Teaching About the Private Life of the Christian Disciple and the Practice of Righteousness

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Beloved Father,
Your Son taught us to pray to You with this most intimate form of address and so we come to You, our Father, as little children seeking the tender guidance of a beloved and honored father.  Teach us our Father, as we kneel at Your throne, looking toward heaven as the home You have prepared for us.  Send us Your Holy Spirit to guide us as we study Jesus' great prayer of love that is prayed by all Christians from childhood to death down through all generations.  We pray in the name of God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Amen.

CCC# 2608 "From the Sermon on the Mount onwards, Jesus insists on conversion of heart: reconciliation with one's brother before presenting an offering on the altar, love of enemies, and prayer for persecutors, prayer to the Father in secret, not heaping up empty phrases, prayerful forgiveness from the depths of the heart, purity of heart, and seeking the Kingdom before all else.  This filial conversion is entirely directed to the Father."


Jesus moves in His homily from teaching on the commands of the Old Testament law to teaching on other standards of Christian discipleship.  Jesus continues with warnings against acts of charity that are only external acts offered in order to be seen and admired.  He gives three examples of acts that should be offered in secret in the private lives of Christians in order not to divert glory to God into glory to self:

  1. almsgiving [Matthew 6:1-4]
  2. prayer [Matthew 6:5-15]
  3. fasting [Matthew 6:16-18]

He will use the authoritative "I say" in Matthew 6:2, 5, 16, 25, and 29

as His homily continues with His commands concerning the righteous Christian's motivation in caring for the poor, in prayer, in fasting and the hidden motives of the heart. The Catechism of the Catholic Church in article # 1434 continues to encourage these three necessary acts of holiness: "The interior penance of the Christian can be expressed in many and various ways. Scripture and the Fathers insist above all on three forms, fasting, prayer, and almsgiving, which express conversion in relation to oneself, to God, and to others...." [also see Tobit 12:8].


"Therefore, do not make any judgment before the appointed time, until the Lord comes, for he will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will manifest the motives of our hearts, and then everyone will receive praise from God." 1 Corinthians 4:5

Please read Matthew 6:1-4:
Jesus is not questioning the giving of charity to the needy.  This is an obligation commanded in the Law of the Sinai Covenant [for example see Exodus 21:2; 22:20-26; 23:10ff; Deuteronomy 15:11].  Jesus is instead criticizing the intent of giving'the misuse of charity for self-glorification and contrasting the insincerity of the "hypocrite" with the right conduct required of His disciples.  Once again His emphasis is on the internal origin of holiness. 

In verse 2 Jesus condemns the blowing of trumpets: "When you give alms, do not blow a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets to win the praise of others." This may or may not have been a practice of the wealthy when going to the Synagogue or the Temple to give alms in the 1st century AD, or it may have just been an exaggeration on Jesus' part to condemn to the ostentatious way in which some wealthy Jews and Israelites drew attention to themselves and flaunted their alms-giving. Jesus' use of the word "hypocrites" is interesting because there is no counterpart for this Greek word in Hebrew or Aramaic [the common language of Jesus' time]. In Greek it refers to "playing a part" in Greek drama.  In other words, the insincere almsgiver is only "play acting" for an audience and not sincerely giving from the heart.  Some scholars have suggested that Jesus' use of this Greek word indicates that He spoke the Greek language, which would not be unusual for His time.  Greek was the international language of the Roman world at this time in history as it had been for more than two centuries, and there were large Greek style theaters in the Galilee, in Samaria, and in Judea.  For example the cities of Sepphoris and Tiberias in the Galilee and Caesarea [the residence of the Roman governor] had large 1st century AD theaters where Greek dramas were performed.  The theater at the Galilean regional capital of Sepphoris which seated 3,000 citizens was built during the time Jesus was growing up in neighboring Nazareth and St. Joseph and his son, trained in the skills of the tekton [a worker in hard materials], may have been conscripted to work on Sepphoris' theater.

Question: Is the giving of alms an option for the Christian?
Answer: Jesus says "When you give alms" not "if you give."

