Apparently when Pope Francis speaks, France’s bishops are listening. When he suggested that the Our Father had been poorly translated and was confusing to the people praying it, those French bishops responded by changing the offending words. So, a few months ago, the folks attending Mass in France no longer pray ne nous soumets pas à la tentation (“do not subject us to temptation”) but the papal more enlightened version, ne nous laisse pas entrer en tentation (“do not let us go into temptation”). It might all be something of a joke or humorous irony except that under it all is the strange presumption that people are stupid, the Bible is unclear or wrong, and we know better.
Anthony Esolen has written that “lead us not” is, in fact, a pretty faithful translation, not only of the Latin (the bottom line for Roman Catholics) but also of the Greek. The Vulgate has either ne inducas nos or ne nos inducas; the Greek me eisenenkeis hemas eis peirasmon. Both are accurately translated by the traditional wording, Lead us not into temptation.
It is not unusual or atypical for us to look in the wrong places for the problem. Lead us not into temptation is not the problem. People are not stupid. They get it. They understand what they are praying. We presume that if only people understood it better, then they would pray more, pray better, and heed what they are praying. Therein lies the problem. People already understand what they are praying; they just prefer to live in the shadows of temptation to the light of Christ. It is original sin, after all. We do not need to learn it. We know it. We know it all too well.
Francis is trying to fix the wrong thing. That is the problem when we try to equate faith with understanding and when we presume that knowledge will create the proper will and desire. We are obsessed with the mind. Perhaps that is because if we focus upon the mind, we can get away from the idea that anything else needs to change -- besides the mind.
Francis thinks that if you fix the little problem of divorce, people will flock to mass and will seek after all things good. Francis thinks that if people pray the Our Father differently, they will get temptation and will be more moral and ethical people, as well as more genuinely repentant. Francis thinks that if the people outside the Church think that the people inside are nicer, less judgmental, more tolerant, and more understanding, the people outside the Church will want to come inside. I wish that were the case.
The problem is not understanding. The problem is faith. We do not need more information or more comprehension of God and His ways but the Holy Spirit to teach us faith. We know temptation very well without any guidance or assistance but the ways of holiness, righteousness, and godliness must be learned from the Holy Spirit and by His prompting and power. What the Church needs is not a redefinition but a renewed confidence in the Spirit, working through the Word, and a renewed boldness by that same Spirit to address the world with the Word of the Gospel. This is not only the solution for those outside but for those inside.