THIS (Our Father, Word by Word)

Our Father Who Art in Heaven, Hallowed Be Thy Name.
Thy Kingdom Come, Thy Will Be Done, On Earth As it Is in Heaven. Give Us This…

by Marc Barnes

this THIS (Our Father, Word by Word)I’m happy to say I got the very best word to reflect on. I am of the belief that this was due to my good looks and great humility – for it certainly wasn’t due to my ability to meet a deadline – but I could be wrong, for Brandon Vogt is one stud of a writer, and he didn’t get my marvelous word. Whatever the reason, my word is this: “this”. And the word itself is certainly beautiful; a big, strong, manly affirmative. But in truth, he cannot be separated from his lawfully-wedded object: “day”. This day. Thus, the question we noble dissectors of the Our Father must ask is simple: what does “this” do to “day”?

First, it makes it immediate, present. It is not “give us on Sunday”, or “give us later” or “give us soon” our daily bread, it is give us this day our daily bread, and hurry please. Because God cannot not meet us soon, or later, or on Sunday, only when it is. “This” makes C.S Lewis’ statement, that “the Present is the point at which time touches eternity”, something we make sense of every day. Our prayer confesses that God loves us immediately, in the present moment and as our prayer goes, our lives must follow.

It is true that the two most important times in the life of a Christian are the present moment and his hour of death, for all else is speculation and reflection. So when we go through life, let us take this day, seize it, kill it, experience it to the fullest, not only because it’s fulfilling, and holy, and the only way towards immense joy, but because we cannot experience anything else! So often we ask ourselves, faces fixed in some I-have-big-important-plans-and-lots-of-potential grimaces, “What are we to be when we grow up?” And sure, it’s a responsible question. But the truth all Ivy-league life-planners have to wake to and face is this: You are always only who and when you are. (Feel free to read that twice). You will never grow up, only continue to be. And if you must ask that horribly responsible question, I demand it be followed up by the infinitely more important and reckless question, “who am I this day?” For when you die and stand before the throne of judgement, God will not ask for your future plans, He will ask “Who are you?” He will not endeavor to find out whether you planned on getting to know Him, he will ask whether or not you know Him. So know Him.

All this reiterates the fact of conversion and reconciliation, that it is crap to say, “I will start living my faith as soon as I get a handle on this sin, these addictions, this pain, this distrust.” No, God calls us this sinful, broken day. Too often we think we have to be perfect to practice this whole religion thing, that our sins and mistakes are the present moment and God is the future. How can we nourish ourselves with the scriptures if we’re also feeding on pornography? How can we engage in our daily prayer if we happen to be selfish jerks? But the strength of “this” bids us — immediately — to push through our own sin and into God’s marvelous light. There is no disclaimer on the Our Father, no “give us this day, unless we suck, our daily bread.” No, we call on God this day, in the very midst of all gone wrong.

Then, “this” makes us arrogant, presumptuous punks. If our Protestant, evangelical culture has done anything for prayer, it has made it polite. So in tune are we with the will of God that our prayer flows beautifully, gemstones from our tongues, “God if it be your will, please conform my heart to your plan for me, I invite your grace into my life, to have you speak a word into my heart” and so on and thus forth, until the angels weep at the sheer beauty and correctness of our petitions. And there is a place for this prayer. But if there is anything I have against Protestantism, it’s not the church signs, it’s that it has taken all the protest out of religion. My Calvinist friend told me, “the problem with you Catholics is that you make God too human,” and sure, it may be wrong for the Irish to rant and rave at God like he is a judge, to barter with him like he is a merchant, and it may be theologically foolish for me to demand healing for a friend like I am owed it, but surely, surely it is equally wrong to pray like Our Lord is inhuman. Surely, we are made in the image and likeness of God, surely there is a place to — as the psalmist says — cry from the guts. Surely God meant what he said when he told us to be persistent, to knock on the door until the judge gets up, to see Him as our father, to see Christ as our brother, to scream our frustrations to him, to say “give us this day!” like we mean it, like we demand it, like we will absolutely not leave until we are satisfied.