Question: Why does Jesus say that knowledge of these acts of charity should not be openly shared with our friends and acquaintances
Answer: Because their admiration will be your reward but if you act in secret your heavenly Father will reward you'a much greater blessing than mere temporal acknowledgement and praise.


"Let us not forget to visit our Prisoner [Jesus in the Holy Eucharist], if only for a minute; this will be pleasing to Jesus.  Let us tell Him we love Him.  We might ask Him what He wants of us, what are His wishes.  Sometimes we might ask Jesus something for ourselves and something for others.  One can speak to Jesus as brother to brother, as friend to friend, more so, since it often happens that men do not understand us, whereas Jesus understands each of us always.  Such conversations are pleasing to Jesus." St Maximilian Kolbe

Please read Matthew 6:5-8
Speaking to an Israelite and Jewish audience, Jesus' words "When you pray" probably referred to the traditional three hours of prayer: Morning Prayer, Noon prayer, and Evening prayer [3pm was evening'sundown, circa 6PM began the next day] which was faithfully recited by every righteous Old Covenant believer.


The Old Covenant Hours of Prayer

The first hour of prayer:

9AM is the first hour of prayer [see Acts 2:15] when the Temple gates opened.  The Hebrew is "Shacharit"(morning)

The second hour of prayer:

Noon is the second hour of prayer [Acts 3:1; 10:9]. The Hebrew is  "Minchah" (gift-offering)

The third hour of prayer:

3PM is the third hour of prayer [Acts 3:1; 10:9] The Hebrew is "Ma'ariv" (evening; our afternoon is the Jewish evening).  This hour of prayer was known as the "hour of confession."  The next day began at sundown, or about 6PM.

M. Hunt, copyright October 2005

For more information on the three hours of prayer see the Talmud: Mishnah Berakhot and The Jewish New Testament Commentary, page 228. Times were not exact in the ancient world and therefore these times in the chart are approximate, with the exception of the 12 noon hour which was marked by the sun being directly overhead.  The day time was divided into 12 hour periods of approximately six hours before the noon and approximately 6 hours after noon, but the day was longer in the summer and shorter in the winter months.  The righteous Old Covenant believer was required to pray the "Eighteen Benedictions" [petitions similar to the Lord's Prayer] three times daily at each of the designated prayer times.  He was also required to recite the Sh'ma [Shema], the Old Covenant profession of faith [from Deuteronomy 6:4'9; 11:13-21; Numbers 15:37-41] four times, twice at Morning prayers, once in Evening prayers and one last time before going to bed.  In addition to these prayers a righteous believer was to give thanks to God before, during and after meals [International Critical Commentary, page 588; Jewish Literacy, page 374-75]. 

Question: Do you notice something interesting about these three different times for prayer: 9AM, 12 noon, and 3PM?  Hint: see Mark 15:25; Matthew 27:45, 46.
Answer: These three times correspond to Jesus' hours on the cross from 9AM when He was crucified to 12 noon when the sun disappeared, to 3PM, the last hour of prayer when He gave up His life.  The three hours of prayer were determined by the "perpetual sacrifice" of the Tamid lambs around which the entire day's liturgy in the Temple revolved.

Once more Jesus addresses seeking an interior desire to please God rather than exterior actions gaining the attention and approval of men, and once more Jesus uses the Greek word "hypocrites.   Jesus first used this word in Matthew 6:2.  He will use this word 12 times in Matthew's Gospel'six of those times in Matthew 23:13-29, applying the insult directly to the "teachers of the law" and the Pharisees.

Question: How does Jesus recommend that the Christian disciple pray?
Answer: He stresses the necessity for private prayer alone with God.

Question: Can you think of a time when Jesus practiced this example of private prayer?  Hint: see Luke 6:12 and Matthew 26:36-46.
Answer: He illustrated the importance of withdrawing for private prayer with God in Luke 6:12 before beginning the Sermon on the Mount when "...he departed to the mountain to pray, and he spent the night in prayer to God.".  Many times during Jesus' ministry He found it necessary to withdraw from the crowds and from His disciples to pray in solitude to His Father as He did in His last prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane [see Matthew 26:36-46; Mark 14:32-42; Luke 22:40-46].

