20th Sun [B] 2000

Fr. Charles Irvin

Proverbs 9:1-6; Ephesians 5:15-20; John 6-51-58

The central word, the defining word of the Lord’s Prayer and the central and defining word for what we mean by “home” and “family” is the first word of The Lord’s Prayer – OUR. “Our” occurs three times in the prayer. “Us” occurs five times. “My” never occurs. Thus the “our” is not a possessive word, it is indicative.

Our likewise denotes that trinity of Persons that exist is one unity of being. I in Genesis we find God saying: “Let us make man in our image…” The our is the “royal we” customarily used by kings and queens to remind their subjects that in their royal persons they incarnate the realm over which they rule. All persons in the realm are included in the royal person.

Our is used when speaking of the family of faith called The Church. Catholics speak of “our Church” more often than they speak of “my Church”. And even though Christians are divided by denominational differences we all pray to our Father, for there is one faith, one lord, and one God and Father of us all.

Our religion and our faith are not solitary and confined to our selves alone. My faith is shaped and formed by the faith of others. And my faith contributes to theirs and becomes a part of theirs. The hosts that are processed to the altar in the Offertory symbolize our individuality. Each, however, is consecrated into the Mystical Body of Christ and is consumed by another person. My faith becomes part of another person’s being because my individuality becomes a part of the whole Christ and then is received by another who shares in our Holy Communion.

Holy Communion is ours. How odd it would be to hear someone always speaking of “my Holy Communion”, or my Mass, or my worship. Even though that may be said occasionally it is not our usual way to speaking about what we all share in our common-union of faith.

Our denotes belonging; it denotes family. We customarily speak of our family, just as we speak of our parish as our family of faith.

The Father we address in the Lord’s Prayer is the One God and Father of us all. He belongs to us all; we all belong to Him because we find our origins in His creative act. And when we pray to Him as our Father we acknowledge that we belong to Him in His family.

Our Father is the Father of all living persons, all living creatures. “Our” dissolves boundaries, opens gates, and recognizes that God’s love has not dimensions. It is immeasurable; it is limitless. 

MY is a word that separates me from the others around me and the world around me. It isolates and differentiates, making me “different”. There’s nothing “bad” about that when being “different” is in a contextual whole. In the extreme, however, being different can put me outside of common-union with others.

MY is an ambiguous word. It wanders around setting up barriers and fences.

MY can be the word of the devil; it is Satan’s favorite word. Note the temptations of Christ in the desert. “All these are MINE,” the devil told Jesus!

What happens when a child learns the word “mine”? Possessiveness enters. I possess what is mine without sharing it with others.

At the same time, the words “my” and “mine” are belonging words, they tell others that I belong by contributing what is mine to those who surround me.

“Our” speaks of the nations to which we belong. In our Declaration of Independence we declared that we are endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights.

OUR speaks of a Common Good that we all share together, a common weal that we preserve, protect and defend in a shared social order. OUR speaks of neighborhood and what we share because we are neighbors.

OUR means that I sacrifice my self for the sake of others; I give myself over to something greater than me… for the common good… for the nation and family to which I belong and in which I find my life.

OUR is a belonging word – MY is an isolating word, a dividing word.

OUR – may be the most important word in Catholicism.

We speak often of “our” sins as well as “my” sins. But we must remember that “my” sins, my own personal, my own private sins have an effect on others. All sin is social; there’s no such thing as an “isolated” sin. All sins, even so-called solitary sins, have an impact on those around me. They affect the way I live in relationship with others.

Solitary and private sins influence how I regard others. They lower the esteem in which I hold others, reduce the dignity others have in my mind and in my attitudes. Internal sins of racism have an external effect. Internal sins of lust, envy and pride affect the way I treat others. They show up in my external actions and reactions toward others.

They impact the whole communion, the whole community, and the social order in which I act.

God saves us by the fact that we belong – we belong to His people. We are members of His family. It is there, in that spot, that He acts on me and it in that reality that He sanctifies me, justifies me, and saves me.

Salvation is not an individualistic thing. Salvation comes to US. WE are saved. I am saved because I belong. I belong to Christ in His Mystical Body; I belong to His family; I belong to His Church. I belong to the God whom we address as OUR Father. He’s not just my Father, He’s our Father.

In our contemporary culture the mass media exalts the virtues of being SELF assertive and SELF sufficient. And those are virtues! But there are others, also, and being self-sufficient needs to be placed in their context.

In asserting my own individualist and self-centered rights I can destroy those belonging to others. In asserting my self I can take away from the common good.

If we would see the face of God then we have to find Him in those around us. For He has told us that is where He can be found, that’s where His Presence resides. “I was thirsty, I was naked, I was in jail, I was sick, I was lonely, etc. and you did these things to me”

We are, you see, as far away from God as we are removed from those who surround us. This is why being too individualistic can cast us into the hell of isolation and loneliness. This is why radical individualism takes us away from God and damns us to living lives only for our selves. Individuals living in isolation are cut off from communion. They are ex-communicated.

Thus we see that they way we treat those around us is the way we treat God. It’s not the other way around! The way we treat God doesn’t necessarily mean that we’ll treat those around us very well. We have only to look at folks who are “hyper-religious” and then at how they treat others around them.

The greatest indicator of Original Sin is to look at the condition of our society. The sin in our origins is something that WE share. It’s in our DNA coding; it’s in our genes. We are conceived in a collectivity and in a history of human self-centeredness, greed and aggressive self-assertion over and against others. It results in the breakdown of communication. This results in the breaking down of community and the consequent loss of communion. With that there is a concomitant loss of understanding, empathy and compassion.

You have only to read your daily newspaper or watch the evening television news to see that we are all corporately and together suffering from that pool of sin in which we originated. Original Sin is evidenced every day in the news. We are all desperately in need of redemption because our society and culture is in need of redemption. Talk of finding “redeeming qualities” in our mass media is heard everywhere and from every quarter.

About Charles Irvin

Fr. Charlie was ordained a priest June 3, 1967 and has served as pastor of St. Mary Student Chapel in Ann Arbor, founded Holy Spirit parish in Hamburg, MI, served as pastor of St. Francis of Assisi parish in Ann Arbor and was pastor of St. Mary parish in Manchester, MI when he entered Senior Priest status in 2001. In 1999 he was appointed Founding Editor of FAITH Magazine which has grown into Faith Catholic Publishing located in Lansing, MI. He is now very active in his “retirement.”