28 Jul 2019

St. Mary’s Cathedral Basilica, Sydney

The Our Father: A Catechism of Prayer

“Lord, teach us to pray.” (Lk 11:1-13;Mt 6:8-13) OK, Jesus says, here’s a catechism of prayer for you. Let me teach you prayer of adoration, prayer of petition, prayer of contrition, and prayer of thanksgiving. 

Let me teach you how to pray constantly, all the time, whatever your need, whatever your mood (Mt 26:40-1; Mk 13:32-7; Lk 18:1; cf. 1Thess 5:16-8; Rom 12:12; Eph 6:18); to share all that is in your heart with God and lay all your difficulties before Him.

Let me teach you how to pray everywhere, wherever you are: whether privately when you are all alone in your room, morning and evening, to a God who is like your own Dad; and publicly, when you are together in Church or elsewhere, to a God who is our father, asking for our daily bread, for forgiveness of our trespasses.

1.  Prayer of Adoration

Let us begin. Father, my father, our father. To call God ‘father’ is to claim a very particular intimacy with him. 

People sometimes talk of placing themselves in the presence of God. We can’t of course. It’s God who makes Himself present and He is not ours to command. But in letting us call Him ‘Father’ He’s declaring Himself always available to us. To put ourselves in His presence is simply to attend to One who is always present, always available for us. And not principally as Power, or as Judge, but as Parent, as Love.

And so we love you Father God, Our Father. We love you, present God, who art in heaven and on earth as in heaven. We love you, holy God, hallowed be thy name. We love you, ruler God, thy kingdom come. We love you, provident God, thy will be done. Fatherly, always present, all holy, sovereign, provident God: we praise and worship You, your holy name, your coming kingdom, your divine will. Be hallowed, be come, be done. 

Teach us Lord to pray such prayers of profession of faith, of praise and worship, of adoration. 

2. Prayer of Petition

“Ask, and it will be given to you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened to you.” But for what should we ask?

That your name be hallowed – on earth as in heaven. That your kingdom come – on earth as in heaven. That your will be done – on earth as in heaven. In other words, dear Lord, we ask you to make earth like heaven. Make our homes, our families, our friendships, our world, our hearts like they will be in heaven. In our earthly life ready us for eternal life. Bridge heaven and earth, Lord. Redeem and sanctify all things. 

For what else should we ask? For daily bread, our every need, like those in our parable begging for bread (Lk 11:1-13). For forgiveness of sins, like Abraham today entreating on behalf of Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen 18:20-32). For merciful hearts. For protection from trial and from every evil.

Teach us Lord to pray, not only prayers of adoration, but also such prayers of asking, petition, intercession.

3. Prayer of Contrition

“Forgive them Father, for they know not what they are doing,” Jesus prays (Lk 23:34). “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you; I no longer deserve to be called your child,” I say (Lk 15:21). “But forgive me.”

Father God, forgive us our trespasses, for where your kingdom is not come in us, for when your will is not done by us. Mortal or venial, habitual or original, action or inaction: all sins harm our relationship with you, with each other, with ourselves. Forgive us, yes, and more than that, convert and remake us. Make us “perfect as your Heavenly Father is perfect”. (Mt 5:48)

Soften also our hard hearts, quench our vengeful spirits. It’s not easy to forgive, Lord, for we are proud. But in the measure we would be forgiven, you tell us we must forgive (Mt 6:14-5; 18:21-35; Mk 11:25-6; Lk 11:4; 17:3). Unmercy on our part renders us impervious to your mercy. So Lord, make us not only “prefect as your Heavenly Father is perfect” but also “merciful as your Heavenly Father is merciful” (Lk 6:36). 

Forgiven and forgiving, we are made by You into a communion of saints and sinners, of saints and would-be saints, of saints made and in the making. Teach us Lord to pray, not only prayers of adoration and intercession, but also such prayers of contrition, absolution, reconciliation. 

4. Prayer of Thanksgiving

Finally, we thank you, our Father, in the daily bread that is the Holy Eucharist, and in our constant praying of the Our Father. We thank you for bringing what is in heaven down to earth: your fatherhood, your kingdom, your holiness, your name, your will, your care, yourself. For bringing your forgiveness of trespasses, your strength against temptation, your deliverance from evil, and cancelling, in Paul’s words today, “every debt we owe” (Col 2:12-14). To all of these we say Amen, let it be, thank you.

Thanksgiving is the natural disposition of the Christian as we contemplate the beauty of the universe, the gift of ourselves and of each other, the redemptive sacrifice of the Son, the graces of the Spirit. “Amen! Thanks be to God!” is the finale of our Mass, our Daily Bread offered to hallow the Father’s name. “Amen! Thanks be to God!” will be the finale of our lives, too, when our daily grind is swept up into God’s kingdom come.

Teach us Lord to pray, not only prayers of adoration, intercession and contrition, but also such prayers of please and thank you and Amen to all you say and do. 

Our Dempsey Medal recipients today know something, I think, about the lessons of the Lord’s Prayer, having given so much in service of God and His Church. As we will hear when their awards are presented, they have served in our parishes, schools, diocesan agencies or associations of the faithful in an extraordinary range of prayer and leadership activities, ministries and community outreach. Their very lives, then, have been prayers of adoration, intercession, contrition and thanksgiving, as the Lord taught us today, not just for the half minute it might take us to recite the Our Father but over and over again. As we pray, too, that God’s will be done in us, we look forward to that day when the doors to God’s kingdom come will be opened wide and we who have knocked may enter…


St. Mary’s Cathedral , Sydney

Welcome to St Mary’s Cathedral for the Solemn Mass for the 17th Sunday of Ordinary Time. Concelebrating with me today are

Today I have the joy of presenting the Dempsey Medal, presented for outstanding service in the Archdiocese of Sydney. It is named in memory of James Dempsey, a leading Catholic layman of the convict period in Sydney and contributor to our first cathedral. The Dempsey home was a place of prayer and catechesis for the Catholics of the early colony in the years before there was a church, priest or Mass. Dempsey also accompanied condemned prisoners to the gallows and prayed with them. When, two hundred years ago, a priest briefly in the colony was deported, he left behind a consecrated host, it was kept by the Dempsey household or in the Davis cottage or both and venerated there. There is a stained glass of this event below the window of the Empty Tomb on the West wall of the cathedral. Our awards today, on the nomination of priests, agencies and people of Sydney, are named in honour of this prominent lay leader.

I acknowledge in particular this year’s Medal recipients, with their families, friends and fellow parishioners. And to all our visitors and regulars, a very warm welcome.