Question: What does Jesus teach about prayer offered to God in these passages: Luke 18:10-14; Matthew 6:5-6; Mark 12:40; Matthew 6:7-8; 7:7-11; Luke 11:5-13; 18:1-8; Matthew 21:22; 18:19-20; John 14:13-14; 15:7, 16; and 16:23-27?
Answer: Throughout His ministry Jesus taught His disciples:

  1. Prayer offered to God should come from a humble heart whether offered in private prayer or while praying with others and He gave us the assurance in Matthew 18:19-20 "Amen I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything for which they are to pray, it shall be granted to them by my heavenly Father.  For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them." [also see Matthew 6:5-6; Mark 12:40; Luke 18:10-14].
  2. Prayer should come from the depth of one's heart rather than only from the lips: Matthew 6:7 "In praying, do not babble like the pagans, who think that they will be heard because of their many words". 
  3. In our prayers we should make our petitions trusting not in our needs but in God's goodness: Matthew 6:8 " Your Father knows what you need before you ask him." [also Matthew 7:7-11; Luke 9:11-13].
  4. We should be direct and persistent in our prayers: Luke 11:9-10 "And I tell you, ask and you will receive; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened."  [ see entire passage in Luke 11:5-13; and also see18:1-8; Matthew 7:7-11.
  5. Prayer must be made with faith, in the name of Jesus, and asking only for what is good: Matthew 21:22 "Whatever you ask for in prayer with faith, you will receive." [also see Matthew 7:11; John 14:13-14; 15:7, 16-17; 16:23-27].

In Matthew 6:7 Jesus now contrasts desired Christian conduct with the conduct of the pagans who "babble" in their prayers. 

Question: Is Jesus forbidding public prayer or repetitive prayer like the rosary in this passage?
Answer: Jesus obviously does not mean to forbid repetitive prayer for in the very next passage He gives His disciples the most often repeated prayer in the history of salvation and in Luke 11:2 before praying Luke's version of this prayer He commands us to repeat it saying "When you pray say:..."!  Jesus is also not banning public prayer which He led often during His ministry [see Matthew 11:25ff; Mark 6:41; Luke 11:1; John 11:41-42].  Nor can Jesus be referring to the reciting of the rosary which is not "meaningless babble" but instead praying the rosary fills the mind of the individual with the life, ministry, passion and glorification of Jesus Christ as experienced in the life of His mother.  The beads of the rosary do not distract us in our prayer but focus our attention on our prayers in order to concentrate our minds on the visions of the events in the lives of our Savior and His mother.  It is only prayer that is self-centered instead of God-centered and the meaningless chanting of pagan worship which often consisted of repetitive chanting of the god's name in order to compel the deity to respond to the petition desired that Jesus is condemning. His point is that prayer is for God alone and the Christian soul in prayer must be turned to God alone. 

Question: What does Jesus mean when He tells us to go into an "inner room, close the door and pray to your Father in secret"?
Answer: When not praying as a faith community, Jesus may be recommending that we pray in a confined space to avoid earthly distractions or as St. Augustine interpreted His words, "What are those bed chambers but just our hearts themselves...[...].  Hence the door is to be shut, i.e. the fleshly sense is to be resisted, so that the spiritual prayer may be directed to the Father, which is done in the inmost heart, where prayer is offered to the Father which is in secret."  Whether literally or figuratively, we must be able to pray in a way where one's complete attention can turn to God.

Matthew 6:9a: "This is how you are to pray..."


