2Cor 1:1-11; Ps 111:1-4,7-8; Mt 6:7-15
True prayer is heart prayer. The Psalmist prays with a whole heart, but that does not keep him from also praying in the company and assembly of the just. We, who have witnessed the great and exquisite works of the LORD, cannot keep quiet. The works of His hands are faithful and just; these wondrous deeds elicit gratitude in the heart and loud praise in the assembly. Why should we be afraid to live by the precepts of the Lord? We have no fear, and consequently, we are often ridiculed and rejected by our peers for being “holier than thou.” Saint Paul, too, cannot be silent when he boasts of his faithful ministry in Christ even though he is by no means a “superapostle.” The Lord Jesus teaches his disciples the necessary attitude for prayer, even as he teaches them how to pray: “Your Father knows what you need before you ask him.” In the company and assembly of all the saints we humbly receive the Kingdom, coming, and right here with us.
Our ancestors in the faith, the Corinthian Christians, were precious to Saint Paul. He had a “divine jealousy” for them. With the very heart of God, he tried to encourage the brothers and sisters to continue growing in a sincere and pure commitment to Christ. Many so-called “superapostles” were enticing his Corinthian converts to seek refuge in the security of the Jewish Traditions. These early converts had no background, no status, no belonging, to give them a personal and social sense of significance. They were the poor and neglected, the powerless and insignificant subjects of the Roman Empire. They had been forced to relocate from the slums of Rome to build a new port city at Corinth. Rootless and lost, they had been given the dignity of a betrothed, chaste virgin given by Saint Paul to the Lord Jesus, the faithful and true Spouse. Into this community, fresh and newly converted, the “superapostles” could find a ready-made audience. They were all too willing to put up with another Jesus, other than the one Saint Paul preached, with a different Spirit, other than the one received when Saint Paul laid hands on them, with a different gospel, other than the one Saint Paul planted among them. This conflict burdened Saint Paul, even as it deepened his prayer. This apostle, too, had to learn that his Father in Heaven knew what he needed before even asking.
In Saint Luke the Lord Jesus teaches that disciples must pray with perseverance and Saint Paul, himself, teaches that believers should pray without ceasing. This kind of prayer is not “babbling like the pagans.” Indeed, neither the number of prayers, nor the correct formula of prayer can manipulate the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. The Disciples’ Prayer here in Saint Matthew and in Saint Luke is more about our participation in the coming of the Kingdom. To live, now, in that future Kingdom is possible because we desire God’s will more than our own and we depend on his provision, this our daily and supersubstantial Bread. Finally, we can forgive only because we are forgiven—seventy times seven times. Again and again at every Mass we learn how to pray, every time we join the assembly of the just in crying out, “Our Father who art in heaven.”