“A tree gives glory to God by being a tree.” This is one of my favorite quotes from Thomas Merton, and I think thattrees are good models of the dynamics that we find in the Lord's Prayer which we hear in the gospel today. I recently read a book by Leonardo Boff called The Lord's Prayer: A Prayer of Integral Liberation, and in it he talksabout the multi-directional nature of the Lord's Prayer. If you look at the first half of the prayer, this is really where we focus on God and God's plans and desires for the world in which we live.
As a woman in the Church, I often struggle with male imagery for God and have for a long time, but what I appreciated about Boff’s book was that he talked about the idea that this name that Jesus gives God is really a nickname and a term of endearment for a beloved ancestor. And so as I think in my own life about an ancestor with a nickname, I think of my Gram. She was a kind woman, and every night as I would fall asleep when I was growing up, she would rub my back and just listen to me as I shared concerns about my family or what was happening in the world. So as we think about the beginning of this prayer and this God that we love, we know that this is a God who loves us and knows us intimately and just wants to rub our backs as we as live our lives and work for justice in the world.
As we move on in the prayer to think about the line “thy will be done,” this is really a statement of hope and faithand trust in God. A belief that God desires a world of peace and justice where all needs are met, and everyone can flourish. And so by stating this line we are stating that, “I believe in this vision of God's will for the Earth” and want to bring it to fruition.
As we move on to the second half of the prayer, the secondary dynamic, this dynamic is really about being rooted where we are on the holy ground where we stand as members of a community. As finite humans with concreteneeds. So as we think about “our daily bread” what I find so beautiful about this statement are the plural pronounsthat we use throughout the prayer. This remembrance that we are a community and that we are interconnected and called to support and love one another.
I recently saw a statistic that said maybe 7% of the world's grain comes from Ukraine and so even as we thinkabout suffering and war that's happening in other places, this image of grain and of bread is a true reminder that we are intimately interconnected there are food systems and in ways that that we might not even imagine. And so again, here, I think that trees are beautiful examples of how we can support our sisters and brothers and neighbors as a community to meet our needs.
Historically, there's been a way of thinking that forests are areas where trees are fighting each other for resources,“survival of the fittest,” but newer science has realized that actually forests are places of collaboration andcommunity. Tree roots interconnect underneath the ground and there are mycelium and fungus that grow on them that allow trees of different species to communicate with each other and share resources between them. So if onetree is suffering in one part of the year or doesn't have access to the resources that it needs, another tree can send them along and vice versa. And so in that way the trees are able to meet each other's needs out of their abundance. I think this is a beautiful image that we are called to live out aswell as the community of God and as people who are trying to bring about God's reign on the earth.
The final dynamic of this last part of the prayer is this idea of “lead us not into temptation.” I know that as I doecology work at the Ignatian Solidarity Network, I think my personal temptation is a temptation to despair, is atemptation to hear the news about climate change, or about racial injustice, or about migration justice, and to feel like there's nothing that we can do. It's too late. Hope is lost.
And so in this way again, The Lord's Prayer is a reminder (and a statement of belief) that, one, this work is not mine to do alone. We do it in community. And again, a reminder that this God who knows and loves me, and all of us, and who is close enough to rub my back and accompany me, has a great plan for the Earth if I am willing totrust it and do my part to make it a reality.
The final part of the Gospel that really resonates with me is related to this idea that Jesus says, “Ask and you shall receive. Seek and you shall find.” I know that sometimes I get so overwhelmed that I forget to ask. I forget to ask for the help of my neighbor. I forget to ask for the spiritual food that I need from God, for eucharist, and so in this way Jesus is just reminding us that we do not walk alone and that we do this work in community.
Going back to this image of a tree and this multi-directional dynamic, I think that trees are images of being deeply rooted in your place and community and in sharing resources and caring for those around us. While also itsbranches are reaching up to the transcendent, to this God who loves us, and who invites us to engage in bringing about the reign and the kindom of God.
And so my prayer for all of us is that as we enter into the dynamics of the Lord's Prayer, that we can be consoled,that we can trust in God's plan, and that we can be bread for one another and lean on our neighbors when we need the sustenance to carry us forward to bring about the reign of God.
Brenna Davis lives in loving community in Cleveland, OH with a one of her community members from JVC and her cat, Fran. Originally from Tennessee, she graduated from Boston College in 2010 with a B.A. in theology and Spanish. After college, Brenna served as a Jesuit Volunteer in Cleveland. When her JV year ended, she began working at Saint Martin de Porres, Cleveland’s Cristo Rey High School, as a theology teacher and cross-country coach. Brenna currently serves as the Director of Environmental Initiatives at the Ignatian Solidarity Network. She is a certified spiritual director, Cuyahoga County Master Recycler, a member of NCR’s EarthBeat Advisory Panel, and a board member for the Jesuit Retreat Center in Parma, OH and Bethlehem Farm in Pence Springs, WV. In her spare time, Brenna enjoys reading, long walks, playing ultimate frisbee, bullet journaling, writing letters, and digging through trash cans to properly sort recycling.
The second of three volumes from the Catholic Women Preach project of FutureChurch offers homilies for each Sunday and holy days of the liturgical year by Catholic women from around the world. The first volume for Cycle A received awards for best book on Liturgy from both the Association of Catholic Publishers and the Catholic Media Association.
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