Wednesday in the Twenty-Seventh Week of Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings: Jonah 4:1-11;  Lk 11:1-4

Luke’s much briefer version of the Lord’s Prayer is grounded on admiration and ordered for putting gospel principles before one’s own personality. It teaches us what to value, i.e. what matters most.

The term “value” is given not to that which satisfies or meets expectations, but to that which is important-in-itself. One defers to that and accommodates himself to it. The ability to recognize and respond to the important-in-itself is commonly given by living according to principles. The heart was made to admire, i.e. to discern value so St. Benedict begins his Rule by asking his followers to “listen with the ear of the heart.” 

A principle is a starting point for determining one’s response. It is a “strong and noble weapon” against self-will and self-centeredness. Obeying God is hard; it is hard because it involves disobeying self.

So, the appropriate initial response-to-value is admiration. Not to admire is to be ignorant of value or to distort value and live by the whims of one’s personal capabilities and preferences; to obey self.

That the Father’s name or deeds is “hallowed” means that it is (to say the least) to be admired, revered. For a principle to override a habitual personality response it must have a strong effect. It must open us to the power that comes from God. That effect should be pervasive in one’s life as is a kingdom.

Our dependence for daily interior nourishment (daily bread) competes with the cultures emphasis on personally managing well. St. Benedict was very aware of this and began his rule with the qualification that one must be ready to give up his own will, obey, and do battle for Christ. This is a principle that presumes admiration for Christ, whose life was about admiration of the Father.

More important, though, is that this request for nourishment is made with a plural pronoun: “us”. It is used through the remainder of the prayer. What principle unites or forms “us”? Character is formed by a community and the story that community lives out. A community is like a wagon wheel. The spokes (the members) are closest together around the center; the farther from the center, the farther they are apart. “Centered on Christ” is the principle that forms us. It is important-in-itself. It is the common object of admiration. St. Benedict calls it “truly seeking God.”

In a community, forgiveness is a key value. Being forgiven elicits admiration and admiration elicits a desire to imitate, to become forgiving; to pass it on. Jesus urges us to pray for this.

Trials call for endurance, and endurance has two ends or goals: to protect the will’s subordination to reason in the face of trials (the dura et aspera) and to ensure one’s adherence to God as the highest good.

It is this adherence that principles enable in us. They enable us to give away self as Jesus did for the Father. The Father is the ultimate value and thus to be most admired. The principle for living out that admiration is this: On that to which everything is owed, everything must be spent.