"He brought us into the Father's presence to proclaim 'Here am I, and the children God has given me.'" Hebrews 2:13 

Please read Matthew 6:9-15
The Lord's Prayer is the very prayer that Jesus Himself gave to us, His beloved disciples.  Scholars have suggested that it was common for Rabbis to teach their disciples a certain prayer to unify and identify them as a community.  It is this prayer of the Son that unifies and identifies us as children in the family of His Father.  It has been the central prayer of the Catholic Church from the time Jesus first taught it to us.  It is one of the first prayers we learn as little children and it will undoubtedly be the last prayer that we will pray when we come to the end of our lives on this earth'from childhood to death the prayer which begins with the intimate words, "Our Father," is the prayer which fills us with faith, hope, and consolation.  St. Augustine says that the Lord's Prayer is so perfect that it sums up in only a few words everything man needs to petition God. For the righteous Covenant men and women who were Jesus' disciples The "Lord's Prayer" may have been seen as replacing the "Eighteen Benedictions" [Shemoneth 'Esreh] which was prayed by righteous Jews three times daily.  The Didache, the first catechism of the Church also required that the "Lord's Prayer" be prayed three times a day.  The first part of the prayer, apart from the intimate address to God as "Father", also shows similarities to the Aramaic Kaddish, a prayer used in the Synagogue liturgy in the 1st century AD with its central petition calling for the coming of God's kingdom to earth by establishing His peace and justice through the exercise of His divine will.  The prayer of the Kaddish was answered in the coming of Jesus the Messiah and the establishment of the Kingdom of heaven on earth'the New Covenant universal Church, in which God's peace and justice for all eternity is extended to all humanity.

There are two versions of the "Lord's Prayer" in Scripture. A shorten version is found in the Gospel of Luke 11:2-4.  In Luke's version of the "Our Father" Jesus stresses the "fatherhood" of God, acknowledging Him as the One to whom we own our daily sustenance [verse 3], our forgiveness [verse 4], and our deliverance from a final covenant ordeal [verse 4].  The Navarre scholars write in their commentary on the Gospel of Matthew that "there can be no brotherhood without parenthood."  It is the Fatherhood of God that gives us the grace to extend true Christian brotherhood to all men and women of all races.


MATTHEW 6:9-13

LUKE 11:2-4

"Our Father in heaven"


"Hollowed be your name"

"Hollowed be your name"

"Your kingdom come"

"May your Kingdom come'

"Your will be done"


"On earth as it is in heaven"


"Give us today our daily bread"

"Give us each day our daily bread

"And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors"

"And forgive us our sins for we ourselves forgive everyone in debt to us"

"And do not subject us to the final test, but deliver us from the evil one"

"And do not subject us to the final test"

Up to this point in salvation history no human being had enjoyed Jesus' unique relationship to God.  It is a relationship He extended to those "who believed in His "name", and through the sacrament of Baptism became sons and daughters in the family of God.  A few key passages which explain the extension of this relationship are found in:

Article #2780 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church states "The personal relation of the Son to the Father is something that Man cannot conceive of nor the angelic powers even dimly see: and yet, the Spirit of the Son grants a participation in that very relation to us who believe that Jesus is the Christ and that we are born of God."

The invocation: "OUR FATHER, IN HEAVEN"

 "For in Him we live and move and exist."  Acts 17:28

"The Father, Creator of the Universe, and the Word Incarnate, the Redeemer of humanity, are the source of this universal openness to all people as brothers and sisters, and they impel us to embrace them in the prayer which begins with the tender words: 'Our Father'." [Pope John Paul II, Letter to Families, 4]

The opening invocation of the "Lord's Prayer" places us in the presence of Our Father.  The prayer is usually seen as consisting of an opening address or invocation followed by 7 petitions which are divided into a set of 3 petitions followed by a set of 4 petitions.  In Scripture 3 is the number of fullness and importance and in the New Testament it is the number of the Trinity.   The number 4 in Scripture, however, represents the number of the world.  Matthew's Gospel makes rather frequent use of the number 7 in his Gospel.  It is interpreted in the Oral tradition of the Covenant people as one of the four "perfect" numbers [along with 3, 10, and 12], not unexpected from an Apostle who was, according to tradition, a tax collector and a member of the Levitical priesthood [see Mark 2:13-17; Luke 5:27-32].  Some examples of St. Matthew's use of 7 as a "perfect number":

The "Our Father" Prayer in Matthew 6:9-13

The Invocation:

Our Father in heaven

Petition #1

Holy be Your name

Petition #2

Your kingdom come

Petition #3

Your will be done on earth as in heaven

Petition #4

Give us today our daily bread

Petition #5

And forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors

Petition #6

And do not subject us to the final test

Petition #7

But deliver us from the evil one

[New American translation]

Question: How are the first 3 petitions addressed? 
Answer:  The first series of three petitions concern God Our Father and are addressed to Him in the possessive pronoun "Your" = "Your name", "Your kingdom", and "Your will." The first 3 petitions concern the acknowledgement and praise of God.

