MARCH 7, 2006- TUESDAY OF 1ST WEEK OF LENT: ISAIAH 55: 10-11; MT 6: -15.

OUR FATHER WHO ART IN HEAVEN HALLOWED BE THEY NAME. Jesus did not originate prayer to God as a loving Father, but he gave it a new, fuller more hopeful content. He did this not so much by the verbal formula, the words he chose, as by his own person, his unique manner of relating to the Father. Already in the Book of Deuteronomy (1: 31) we read: "In the Wilderness, too, you saw him: How the Lord carried you, as a man carries his child, all along the road you traveled...." Hosea too presents God under the same image of a loving parent:"When Israel was a child I loved him, and I called my son out of Egypt" (11:1) Isaiah depicts the Lord as loving with the unshakeable fidelity of a tender-hearted mother: "For the Lord consoles his people and takes pity on those who are afflicted. ... Does a woman forget her baby at the breast, or stop loving the son of her womb? Even if these forget, yet I will never forget you."(49:13, 15)" However, Israel found it harder than it had seemed early on to live up to the high calling of a loved Son of the eternal, transcendent God. Under the pressures and attractions of daily life the guidance imparted by the Law and the prophets love and gratitude gave way to fear and, more destructively, to resentment and indifference. God no longer seemed close, attentive in his loving care; he was treated as all holy and demanding obedience to an extensive body of legislation. Jesus, by means of this prayer, restores the relation of filial love toward a Father whose heart is filled with tender concern. His power and authority are in the service of his paternal love.

We are then to address the infinite God as Our Father, and to cultivate those dispositions that correspond to the offer of a constant, faithful love. In this spirit, then, the first concern we express in our prayer centers, not on our need and desires; rather, we ask that his name be held in deep reverence by all his creation. Rightly to acknowledge our Fatherís name is a life time task. To walk before God in holiness of life, that is to say, actively conforming to his will, is possible only to the extend that we know him from the heart. In fact, we cannot discover the full capacity for a pure, self-giving love, hidden in the depths of our being, save when we enter into the place where God abides in the center of our heartís deepest cavern. This is the condition for carrying out, as fully as we might this first petition of the Lordís Prayer. It is a great work to enter this place of God in the heart for many are the obstacles that conceal it from us. Our fathers in the monastic life called this Ďthe true work of the monkí. In truth, it is the primary work of every Christian, for only the pure of heart can see God. And this purity can arise in us only from the place where God himself dwells and acts within us. All other activities and concerns we are so to carry out as to clear the way that leads to the all-holy God.

That this task surpasses our own force is the first lesson we learn once we seriously enter upon the path that leads to this sanctified place. The words we heard in todayís first reading, from the prophet Isaiah, give us courage for they assure us that we do not take up this task alone. God not only awaits us at the end of our search, he accompanies us, strengthening our weakness on the way:

For just as from the heavens the rain and snow come down and do not return there till they have watered the earth, making it fertile and fruitful, giving seed to him who sows and bread to the one who eats, so shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth. It shall not return to me void, but shall do my will, achieving the end for which I sent it.

This is the message the Lord sends us at this first week of Lent. May we trust in the power of his word to bring to fulfillment, even in us, weak and infirm as we are, his purpose. His word invites us to take up this great task and expend our energy in clearing the way that leads to him who dwells in light inaccessible, but which shines even now in the hidden place of the heart by virtues of the Spirit given us through this sacrament of his word present in this Eucharist.

Abbot John Eudes Bamberger

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Abbot John Eudes Bamberger

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