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THE LITURGY OF THE EUCHARIST: The Communion Rite – The Lord’s Prayer (3)
The Lord’s Prayer
“Deliver us, Lord, we pray, from every evil…”
The priest or bishop celebrating Mass continues the celebration reciting a type of prayer known as an embolism. An embolism develops some prayer that has already been composed or recited; in this case it picks up where the last petition of the Lord’s Prayer left off: that the Lord deliver us from evil.
Sin and evil came into the world when Adam and Eve fell. They’ve had lots of time to spread and influence us all. No one denies that there is evil afflicting the world; it is evident. Where opinions vary is what to do about it. As believers we simply pray that we be kept free of evil and its effects while we strive to overcome it in our lives and in the lives of those we love.
“…graciously grant peace in our days, that, by the help of your mercy, we may be always free from sin and safe from all distress,…”
Sin is caused by creatures, not the Creator, including the “creature” each one of us sees in the mirror when we get up in the morning. We may not be bank robbers or serial killers, but we all struggle with showing justice and charity toward our neighbor and forgiving them when they don’t return the favor.
Sometimes we lose sight of the fact that the Lord could have just left us to our selfish, evil designs, big and small. Thankfully he didn’t and he doesn’t. Even when we don’t live a life completely detached from sin, the Lord helps us. Just as in the account of the Fall the whole order of creation seemed upturned by Adam and Eve’s mistake, evil’s effects go beyond the moral ones in some mysterious way. Even when we find ourselves in a bad place (self-inflicted or otherwise) the Lord in his mercy provides for our needs and tries to help us to see our predicament and strive to be freed from it.
If we repeat and expound on this petition of the Lord’s Prayer it is because we know that evil persists throughout our earthly existence and we need all the mercy and divine aid that we can muster.
“…as we await the blessed hope and the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ.”
Despite the constant presence of sin, evil, and their effects in our world and our lives, the Lord doesn’t want us to have an attitude of dejection or pessimism. Pope Benedict XVI described this eloquently in the encyclical Spe Salvi:
…suffering is a part of our human existence. Suffering stems partly from our finitude, and partly from the mass of sin which has accumulated over the course of history, and continues to grow unabated today. Certainly we must do whatever we can to reduce suffering: to avoid as far as possible the suffering of the innocent; to soothe pain; to give assistance in overcoming mental suffering. These are obligations both in justice and in love, and they are included among the fundamental requirements of the Christian life and every truly human life. … we must do all we can to overcome suffering, but to banish it from the world altogether is not in our power. This is simply because we are unable to shake off our finitude and because none of us is capable of eliminating the power of evil, of sin which, as we plainly see, is a constant source of suffering. Only God is able to do this: only a God who personally enters history by making himself man and suffering within history. We know that this God exists, and hence that this power to “take away the sin of the world” (John 1:29) is present in the world. Through faith in the existence of this power, hope for the world’s healing has emerged in history. It is, however, hope—not yet fulfilment; hope that gives us the courage to place ourselves on the side of good even in seemingly hopeless situations, aware that, as far as the external course of history is concerned, the power of sin will continue to be a terrible presence (n.36).
Even as we ask to be delivered from sin and evil we know that, in the end, they will not have the last word. Our Savior has entered human history to conquer sin and evil, and as believers we await his return with confidence and keep hope alive amidst our own battle against suffering and evil knowing that, in the end, when he returns, the war will be over and we’ll have won. In the meanwhile we fortify ourselves to continue the battle in hope through receiving Our Savior in the Eucharist.
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