For “this” does just that. It gives the phrase the impolite air of demand. Give us, right now, your sustenance. There is no please. There is a “this”, an urgency to our request, as if we were a crowd of hungry peasants chanting outside Versailles, “We want bread and we want it now!” All this boldness towards God would be blasphemy, were it not requested by Him. So what does “this” say about God? It says that he absolutely refuses to be limited. He refuses to become sort of fate, an obscure spirit-being that predestines us from the beginning of time to heaven or hell, and sits while we try to “conform our hearts”. Rather, he is our lover, our savior. We are to speak with him, remind ourselves of his promises, yell “where are you?”, touch him in the Eucharist, taste him on our tongues, let him inform our decisions, guide our ways, invade our dreams. He reaches out from the infinite and batters our hearts in the present moment, in the “This”. He is, after all, Our Father.
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Marc Barnes is the author of one of my favorite new-to-me blogs, Bad Catholic. If you’re not reading it, you should be. And you’ll fall off your chair when you find out how young he is.


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Enter the Conversation...

15 Responses to “THIS (Our Father, Word by Word)”
  1. Jessica says:

    Bravo. Marc, I do hope your Calvinist friend sees this post (and God bless him.) :-)

  2. Carla says:

    Thanks for introducing Marc Jen, what a talented guy!

    Finally a blogger my teen son and I can share!

  3. Robin E says:

    THIS has floored me this morning, because THIS is exactly what this bible belt Catholic has been agonizing over. Thanks!

  4. This is a great point! “No, God calls us this sinful, broken day. Too often we think we have to be perfect to practice this whole religion thing, that our sins and mistakes are the present moment and God is the future.” It seems like this is a struggle of human nature, to run from something rather than do it imperfectly.

    Thanks Jen for introducing Marc. I’ve found his blog recently too and love it!
    Katie @ Wellness Mama recently posted..You Asked… Here It Is!

    • Kimberlie says:

      That quote got me too. Too often in my search for perfection I tell God, “well, when I get my sh– together, then I will come to You for blah, blah, blah…”

      Yet another great post in the series!

  5. Jenna says:

    What a beautifully written post. Just gorgeous. Would you mind if I linked it to my blog so my peeps can see it as well?

    Jenna
    momofmanyhats.blogspot.com

  6. jeni says:

    Brilliant! Love it.

  7. Calah says:

    Oh, Marc, this is great! I LOVE this. So very much. I’ve had it up all day and just now sat down to read it and I’m just blown away. It puts into words so many things that I’ve thought since my own conversion, so many things that I’ve felt. Thank you so much. And can I just say, Jen, you have the most fabulous taste in guest bloggers? Everyone in this series has just been amazing! Well done.

  8. Calah says:

    I cannot believe how many times I just typed the word just. Sorry. That was ridiculous.

  9. JUST what I needed THIS morning, “He absolutley refuses to be limited”
    Mary @ A Simple Twist of Faith recently posted..Our Little Garden

  10. Cathy says:

    Well said! Thank you!
    Cathy recently posted..Adventure Tour Express

  11. I loved this! It reminded me of explicating every word in a poem in college papers. Each word is significant in the Bible. It’s wonderful to examine a prayer we Catholics have a tendency to rattle off without thinking about how each word is significant. Thank you, Marc, for a fresh look at THIS.
    Trisha Niermeyer Potter recently posted..Recovering Faith- Stories of Catholics Who Came Home

  12. I loved this! It reminded me of explicating every word in a poem in college papers. Each word is significant in the Bible. It’s wonderful to examine a prayer we Catholics have a tendency to rattle off without thinking about how each word is significant. Thank you, Marc, for a fresh look at THIS.
    Trisha Niermeyer Potter recently posted..Recovering Faith- Stories of Catholics Who Came Home

  13. SusanE says:

    Dear Marc, You have made so obvious what took a divine revelation for me to understand. I was just finishing a 30 week JustFaith program and was in a panic because I hadn’t figured out how I was supposed to go out and transform the world. Imagine being 60 years old and still not knowing what I wanted to be when I grow up. Then one morning I woke up remembering words from my high school graduation (42 years ago!)–“I am not going to be, I am.” Suddenly everything made sense, and I was at peace. I AM–the same words God used to name himself. That “I am -ness” is what connects me to my Creator and everything and everyone He created.

  14. Mary says:

    Wow…Thanks Marc and Jen. I am blown away by this. A lot to ponder…