Gal 2:1,2,7-14; Ps 117:1bc,2;
“For steadfast is his kindness toward us.”
The apostolic urgency of the early church puts us to shame. Saint Paul and the Twelve had a driving desire to go out to all the world and tell the Good News. Does this desire motivate us? Does it even enter our minds from day to day? Do we let it influence our big decisions, the lifelong ones? Do we let it influence even our little decisions, like where to spend our yearly vacation? Is a vocation to ministry in the church something we talk about during family meals? Do we seek out other believers with whom to share time and recreation during the summer months? What is it that pushed these Galilean fishermen, The Twelve and this Palestinian tent-maker, Saint Paul, onto the horizon of world history? These men were sent by the Lord Jesus Christ and shoved forth by the Holy Spirit so that the whole world would come to know the Father. By their witness and through their teaching they summoned all the nations to praise the LORD and all the peoples to glorify the LORD! In their own lives they had come to know the loving mercy and the startling kindness of the Lord Jesus. They had seen him bring healing where all hope was gone. They had seen him feed thousands who were hungry from seeking him. They had witnessed from a distance his passion and shared a meal with him after his resurrection. They had hidden from his executioners in fear and come out into the market place in the power of the Holy Spirit to preach Christ and to announce his fidelity unto the ages of ages. The message and ministry of these First Witnesses still reaches out to all the world through us, simple and powerless though we may be. Like Saint Peter and Saint Paul, we even have to confront one another with the truth of the Gospel so that hypocrisy does not endanger our mission. We still pray the way he taught them to pray because without prayer our motivation would quickly dry up in the noonday sun.
Saint Paul speaks boldly to the church in Galatia; he wants them to know that the struggle within the Body of Christ has been a part of his personal struggle. Those who would have them abandon their relationship with Christ for some hybrid of Jewish and Christian faith are disturbing the Galatian Church. This departure from the simple and startling trust in the Crucified and Risen Christ is resisted by Saint Paul throughout his ministry. Indeed, at every age in church history, we are tempted to rely upon some ritual, some ideology, some leader, who takes us far from our first love and our total surrender to the Way, Truth, and Life. Although Saint Paul was not in the habit of consulting the Jerusalem Church to approve every decision he made, in humility he did go up after fourteen years to take counsel with those who had been entrusted with the Gospel. Both, those in the mother church, and those who were in the outreach mission, wanted to maintain a real partnership for the sake of a faithful witness to Christ. Unless the community of believers is united we have no moral authority to summon self-centered and ambitious peoples to unity. Such a painful concern still plagues our apostolic witness. Indeed, the Lord Christ still prays, “Father, may they be one so that the world will come to know that you have sent me.” The world will never come to know the Father and the Son in the Holy Spirit because of our fragmented and confused witness. In this letter to the Galatians, Saint Paul gives them a glimpse of his struggle with Saint Peter while they were in Antioch. Saint Peter had evidently caved in to pressure from the Jewish Christians; he stopped sharing meals with Gentile Christians because it offended the party of the circumcised believers. This counter witness was ripping the Antioch Church apart. When Saint Paul saw that they were not on the right road in line with the truth of the Gospel, he did not hesitate to confront Saint Peter and the whole community. Either live the truth of the Gospel or not, you must make a choice. Such discrimination is essential to the existence of the Church. Only such intolerance will maintain the truth of the Gospel. Indeed, believers discriminate between truth and falsehood. Indeed, believers do not tolerate lies, self-deception, or any other evil. Just such a challenge is necessary at every age, even today public confrontation is a part of our struggle to maintain the truth of the Gospel that human life, at every moment, is precious to the Father. Indeed, we must protect and defend the lives of the powerless infant within the womb and the powerless elderly so often neglected. This is the good news that our church has consistently announced for all the world to hear.
The Lord Jesus was praying, as Saint Luke writes this was not an uncommon thing for the disciples to witness. The delight of this union between Father and Son in the Spirit was so inviting that the disciples asked; teach us to pray. In their request they referred to the prophet John and his disciples. Evidently the disciples of the Baptist had learned how to approach the LORD in prayer from their Master. Now the Messiah, who was from eternity closer to the Father than any prophet, must instruct his disciples in the ways of prayer. If the forerunner could teach his followers about prayer, the long awaited one certainly had something teach his followers about prayer. The Divine Teacher instructs them to say; he wants them to repeat what he gives them. These very words are important to help you form the kind of attitude necessary to approach the Father with trust and to grow in relationship with Him. We have come to memorize a text more similar to Saint Matthew’s rendition of the “Disciple’s Prayer.” Here in Saint Luke we have a much more compact version of the same prayer. Notice the immediacy of the address, “Father.” Indeed, we are privileged children; we have access to the LORD who created heaven and earth and all that is in them. From the start we pray that His Name be hallowed, we want the LORD to be known and respected and loved everywhere. Since his kingdom is the best thing that could ever come our way, we pray that His Kingdom come, today, indeed at this moment. “Lord, do not delay!” Until such a petition is fulfilled, we pray for the daily bread we need while we wait the Master’s return. While we wait for the Kingdom to Come we acknowledge that we fail directly and indirectly by what we have done and by what we have failed to do. For these sins we ask forgiveness, and we promise to forgive everyone who is in debt to us by their sins against us. Finally, we need help to survive all the tests that God permits us to experience, even the final test that comes at the end of our lives and at the end of this world as we know it. Simple and to the point is the prayer the Master teaches. Simple and honest is the only way to pray so that we might grow in faith and trust day in and day out. Such prayer is essential if we are to give a clear and unified witness to all the world.