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Wednesday Gospel Reflection

Wednesday, October 05, 2016
Today's Gospel presents us with an abbreviated form of the series of petitions that we call the Our Father. The longer, more familiar form, is found in the Sermon on the Mount in St. Matthew's Gospel (6:5-13). Matthew’s Our Father has seven petitions whereas Luke's has five. When faced with two non-identical texts, we are bound to ask why the difference?

Some commentators will seize upon the number 7, which features prominently in Matthew’s Gospel: there are 7 beatitudes, 7 parables, 7 woes for the Pharisees - even the book is divided into 7 sections. Given the prevalence of 7, commentaries like the notes to the Jerusalem Bible suggest that Matthew may have added a 3rd petition - Thy will be done - and 7th petition - Deliver us from evil - to Luke's basic text in order to arrive at the number 7

St. Augustine offers a markedly different explanation when he writes that Luke omitted the 3rd petition in order to help us understand it better by avoiding repetition. As for the 7th petition, St. Thomas explains in the Summa that, "Deliver us from evil," is omitted by Luke, so that each one may know himself to be delivered from evil if he be not led into temptation.” (ST II-II q. 83, a. 9)

In either form, it is considered to be the paradigmatic prayer, the most important prayer, if you will, because it is the one that Jesus - God Himself - taught us. As early as the second century, Tertullian said it to be "truly the summary of the whole Gospel" and, a millennium later, St. Thomas Aquinas wrote that it is "the most perfect of prayers”, which each day we make our own.

By way of footnote: for some further reading about the Our Father, see Pope Benedict XV’s 2007 book “Jesus of Nazareth,” Part 1, Chapter 5, and Fr. Paul Murray OP’s work, “Praying with Confidence” - a discussion of St. Thomas Aquinas’ commentary.

Br Samuel Burke OP 

Samuel Burke O.P.

Br Samuel Burke O.P. Fr Samuel Burke is based in St Albert the Great in Edinburgh, where he serves as a university chaplain.  |  samuel.burke@english.op.org


Anonymous commented on 05-Oct-2016 04:43 PM
Thank you for the suggestions for further reading. Can I make a plea for this to become a regular feature (if it doesn't make too much extra work for the writer, that is)? Many of us don't have anyone to recommend suitable reading, and have to rely on amazon reviews!
Robert Steele commented on 09-Oct-2016 03:20 PM
Indeed. If it does not cause too much work I'd second the proposal for suggestions for further reading.

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