray, lead us not into temptation, we are encouraging ourselves to look to God for his help so that we don’t find ourselves left to our own inadequate defenses. How easy it is to give in to temptation through self-deception or self-pity!
“Finally, when we pray, deliver us from evil, we can bring ourselves to reflect on the fact that we are not yet in that blessed condition where we will be free of all evil.
Today, pray the Lord’s Prayer, and use it to examine your life and your actions. Ask the Lord to free your heart of any anger, resentment, selfishness or coldness towards others. Let the Holy Spirit fill you with the fire of his burning love and compassion and with the river of his overflowing mercy and kindness.
This truth can change the way we regard and treat one another.