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Do we pray to God or Jesus when we say Our Lord?

Published: June 28, 2019   
Bishop Anthony B. Taylor

Bishop Anthony B. Taylor delivered this homily June 16.

Today is both Trinity Sunday and Father’s Day, meaning a day to give glory to our Heavenly Father, along with the Son and Holy Spirit, and at the same time to pray for and thank God for our earthly father through whom he has given us life.

First, let’s focus on the Blessed Trinity, since that is so central to our faith, and I’d like to start with a question: In Mass, when we pray to “Our Lord”, who are we talking to? To God the Father or to Jesus? In the Gospels — prior to his death — when people call Jesus “Lord”, they thought of him like we think of “Our Lady” — a great person but still only human. It was only after Pentecost that people began to understand that Jesus was God as well as man, such that unlike with Mary and the saints, when we pray to him we do more than just praise him and ask him to intercede for us.

We worship him just like we do the Father because Jesus is God too, the second person of the Trinity, whose feast we celebrate today. So when we pray to “Our Lord” at Mass, who are we talking to — God the Father or Jesus? In Mass — whenever I start with “Let us pray” — the answer is, to “God the Father”, but since the Trinity is one God, we can’t address the Father without at least implicitly including the Son and Holy Spirit. That’s why, though these prayers are to the Father, they are “through Our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, One God forever and ever. Amen.”

But there are also other times during Mass when we do address our prayers directly to Jesus rather than to the Father, namely whenever we ask for forgiveness of our sins. Since he is the “Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world,” it’s mainly him whom we ask to have mercy on us, both in the Penitential Rite at the beginning of Mass and at the Lamb of God just before Communion. But again, not to the exclusion of the Father and the Holy Spirit, because I also pray “May Almighty God — the Father — have mercy on us, forgive us our sins and bring us to everlasting life.”

And what about the Holy Spirit? Well, on this Trinity Sunday, you may be surprised to learn that though we do speak about the Holy Spirit, we don’t address any prayers directly to the Holy Spirit directly during Mass. But in the Eucharistic Prayer we do ask the Father “to send forth your Holy Spirit upon these gifts so that they may become for us the body and blood of our Lord, Jesus Christ.” And then a little later we pray that “all who share in the body and blood of Christ be brought together in unity by the Holy Spirit.”

Moreover, the Holy Spirit is very much a part of all of our prayers, whether addressed directly to the Father or to the Son, because the gift of prayer itself, our very ability to pray, comes from the Holy Spirit moving inside us and among us as Church.

Anyway, today as we gather to celebrate the feast of the Blessed Trinity on what this year happens also to be Father’s Day, we direct our prayers to God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. We pray to do the Father’s will on earth as it is in heaven and we ask him to provide for our needs. We pray to Jesus for forgiveness and peace. And we ask the Holy Spirit to unite us and make us holy in the blood of Christ, whom the Father sent to save us. And today on Father’s Day we invoke all three persons of the Blessed Trinity, asking God to shower abundant blessings on these men who in most cases were our first teachers in the faith. It was through our natural fathers that God, our heavenly Father, has given us life and protected us when we were young and vulnerable, provided for us and nurtured our physical and spiritual growth. Today is a day when we lift up grateful prayers for our fathers and ask God to help them with all their needs in prayers directed to the Father, through the Son and in the Holy Spirit.

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