Today, the wider church celebrates St. Francis of Assisi, who also happens to be the inspiration for the name of the current pontiff, Pope Francis. Even though the relationship between the Roman Catholics and Lutherans has been…complicated, at best, over the 500+ years, more and more Protestants seem to like the one heading up Vatican-and-beyond operations. Granted, we still find our faults with him as we overly critical human beings tend to naturally do, but Pope Francis has certainly given all children of God plenty of spiritual food for thought, to say the least.
Perhaps one that didn’t receive quite as much attention was from an interview with a local Italian news outlet several years ago regarding the Lord’s Prayer. It may come as a complete and earth-shattering shock that any Catholic (and, perhaps most, Lutherans) would dare consider altering a prayer that was spoken by our parents and grandparents and great-grandparents and seemingly infinite generations before, but some of our Roman Catholic siblings in Christ thought it was time.
Initially approved by the general assembly of the Episcopal (not to be confused with the Episcopalians, though) Conference of Italy, Pope Francis agreed with altering the “lead us not into temptation” part. Instead, he believes it should say, “do not let us fall into temptation.” In the interview, the Bishop of Rome explained, “It is not a good translation because it speaks of a God who induces temptation…I am the one who falls. It’s not him pushing me into temptation to then see how I have fallen. A father doesn’t do that; a father helps you to get up immediately.”
All well and good, but that doesn’t mean most Roman Catholic parishes have gone along with recommendation, even if it is from the highest-ranking member. Doing an internet search for the “Our Father…” on the website for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (not all of whom are always in agreement with Pope Francis, to say the least), for instance: they’re sticking with the “oldie but goodie” version, including “lead us not into temptation.” After all, for many Christians (not just Catholics), messing with those near holy words would almost be like messing directly with the Divine. Alter it and there may be some wrathful consequences (maybe not, but better be safe than sorry).
Regardless of whether we personally would go along with the editing in that line or the prayer as a whole, it is still some solid spiritual food for thought. Granted, there’s some solid Scriptural support for the God who may do a fair share of leading human beings into temptation “to then see how [we] have fallen.” Many children of God also cling to the wisdom passed down from our parents and grandparents and seemingly infinite generations before: “God never gives us more than we can handle.” Trying to alter their time-tested teaching would be approaching the level of messing directly with the Divine.
All I can say is that I find an ultimate Gospel merit with our sibling in Christ’s take. I like the idea that God isn’t the one pushes us down with pandemics and domestic crimes and vehicle crashes and sickness and whatever else just to see how committed we are to the whole discipling thing. I like the grace proclamation that doesn’t involve God giving us life-long exams, while God sits at the Almighty Teacher desk at the forefront of heaven, waiting to see how we respond to each mortal story problem. I cling to the God who will stop at nothing to “help [us] to get up immediately.” I long for the Message of God picking us up with love and convincing us that we still have more precious ministry to give. I yearn for the Gospel to be overwhelmingly shaped with stories of us falling into temptation from time-to-time, and that it still will not separate us from God’s love in Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen (so let it be)!
Image from Buda Mendes (Getty Images)