Does the Our Father call us to create the perfect society through discipleship? Is a Christian ethics the framework for the ideal society? While many seem to suggest that society would be immediately altered if suddenly every person believed in Jesus Christ, there is a subtle lie contained within such a notion. While Christian discipleship is the framework for true flourishing, Christianity does not destroy the human will, a will that can ultimately choose evil.
In every generation, there must be a renewal within society and within the human heart in which the individual invites heaven into the moment. The human will must constantly reflect upon and be subject to an on-going conversion which can only be made in a state of human liberty. In a somewhat mysterious way, in every generation there are individuals who accept Jesus Christ as the “life, truth, and the way,” and yet fall into some of the most grievous of sins.
When we gaze upon the different extremes of heaven and earth and see the vast gulf between the two, we have to ask ourselves, “How do we bridge this seemingly insurmountable difference? How do we truly live the notion of heaven breaking into and transforming the earth?” The key is found in the notion of God’s mercy and his unconditional love. To embrace the notion of forgiveness, particularly that each one of us as individuals has been forgiven and is constantly forgiven, serves as a font of continual renewal.
It is remembrance of God’s mercy which allows us to bridge the difference, to move from a fallen world to a glorious new creation.
To practice this remembrance with vigilance, we can take each line of the Our Father and use it as the Desert Fathers used their arrow prayers. They would take short phrases and constantly dwell upon them throughout their day. In addition, we can tie such sustained attention to the breath, and so often as we breath fluctuate between the two extremes presented in this part of the Our Father, perhaps resting on each word. On the inhale saying, “Earth,” and on the exhale, “Heaven;” allowing our attention to shift between our fallen world and the glory that awaits us.
Thus, we must constantly move between these two poles of our existence. We must constantly ascend the heights of glory and imagine the possibilities of heaven and we must constantly return to an earth that cries out in expectation while being marred by the disorder of sin. This cycle of reflection and anticipation is an essential aspect of our on-going transformation, a transformation which allows us to love God and neighbor.