This prayer that is so familiar to us -- the "Lord's Prayer" -- or simply the "Our Father" -- comes to us from the same place as this morning's Gospel. It comes from what is commonly known as our Lord's "Sermon on the Mount." We can read the whole text of it in the 5th through 7th chapters of St. Matthew's Gospel. Perhaps we ought to pay more attention to this prayer, for it was given to us in direct response to the question, "Oh, Lord, how should we pray?" In modern day terms we might refer to it as the "manufacturer's instructions."
But today, we might pay particular attention to the second statement in this prayer, which says: "Thy kingdom come." Each and every time we pray that phrase -- and we always ought to mean what we pray -- we are asking God to bring about His rule in our lives. His kingdom is already very much in existence in heaven, so we are primarily asking him to establish His rule in the "here-and-now."
We are asking, first of all, to be freed from the destructive excesses of attachment to the things of the world -- what St. Paul calls "the lust of the flesh against the spirit." He includes immorality, idolatry, divisiveness, envy, murder, drunkenness, witchcraft, anger, quarrels, and so on. And virtually every one he names is an example of something basically good, gone wrong.
There is no idolatry if there is no love of God seeking to express itself without a proper outlet.
There is no drunkenness and carousing if first God hasn't given "wine to gladden the hearts of men."
There is no anger, no quarreling, if we have no friends; there is no envy if we taken no responsibility in providing for our needs and those of our family.
So, we are asking, first of all that God grant us the enlightenment of the mind and the warming of the will to use all of the good things that He has given us on earth with wisdom and moderation. We are asking God to send the Holy Ghost to us, so that we can make use of his gifts in the proper way:
That instead of envy and anger we will have joy and peace; mildness instead of quarreling.
That instead of idolatry, we will have faith and charity.
That instead of immorality and licentiousness, we will have modesty and chastity.
Again, we are asking that God take the natural, normal, human drives that are inescapable for people in this life -- and allow us to direct them without excess, and without over attachment to the material things of the world -- asking Him mot only to direct us away from the bad, but also to direct us towards what is positively good.
That is why, just a few verses later in this same "Sermon on the Mount" -- just after teaching us how to pray in the Lord's Prayer, our Lord recounts this very famous parable of "the lilies of the field." Obviously, He is not suggesting that we dress like the birds and the flowers; nor does He want everyone to quit their jobs and give up their industry, just waiting around to be fed. But he is urging "detachment," a sort of "backing up and putting things into proper perspective" -- devoting enough interest to material concerns, but also leaving time for the love of God and the love of neighbor.
We are praying that the kingdom of God will reign over us personally. That He will fill our souls with sanctifying grace, and grant us the wisdom and love to make use of our lives in ways that are pleasing to Him.
When we pray "Thy kingdom come," we are also praying for the reign of God over society. At this moment in history, it may be hard even to think of anything that we might call "Christendom," but certainly we must pray that God will direct our Church and our secular society in the ways of Christ the King. We pray for the restoration of the Church that makes men and women into saints; we pray for civil governments whose laws and wisdom mirror those of their Creator; and we pray for citizens throughout the world that are truly trying to live the life of the blessed on earth.
This Mass opened with a verse from Psalm 83: "How lovely is Thy dwelling place, O Lord of Hosts. Better indeed is one day in Thy courts than a thousand elsewhere. My soul yearns and faints for the house of the Lord."
I mention this verse to put things into a final perspective. If we fail to have the detachment we talked about today, we may feel that it is asking too much to give up the material excesses to which we have become accustomed. Even though such excesses usually bring their own punishments -- St. Paul could have written about "broken hearts, and hangovers, and black eyes, and empty wallets" just as well -- but even still, we often still think of giving up such things as a big sacrifice on our parts.
Hopefully the verse helps to put this imagined "sacrifice" into proper perspective. When we pray, "Thy kingdom come," we are praying for those "thousand days in the house of the Lord" -- literally, we are praying for eternity. And even if we find the kingdom of God on earth to demand some small sacrifice from us, it is worth it. Our days on earth are few; while the days of eternity go on forever.