The chapter entitled “The Lord’s prayer” is part of the first volume in Doubleday’s first edition of the three-part work, entitled Jesus of Nazareth (May 2007), by Pope Benedict XVI, formerly Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Bishop emeritus of the city of Rome. The time frame for this volume (I) includes Jesus’ public ministry, beginning with Christ’s baptism of the Jordan up to and including the Transfiguration of the Lord. This book too advanced to be considered an introduction to the New Testament studies, nor would one study Jesus of Nazareth without someone prior knowledge of Christology. That said any reader might gain spiritual fruit from this theological literary vineyard. My comments here are based on a cursory reading of a review in Booklist:
The passage discussed in each chapter are interpreted within the prophetic context fo the continuous document that contains them, the Bible. The meanings of Jesus’s words, deeds, and person are always educed with the aid and understanding of the religious thought and practice of the preceding Hebrew Scriptures. (Olson, Ray Copyright © American Library Association. All right reserved).[i]
Benedict’s approaches the Lord’s prayer from the Matthean perspective: Jesus’ audience already know how to pray; it needs to experience prayer daily, integrally. Jesus, the new Rabbi, calls the Israel of old to new ways of approaching Yahweh in prayer; now they have permission to call God “Father,” “Abba.” Thus the Pope is our 21st-century rabbi/philosopher who tells us to approach God heart, mind, and soul.
There are two ideas that are constant through the Chapter. One the importance of being in a constant communication with God through prayer. Following the example of Jesus, and that the result of prayer is, as he writes “overcomes all boundaries, and make us one family” (Ratzinger p.141). Ratzinger shows the Our Father to be a progressive prayer, with a structure, an introduction, and seven petitions. This structure gives readers, the idea that the author would like to let us know that this prayer comes from Jesus who is in constant communication with the Father. We the readers who desire to pray, have to let Christ pray in and through us, this means that the act of prayer comes from the individual and leads to the communal., to daily experience: I am not alone in this Journey a journey that leads us “Our Father/ not simply my Father, who is in Heaven.
Forever a teacher, forever a pastor, Benedicts provides two things here: a chapter of instruction; a chapter of inspiration. The author’s attitude/tone in Jesus of Nazareth is scholarly and pastoral: he desires, more than anything else, that his students, readers, parishioners grow in the knowledge of Christ Jesus. Our author hails from the Post-Vatican II Church of a more open, yet more scholarly approach to scripture and spirituality, honed from his association with thinkers like Karl Rahner and Has Kung.