Pope Francis makes the sign of the Cross during the 25th anniversary of the Catechism of the Catholic Church at the Vatican Oct 2017. CNS photo/Paul Haring

Editorial: Our Father

By 
  • December 14, 2017

The Our Father is the foundational prayer of Christian faith. So perhaps it is fitting that Pope Francis has placed it in the spotlight as we make ready to celebrate the Saviour’s birth.

In a case of media overstatement, it was widely reported that the Pope proposed to change the words to the Our Father. It’s true he expressed personal reservations to a television interviewer about the phrase “lead us not into temptation,” but an honest reading of the Pope’s impromptu comment shows he fell well short of requesting a re-write.

He has not ordered changes or even established a committee to study the matter (as he did last year regarding the place of female deacons in the Church). 

Still, obviously he is uneasy with the English translation of “lead us not into temptation.” God never leads us into sin, that is the work of Satan, he said. It might be more fitting to pray “do not let us fall into temptation,” the Pope suggested.

“It is not (God) who pushes me into temptation to see how I fall,” he said. “No, a father does not do this. A father helps us up immediately.”

He made the comment during an instalment of a documentary titled Our Father being aired by a television station operated by Italy’s bishops. The nine-part program features the Pope in conversation with an Italian priest as they examine the Our Father line by line. 

Francis has preached several times on the Our Father, calling it the cornerstone of Christian prayer life. Too often, he says, people recite the prayer without contemplating its meaning, embracing its message, or sometimes without truly believing its words. It takes courage, he has said, to recite this testament of faith with conviction. Every word is important.

In the case of the Our Father, those words were originally spoken in Aramaic by Jesus, handed down by the apostles, translated into Greek, then Latin and finally into the English prayer recited 2,000 years later.

The Pope is right, of course, God does not lead us into temptation. So, in that sense, questions about the translation are understandable.

But as the Catechism explains, the petition being made to God is to never “allow us to take the way that leads to sin.” We ask God to give us strength to recognize temptation and renounce sinful paths.

That strength is often lacking in a culture that consistently fails to reject the temptations that are pervasive in a celebrity-centric, media-saturated, consumer-driven world.

The discussion sparked by the Pope may or may not lead to change. But, either way, temptation and avoiding sin — no matter how you say it — are timely topics as we prepare to celebrate the coming of Christ.

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