Question: What about the last 4 petitions?
Answer: The last 4 petitions are concerned with the needs of the men and women struggling to follow Christ in this exile called "the world" and are identified by the pronoun "us": "give us", "forgive us", "do not subject us", "deliver us".


That Jesus should address Yahweh as "Father," was shocking to 1st century Jews.  Sacred Scripture had addressed angels, Davidic kings, and prophets as "sons of God" but never had anyone dared to address Yahweh as "Father"'for the 1st century Jewish authorities, this was blasphemy!  Tertullian, the 3rd century Roman jurist who surrendered his life to Christ to become a priest and Christian apologist wrote that before Jesus "the expression 'God the Father; had never been revealed to anyone.  When Moses himself asked God who He was, he heard another name.  The Father's name has been revealed to us in the Son, for the name 'Son' implies the new name 'Father'."  [CCC# 2779]

Question: When did God become God the Father?  Was it in the Incarnation of the Son?
Answer: No!  God the Father did not become "Father" only after the Incarnation of the Son.  He has been "Father" for all eternity because the Most Holy Trinity has always lived in perfect communion through all eternity'3 in One' God the Father with His Son and with the Holy Spirit.  It is not God who has changed but through our baptism we have changed and as a result our relationship with God has changed. God is Father to Jesus, but it is Jesus who shares His divine Sonship with us. It is through Jesus that we are made "sons in the Son" through our baptism and become partakers of the divine nature, no longer to be called the sons and daughters of Adam but the sons and daughters of God.  St Peter wrote in 2 Peter 1:4: "Through these, he has bestowed on us the precious and very great promises, so that through them you may come to share in the divine nature, after escaping from the corruption that is in the world because of evil desire." And St. Cyprian wrote, "The new man, reborn and restored to his God by grace, says first of all, "Father!" because he has now begun to be a son." [CCC#2782]

God the Father is Father because He has eternally "fathered" the Son.  He was a "father" before there were human fathers.  St. Ephraim noted that earthly men "are called fathers, but He is the true Father. St Ephraim wrote that of the earthly relationship called "father" that  "The terms 'father' and 'son' by which they have been called are borrowed names that through grace have taught us that there is a Single True Father and that He has a Single True Son."

Question: Why is God "our Father"?
Answer: God is "OUR" Father because He has gathered us together in one family in Christ' established in a universal human family in the Catholic [catholic means universal] Church.  It is our shared Sonship with Jesus which gives us the right to address God as "Our Father" because through the Son we are indeed His children.

The words of the invocation express this unique relationship which we can only claim through the Son.  Before we make this first exclamation we must repent our sins, cleanse our hearts and with humility recognize that no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal Him. Each of us become the 'little child' that Jesus spoke of in Matthew 18:3-5:  "Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.  Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven, and whoever receives one child such as this in my name receives me." Before repeating the prayer Jesus taught us we must step forward in the humility of childlike faith to address "our" Father.

Question: But exactly how, through Jesus Christ, did we become children in God's family?
Answer: Through the regeneration of our baptism in Christ Jesus we became reborn and in this spiritual rebirth became adopted children in God's family.  Sacred Scripture tells us

Question:  What verb precedes the word 'adoption' in the last 2 verses?
Answer: Receive.  We did not earn this adoption, nor did we didn't purchase it.  To be adopted into a family is not a feat one achieves, but rather it is a gift one accepts. In an adoption the parents are the active parties.  The same is true with God.  He doesn't adopt us because of what we have.  He doesn't give us His name because of our attitude or our bank account.  He has caused us to be reborn to His life by adopting us as His children in His only Son.  By our Baptism, he incorporates us into the Body of His Jesus and receives us through the anointing of His Spirit who flows from the head, which is Christ, to the members of His Body, the Church. This free gift of adoption requires on our part continual conversion manifested as new spiritual life and on His part, our Father, like any earthly father, calls us to come to Him:

