Homily no. 50 – ‘Our Father (V)’ (CCC 2846–2865)

Jesus tempted in the desert

Jesus tempted in the desert (Photo credit: jaci XIII)

So, a whole year on since we began our journey through the Catechism, we come to its final pages!  Our last reflection is on the closing words of the Our Father, “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.  Amen.”  Why do we say to God, “do not lead us into temptation”?  Doesn’t that sound a bit odd? — would God “lead us” into temptation?  As St James says, “God cannot be tempted by evil and Himself tempts no-one.”  What we mean in the Our Father, in fact, is “do not let us enter into temptation” and/or “do not let us yield to temptation.”  Easier said than done!  We are surrounded by temptations, in fact, and have to be very strong in faith and in prayer to avoid and resist them.  Prayer is a strong weapon in the fight against evil … In fact, it is essential.  When our prayer is weak, and when we are short of grace, we find it far harder to resist temptation to do things that are wrong.  So, this week’s reflection is tied in closely to last week’s: “forgive us our trespasses.”  We need the strength of God’s grace in Confession in order to avoid further falls … I don’t know about you, but I certainly feel stronger in not doing wrong when I have been to Confession recently, but feel weaker and more likely to fall into sin again when it’s a while since I went to Confession.  This is a spiritual reality, and should encourage us each to be fervent in getting to Confession quite often.  The best way of living out and praying “lead us not into temptation” is to confess our sins.  In our prayer we should reflect in honesty before God about the last time we had our sins forgiven, not sweeping them under the carpet, but openly and humbly confessing them, so that with hearts clean and pleasing to God we may also be armed more strongly against our evil inclinations.  It is a battle, out there, to avoid temptation, and avoid giving in to the temptations.  Much of our culture promotes ‘giving in’ to temptations, whether that is temptation for greed, or for power, or for pleasure … Society suggests we should get what we can, when we can, and as much of it as we can.  The Lord asks us to sacrifice, to give up, to resist, to suffer, for what instead is good and lasting, the things of the spirit.  Only by being people of prayer can we find that this makes sense of our human life.  Think of Jesus, at the outset of His ministry, in the desert: He overcomes the devil by His 40days of prayer; and in the Garden of Gethsemane at the end: again, He is praying, praying hard and long … Only with this weapon of devoted prayer does He overcome the temptations of the devil for Him to give up in the face of His passion.

We hear today, very clearly in the Gospel of Jesus’s direct teaching: “to pray continually and never lose heart.”  To “lose heart,” to despair, is the very opposite of the Gospel message: if we are dispirited by our sins, and our failures to resist temptation, we need only to appeal to Christ, to draw closer to Him, to pray in our heart more deeply and more continually.  Jesus wants us to overcome, He wants us to win the victory, and not to fall away, and He is there for us, not distant, but ready and waiting to assist us.  As the Catechism says, “In this petition to our heavenly Father, Christ unites us to His battle and His agony.  He urges us to vigilance of the heart in communion with His own.”  He is near, let us not turn our backs on Him, because when we do we will fall away, and grow colder in love and faith, and be less and less able to resist those temptations.

We must never be kidded into believing that the devil is make believe, or not real … His power is limited, he is but a fallen angel, but nevertheless he can wreak havoc if we let Him.  We pray “deliver us from the evil one,” as Christ will always be our strong protection against evil.  We only put our souls at risk if we deliberately dabble with what we know is deeply wrong — staying close to Christ in the Church, with a praying and humble heart, affords us the protection of His grace always.

Our final word, “Amen,” is a Hebrew word that we have retained (like ‘Alleluia,’ ‘Hosanna’).  ‘Amen’ is related to the words for consent, agreement, commitment, affirmation, truth: the last word of the whole bible is ‘Amen’ and the last consideration of the Catechism is ‘Amen.’  Amen! — ‘So be it!’ … ‘Yes, I believe’ … At the conclusion of the Our Father, and indeed all our prayer, we utter this simple expression of faith and trust.  We believe, we trust in our Father, and we consent to all He teaches us in His Church, through His Only Son, Jesus.  Amen, Amen … Yes, Lord, I believe, help me when I am weak, also, to believe, to hope, to trust and to pray, and so to love.  Amen.

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About Fr Philip Miller

I'm the Catholic Parish Priest at St Augustine's, Hoddesdon, Herts, UK, in the diocese of Westminster. This cycle of homilies is one of my contributions to this parish's life in the 'Year of Faith' (Oct 2012 - Nov 2013) called for by Pope Benedict XVI to renew the Church's understanding of the faith.
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