As Trinidad and Tobago continues her weary struggle with the grim realities of runaway crime, potently manifested by the recent spike in murders, as she grapples with the habitual discord and rancour on the political front, manifested by the war of words taking place at the end of the ‘email-gate’ investigation, as the Commissioner of Police places before the nation the sobering reality of criminal gangs being incentivised in the form of lucrative state contracts, the Word of God this Sunday presents us with Jesus’ simple but profound teaching on prayer.
The simplicity, confidence and intimacy of Jesus’ prayer life are fully on display in this reading from Luke. According to scripture scholars, the Lord’s prayer given by Jesus is as much a model of how to pray as it is a text of a new prayer itself.
This prayer of Jesus is not self-concerned but takes in the whole world. He prays for the coming of the “Kingdom;” your name be held holy, your Kingdom come. The Kingdom or Reign of God is the way life is when God is in charge. It is the world set aright.
The Reign of God—the basileia tou theou in New Testament Greek, summarises God’s plan for the ultimate destiny of all creation, including humankind. It is the central teaching of Jesus.
In the Bible, the Kingdom is not an ‘airy-fairy’ dream with people floating on clouds. The Hebrew imagination is very concrete. We see the imagery of this Kingdom in this text from Isaiah 65: “No more will be found the infant living a few days only, or the old man not living to the end of his days. To die at the age of a hundred will be dying young, not to live to be a hundred will be the sign of a curse. They will build houses and inhabit them, plant vineyards and eat their fruit. They will not build for others to live in, or plant so that others can eat.”
The Kingdom means a transformed heaven and earth, healed to the root, where everything anti-human and anti-divine has fled. Jewish theology also makes it clear that the Kingdom is realised in the midst of great resistance and struggle. It is something for which we must be prepared to suffer.
As long as oppression, sickness, death and injustice make themselves felt in this world, God’s Kingdom is still not fully manifest. This broad, universal vision at the centre of Jesus’ prayer life is an antidote for much of the spiritual crisis that afflicts the world and which afflicts Trinidad and Tobago.
Pope Francis in Evangelii Gaudium has called believers to a renewed encounter with God’s love that would release us from our narrowness and self-absorption. This self-absorption may well be one of the defining sins of Trinbagonian society.
Corrupt politicians, drug kingpins, reckless drivers: all are in the powerful grip of self-interest. Jesus’ prayer “Your Kingdom come” invites us to see life differently: Don’t pray that your child may pass SEA, pray rather that all children may find their purpose through education; don’t pray that your family may be financially secure, pray that all citizens may have a lifestyle that is healthy and sustainable. Don’t pray that there will be peace within your family; pray that there may be an end to war.
Finally, the Church, here in Trinidad and Tobago, through her concrete actions and institutions has been doing what she can to implant in the hearts of our people this sense of sensitivity towards the well-being of the whole of society.
On July 29, the Archdiocese of Port of Spain, through its Liturgical Commission begins yet another annual edition of the School of Liturgy. Liturgy school over its many years of existence has fostered through its workshops and style of public prayer, the vision of a Church that is not self-absorbed, but turned outwards towards society, outwards towards the problems of the Caribbean.
As an institution, it has sought through its fairly deep theological lectures to anchor itself in the richness of Catholic tradition, while at the same time through workshops such as pastoral leadership, and facilitating persons with disabilities, seeks to remain alive to the practical problems of life today. Let us thank God for such a rich gift.