In other words, He creates a home for us, first in Mother Church who instructs and guides us and later in our heavenly home.  Sacred Scripture guides us in our understanding of this relationship: [New Jerusalem translation]


"who is in heaven"

"[Christians] are in the flesh, but do not live according to the flesh.  They spend their lives on earth, but are citizens of heaven." [CCC#2796]

The Catechism of the Catholic Church does not identify the mystery that is "heaven" in earthly terms as a space or a place but as a way of being in which God transcends time and space to be ever present.  When we pray the "Lord's Prayer" we are expressing our union with God through the Covenant family established in Christ.  United with Him in the Covenant, earth no long has a hold on us and heaven becomes our home.  Sin is the force which exiles us from our true home but repentance and conversion of heart enables us to come to God our Father through the blood of Christ in which heaven and earth are reconciled.  "For the Son alone descended from heaven and causes us to ascend there with him, by his Cross, Resurrection, and Ascension." [CCC# 2795]. 

Question:  Sacred Scripture defines God's dwelling place or home as heaven.  Where is heaven and how do we find it?
Answer: The Catechism of the Catholic Church answers this question in article #2796: "Our God is not distant.  He is a father whose place is with His family.  In Christ heaven and earth are reconciled and "who art in heaven" refers not to a place but to God's majesty and His presence in the hearts of those made righteous in the blood of Christ. The CCC #2796: "When the Church prays "our Father who art in heaven" she is professing that we are the People of God, already seated "with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus" and "hidden with Christ in God; (Eph 2:6) yet at the same time, "here indeed we groan, and long to put on our heavenly dwelling."

Sacred Scripture also defines heaven:

Question: Why is it for Christians that the earth is no longer our home?
Answer: It is because our Father's home is in heaven that earth is not our home.  We are in exile here waiting for the time when our Father will call us home.  And like any good and loving Father, our heavenly Father understands our fears when we are "away" from our home

In the following 2 verses our Father makes us two promises that we can claim when we, His children who are away from our heavenly home, become frightened and feel alone.

Question: What are the promised contained in these verses when we acknowledge that our Father rules earth from His heavenly home?

Answer: He is always with us and will never leave us.

Question: What promise did Jesus also made us in Matthew 28:20b?
Answer:  "And behold, I AM with you always, until the end of the age."  Note: in Hebrew I AM is God's Covenant name, Yahweh.

Question:  God is both creator and father.  How should we respond to Him in these roles of Creator and Father in our lives? What standard of behavior does God require of His children?  See Exodus 20:11b; Psalms 46:11(10) and Matthew 5:48:

Answer: God is not a permissive parent.  We must listen and respond to Him in obedience and in love, acknowledging His sovereignty as Creator and His loving authority as Father over us.  He is a good Father, but we must be good, obedient, loving, children. We must honor Him. A Holy Father deserves holy children.  No matter how "mature" we grow as God's children, we are never too "mature" to accept parental correction from our heavenly Father or from Mother Church.  We never "mature" to the point where we can make our own rules and our own laws apart from the Law of God and His will for our lives.

Question:  Psalms 46:11 (10) is both a command and a promise.  What are the commands?  "Be still and acknowledge that I am God, supreme over nations, supreme over the world." [New Jerusalem translation].
Answer: The command is to "be still", to pay attention, to be obedient and listen to the Father and when we are attentive to His words and His commands that we will know that we have an intimate relationship with the eternal and supreme God.

Question:  But, how do you answer the question 'Who is God?
Answer: The Most Holy Trinity: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit who is the One True and Holy God.  St. Thomas Aquinas defined the Holy Trinity as the Lover (Father), the One Loved (the Son), and the Love that binds them (the Holy Spirit).  St John the Apostle also defined God, eloquently and simply: 1 John 4:16 "God is love."

