Thursday, June 19, 2014

Patriarchs point to Our Father: Daily Mass Homily--Thursday, June 19th, 2014

            If you were listening carefully to our first reading you noticed something unusual.  While Elijah continued to be a focal point of the reading, it was from a completely different book.  This morning he (and Elisha) were described in the book of Sirach—a book written by Jesus ben Sira centuries after the readings from 1 Kings we heard the past few days.
            Sirach is my favorite book of the Old Testament.  It is the most theologically advanced and provides an insightful synthesis of the Jewish faith in the face of Greek cultural and religious influence. 
The passage we heard from today is contained in a longer section (chapters 44-50) that honor the fathers of Israel.  Sirach summarizes salvation history by recounting the great deeds of their ancestors—Elijah and Elisha among them.
These patriarchs of the Judeo-Christian faith point to the One Father.  In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus explicitly calls God not just a Father, but our Father.  Thus we can pray: “Our Father, Who art in heaven…”
The Our Father is a potent prayer.  We pray it often at Mass, in the Rosary, in the Divine Office and at other times in our prayer.  While it may become regular it is always powerful. 
I am reminded of my Clinical Pastoral Experience when, as a lay person, I would visit patients in the hospital and invite them to pray.  On several occasions I led unchurched people in the Our Father.  Even though they hadn’t prayed or been to church in many years, they knew the words to this prayer.  And they often cried as they recognized once more God’s love as a Father.
I have also witnessed men and women of deep faith near the end.  Sometimes they can barely speak, or have little cognitive faculties left.  Yet when I start the Our Father I frequently hear them join in or see their lips moving.
Every patriarch in the Old Testament points to God the Father.  We are blessed to know in a fuller way Who God is—not just a judge or leader but our Father.  Take time to focus on the words of this potent prayer when we say it at Mass this morning.

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