Now that the Easter season has begun, it is particularly appropriate to reflect on the prayers after the Our Father in the Mass.
The first of these has traditionally been called the “Libera nos,” for its first words in the Latin translation, more commonly known to us as, “Deliver us Lord, we pray, from every evil.”
It is an interesting prayer on which to reflect, along with its sister prayer, “Lord Jesus Christ, who said to Your Apostles,” which comes after it, because both mention peace. It seems strange that we constantly pray for peace in these prayers, asking God to “graciously grant peace in our days,” and, “graciously grant her [the Church] peace and unity” because, while we pray for it, peace never seems to arrive.
Often when we think of peace we think only of the absence of war, tribulation, difficulty, or disaster. Yet the message of Good Friday and the Cross is that those things will always come along. If they came to the Son of God then they will come to us as well.
It seems, then, that the peace of which these prayers speak is something deeper. In the Gospel of St. John, Jesus says to His Apostles, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you.” The gift of Jesus’ peace is not like anything that the world affords us.
Peace in the world is the absence of war and trouble. Since all humans are free beings and affected by the lingering temptations of original sin, this type of peace will always be hard to achieve. There will always be free people who abuse their freedom and in so doing negatively impact those around them. This is why we need faith and God’s grace.
The peace that Jesus gives is what we celebrate in the Mass. This gift is salvation itself. This is why He came into the world and did not shy away from the agony of the Cross. The prayer that begins, “Deliver us, Lord,” develops the last clause of the Our Father during which we conclude by saying, “…but deliver us from evil.”
This “evil” referred to in the Our Father is the temptation that we have asked the Lord to allow us not to be led into. These evils are the temptation to worldly glory which cause us to betray what we hold dear, much like Judas Iscariot betrayed our Lord for 30 lousy pieces of silver. Since salvation has come among us in Jesus Christ, we beg that the peace, or confidence He had in God the Father might also be ours so that we can defeat adversity in our life, much like the Lord defeated death.
In an age when we tend to celebrate vice, bad habits, and outright sinful things — all in the name of diversity — the peace of Christ reminds us that what we long for does not belong to the here and now. What we celebrate in the Mass is the world to come and its immanent arrival either at the end of time, or the end of our lives, whichever comes first.
This is why we pray that “we may be always free from sin and safe from all distress.” Distress may come into our lives on earth, but knowledge of the salvation of Christ helps us to be in peace even in the face of the worst atrocities.
Father BRYAN BABICK, SL.L., is the vicar for Divine Worship and the Sacraments for the Diocese of Charleston.