Question: To know God is to have an intimate understanding of God as Creator and as Father. What are the 3 attributes of Yahweh which He revealed to Moses in Exodus 33:18-19?
Answer:  Exodus 33:18-19 "He (Moses) then said, 'Please show me your glory.'  Yahweh then said, 'I shall make all my goodness pass before you, and before you I shall pronounce the name Yahweh; and I am gracious to those whom I am gracious, and I give compassion on those whom I take pity and I give my faithful love." Three attributes of GOD: hen = grace (gracious), rachum = compassionate, and hesed = faithful-merciful covenant love.  The "hesed" or covenant love of the Old Testament is transformed by the sacrificial death, burial, and resurrection of the God the Son into the New Testament word for love which is agape, the Greek word Christians use for the love of Christ with which we love one another.

Question: What is unique about the New Covenant love transformed by Christ and given to us as sons and daughters of God through our baptism in Christ?
Answer: The Greek word "agape" means "spiritual love" but Jesus gave the Christian expression of love the unique character of self-sacrificial love.  This is how Christ loves us and how He commands us to love one another: "Love one another as I have loved you." John 15:12

Petition #1: "HOLY BE YOUR NAME"

"You shall not misuse the name of Yahweh your God, for Yahweh will not leave unpunished anyone who misuses His name."
Exodus 20:7 (Deuteronomy 5:11)

"You will not swear by my name with intent to deceive and thus profane the name of your God.  I am Yahweh."

The Greek word for hallowed or holy is hagiastheto.  It is the aorist passive imperative of hagiazo, the verb meaning "sanctify".  So this prayer literally reads: "Let Your name be sanctified."  It is significant that this is the first petition of the Lord's Prayer.  This petition is primary.  We should first pray that God's holy name will be sanctified everywhere'on earth, in the heavens, throughout creation in time and space.  But we also need to make it personal and relevant.  Our cry should be: "Let Your name be sanctified in my life today!"

Question: How is the Father's name sanctified?
Answer: The Greek word onoma corresponds to the Hebrew word shem, meaning "name", but not as we have mentioned previously simply as the identification of someone by a label to differentiate that person from another.  Instead Biblically, and in ancient times, the "name" of a person encompassed everything that the named individual represented'his entire character and personality, including his work, power, authority and reputation. This petition for sanctification of God's "holy name" can be expressed in two ways:

  1. We sanctify His holy name by His command to us to live holy lives, through obedience to His will, and by our reverence and praise offered to God.  If our lives are not holy, we desecrate that sacred family Name by which we are called.  We remind ourselves that we are called by our Father's most holy Name every time we make the sign of the cross: "In the Name of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit." His Name is our name because He is our Father. 
  2. But this petition also includes the petition that God make holy His own name by manifesting His power and glory in our lives and in the lives of all members of the family of man by establishing the fullness of His Kingdom.

It may help to understand in some small way the dimensions of God's holiness by looking at some of the names of God used in the Bible.  You might also consult the article The Many Names of God in the Resource section of Agape Bible Study.

Scriptural Names of God

In the Bible there are many different names by which the One True God is called.  The most frequently used names are YHWH, usually rendered as Yahweh (ca. 6,800 times), Elohim (ca. 2,600 times), Adonai (ca. 439 times), and El (ca. 238 times).  Most of the other names are combinations of these names like El Shaddai, El Eloah, and Yahweh Elohim.  The most commonly used names for God in the Hebrew and Protestant Bibles are Ha-Shem (meaning "the name" which is used in the modern Jewish Masoretic Text translations of the Tanach) and Jehovah* (used in both Protestant and Jewish translations), a name for God that only dates back to the Middle Ages.  The names Ha-Shem and Jehovah are not found in the ancient texts of Sacred Scripture. [some Bible verses are from the New Jerusalem and others from the New American translation.  All verses with LORD in capitals are from the New American.  LORD all in capital letters indicates that the literal word is YHWH or Yahweh, God's holy Covenant name]

[New Jerusalem translation]

*Please note: the name Jehovah does not appear in the Bible.  It arose from the addition of the vowels from the Hebrew word Adonai, meaning "Lord", which were  added to the tetragramaton YHWH in Germany in the Middle Ages by Jewish scholars [J is the German Y].  It was never meant to be a spoken name but only to indicate in the Biblical text that this word was in actuality the holy four consonants which were God's holy Covenant name, YHWH.  The Protestants, however mistakenly adopted this false reading as God's Covenant name into their Bible translations.  Hebrew was originally written only in consonants.

