VATICAN CITY, OCT. 5, 2011 (Zenit.org).- Offering a reflection on the Good Shepherd, Benedict XVI underlined the relationship between prayer and "a radical act of trust."
The Pope reflected today on Psalm 23 during his weekly general audience held in St. Peter's Square. Continuing his series of catecheses on prayer, he noted that "turning to Lord in prayer involves a radical act of trust, in the awareness that one is entrusting oneself to God who is good."
"For this reason," he said, "today I would like to reflect with you on a Psalm that is wholly imbued with trust, in which the psalmist expresses the serene certainty that he is guided and protected, and kept safe from every danger, because the Lord is his shepherd."
The Pontiff began: "'The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want': thus begins this beautiful prayer, calling to mind the nomadic environment of sheep-rearing and the experience of a mutual knowledge that is established between the shepherd and the sheep that make up his little flock.
"The image evokes an atmosphere of confidence, intimacy and tenderness: the shepherd knows his young sheep one by one; he calls them by name and they follow him, because they know him and they trust him.
"He cares for them; he guards them as precious possessions, ready to defend them, to assure their well-being, and to establish them in peace. Nothing can be lacking if the shepherd is with them."
Benedict XVI said that if one walks behind the "Good Shepherd," even if he is led through "winding or long the paths" or "spiritually desert regions, waterless and with a sun of scorching rationalism," one can be assured of "traveling along 'right' paths."
"He who goes with the Lord even into the dark valleys of suffering, of uncertainty and of every human problem feels secure," the Pope added. "You are with me: this is our certainty, this is what sustains us.
In Psalm 23, the psalmist notes that even when walking through the "valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me."
"The valley to be crossed is therefore a place of anguish, of awful threat and of mortal danger," the Holy Father noted. "And yet the man who prays proceeds securely and without fear, for he knows that the Lord is with him."
"The darkness of night frightens us with its moving shadows," the Pontiff continued, "with the difficulty it brings in distinguishing dangers, with its silence filled with indecipherable sounds. If the flock moves after sunset, when visibility is lessened, it is normal for the sheep to become restless, since there is a risk of stumbling or of going astray and becoming lost -- and there is the added fear of possible aggressors, who conceal themselves under the cover of night."
"His 'you are with me' is a proclamation of unwavering trust and sums up the experience of radical faith; the nearness of God transforms reality, the dark valley loses its danger -- it is emptied of every threat," the Pope said. "Now the flock can walk in peace, accompanied by the familiar sound of the staff hitting the ground -- the sign of the reassuring presence of the Shepherd."
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