Homily - The Lord’s Prayer and Who leads us into temptation?

31 July 2019 | General Interest


The Lord’s Prayer and Who leads us into temptation?

Lk 11.1-13 Gen 18.20-32 (A Maths lesson!) Col 2.12-14

If we were to be asked one prayer that we’d have said in our lives more than any other, then wouldn’t this be it, unless you are still saying the daily Rosary, as many Catholic families did before bed, when I was at primary school, as my family did, with ten Hail Marys to every Our Father!  But particularly as a Christian prayer, it would be the all-embracing common one, used sometimes even at secular funerals led by civil celebrants.

The trouble is we say it so often that we can be numbed into a lack of consciousness of what the words actually mean, as we constantly say it by rote, with a familiarity that perhaps clouds our reflectiveness. It is included in only Matthew’s and Luke’s Gospels, with Luke omitting the last line we say, of delivering us from evil, which I’d imagine, he just presumes God does.

Some reactionaries have recently protested against Pope Francis revising the Lord’s Prayer (in Italian at present), just because that is the way it has always been. Their claim is that “We’ve learned the words of our prayers from our mothers and fathers, grandmothers and grandfathers, our priests, nuns and brothers… Please don’t break this precious connection with these cherished people, with our tradition and our past… The proposed change will create unnecessary confusion and division in already confused and divided church.” One heading suggests: “Lead us not into mistranslation”, and another: “Lead us not into new translation”! One social media comment described the change as an ‘abomination’, and another ‘This is like changing the Declaration of Independence of 1776!’ Well, maybe that is in need of an upgrade or reinterpretation for the world of today?

“This is the prayer that Jesus taught followers to pray and one of the few things that unites 2.2 billion Christians across the globe.” Further, traditionalists are even saying it will confuse the Protestants, although for them Ecumenism is not at all a priority, but rather Catholic orthodoxy, whatever that may be!


Says Francis, “I am the one who falls; it’s not him pushing me into temptation to then see how I have fallen… A father doesn’t do that; a father helps you get up immediately. It’s Satan who leads us into temptation; that’s his department!”  There’s no denying that trials and temptations are part of life, but blaming God is up the wrong tree. Some disagree, with the line that a good and loving father allows his children to face up to the real world around them, exposing them to the trials and tribulations of life, and so to the temptations and the wrongs surrounding them.

The hope is that broader experience will strengthen the individual person’s capacity to resist evil. It can be a bit of a pedantic argument, as we all know that excessive mollycoddling, protection, insulation and isolation from the world’s imperfections and difficulties is no way of helping us grow up and make adult decisions in dealing with the darker side of our natures and the surrounding world.

One opposing American Monsignor (ironically surnamed Pope!), draws the parallel to a father taking the training wheels off his child’s bike and letting them ride freely, hoping they won’t fall off.  Then he moves on to condone parental punishment (hopefully not corporal?), saying fatherhood or parenthood is not just about protectiveness, but I’d fear his implicit rigidity and narrow-mindedness.

At the same time, of course, we rightly have strict procedures implemented about child protection in our own parish community, as acknowledgement that this is a fundamental principle and right of our children to be free from harm or any form of abuse, and secure and safe in our local environment.

Well, it’s true we live in a world with lights and temptations contrary to the Gospel, but it’s not God who drives us into doing the wrong thing, and that’s Pope Francis’ key point. And if it has bothered him for a long time, as he has said, I’d accept that his will for change is concerned with all of us not maintaining the wrong impression. After all, he is the Pope, and the funny thing to me is that those complaining about the change will insist on blind adherence to what the Pope says, but only when his words concur with what they think!! Talk about suiting themselves, and that’s exactly what they accuse those in favour of change! I guess inconsistency is part of human nature?

Yet, as Francis points out, it is misleading to suggest that God leads us into temptation, as it’s usually our own doing, or where we find ourselves caught perhaps, then with the free will to make a decision about what to do next! Nor do I believe we can blame the devil for making us do the wrong thing, unless we identify that as the demons within our own selves, leading us to cave in to our own weaknesses and compulsions, and so sin, by making bad choices all by ourselves! Once again, it’s about accepting and acknowledging personal responsibility for our decisions.

Francis has approved the change from “Lead us not into temptation” to “Do not let us fall into temptation”,  so we can’t blame God for leading us astray!  And he hasn’t stopped there, as he has also approved a change to the Gloria from “Peace on earth to people of good will” to “Peace on earth to people beloved by God.”

It is suggested that “From a theological, pastoral and stylistic viewpoint”, the old translation of God leading us into temptation is incorrect, so there! If it’s good enough for Pope Francis, it’s good enough for me, and dare I say, you too!

The themes of God as Father, Jesus’ proclaiming a kingdom of justice, love and peace, our need for bread, both physical and spiritual, the reality of temptation and our propensity for sin, our need for forgiveness and forgiving are at the heart of Christian life, all summed up in this one simple prayer we say so often, perhaps without thinking enough as to its all embracing significance. And so we end, to keep the Protestants happy, as I often add at Baptisms in particular: “For yours is the Kingdom, the power and the glory for ever and ever” for the Protestants, but we’ve added it too, with an intervening prayer, so we’re not just Catholic copycats?

And as it is Mission Sunday, we’ll conclude with a short reflection on the work of Catholic Mission worldwide, here focussing on a story from Yendi, a village in Ghana.

john hannon                         27th July 2019

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