Question: For ancient peoples one's "name" encompassed everything there was to know about a person: what they stood for, and what they believed.  What is the promise of Jesus' "name" in Acts 4:12?
Answer:  Acts 4:12 "Only in Him is there salvation; for of all the names in the world given to men, this is the only one by which we can be saved."

Question:  What is the promise of Romans 10:12-13?
Answer:  Romans 10:12-13 "The same Lord is the Lord of all, and His generosity is offered to all who appeal to Him, for all who call on the name of the Lord will be saved."  "Calling on the name" means all those who accept everything Jesus taught and believe in everything that He did for our salvation will be saved.  It does not mean to simply acknowledge that there is a God or that there was a man or man-God named Jesus.  Even Satan acknowledges that there is a Jesus who is the Son of God.  His demons even addressed Jesus as the "Holy one of God" during His earthly ministry [Luke 4:34].

St. James writes critically of those who think simple "belief" is enough without faith evidenced by acts of mercy.  Please read James 2:18-24.

Question: What does St. James say is the value of faith without works?
Answer:  In this passage James assures us that genuine faith is living, active faith.  He writes: "You believe that God is one?  You do well, even the demons believe that and tremble.  Do you want proof, you ignoramus, that faith without works is useless?" [James 2:19-20], and in 2:24 St. James concludes: See how a person is justified by works and not by faith alone." [Note: this is the only verse in the New Testament which includes the phrase "faith alone." Martin Luther, in attempting to promote his doctrine of "faith alone" without works changed the Bible text and added the word "alone" to Romans 3:28].   "Saving faith" then requires believing in everything associated with God's Holy Name, including the "name" of God the Son'what Jesus taught us in His ministry, believing in His sacrificial death, in His Resurrection, in His Ascension and in the body of revelation He has revealed to us through the teachings of Mother Church.  Simply acknowledgement is not enough.

Questions for group discussion:

Question: Does showing mercy include the giving of alms?  See Sirach 3:29; Matthew 6:1-4; Luke 12:33.
Answer: It has always been a teaching of the Covenant people that to give alms to the needy greatly pleases God.  Sirach 3:29 includes a promise, "Water quenches a flaming fire, and alms atone for sins." Mercy as an act of atonement endears the offered to God and atones for sin.  The Church instructs those who do not abstain from meat on Fridays to do an act of charity in place of a meat sacrifice.  See CCC# 1434; 1438; 1969; 2101; 2447; 2462.

Jesus told a parable which illustrates the importance of the generosity of the wealthy to the disadvantaged in the Parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man.  Please read Luke 16:19-31.

Question: Was the rich man's disregard for the condition of the poor Lazarus a sin?
Answer: To accept God's blessing of prosperity and to not use that gift to help the less fortunate is indeed a sin.  The rich man was selfish and hardhearted.  He did not have a heart of generosity and compassion'he failed show mercy.  He had not meant the obligations of the covenant that required him to care for the disadvantaged. 

Question: What was ironic about the state of these two men in Sheol?  How did God give justice to Lazarus and does this justice remind you of Jesus' curses of the wealthy in the Sermon on the Plain in Luke chapter 6?
Answer: It is ironic that in Sheol, or Abraham's Bosom as the grave was called in the 1st century AD, the roles of Lazarus and the rich man were reversed just as Jesus had warned would be the case in the Sermon on the Plain. 

Question: What are some of the different kinds of prayer?

Question: Does God always answer our prayers?

Question: Sometimes we do not really know what we are praying for or what will be best for us on our spiritual journey.  Does He answer the desire of our lips or the deeper desire of our hearts?  For example, one may be praying for a certain job but the deeper desire is for a job that will bring personal satisfaction and allow one to fulfill God's plan in that person's life.  Does the long term plan affect the current goal in God's view?

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