VATICAN CITY, MAY 23, 2012 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI says that people today might have difficulty understanding the fatherhood of God, due to the prevalent problem in our culture of a lack of fathers in children's lives.
The Pope made this reflection as he continued his Wednesday catecheses on prayer. In today's audience, he took up the prayer taught and enabled by the Holy Spirit, "Abba, Father."
In St. Paul, he explained, we find this expression twice: Galatians 4:6 and Romans 8.
"Christianity is not a religion of fear but of trust, and of love for the Father who loves us," the Pontiff said, in explaining this term for addressing God.
"Perhaps men today do not perceive the beauty, the grandeur and the profound consolation contained in the word 'father' by which we may address God in prayer, because the father figure today is often not sufficiently present; and this presence is often not adequately positive in daily life," the Pope acknowledged. "A father’s absence, i.e. the problem of a father who is not present in the child’s life, is a great problem of our time; and therefore, it becomes difficult to understand the profound significance of what it means to say that God is a Father to us.
"We can learn from Jesus Himself, and from His filial relationship with God, what being a 'father' truly means, and the true nature of the Father who is in heaven. [...] In the Gospel, Christ shows us who a father is and what a true father is like, so that we may sense what true fatherhood is, and also learn true fatherhood."
Benedict XVI pointed out that the two Pauline passages contain a slight difference: in one, it is the Spirit who cries out "Abba"; in the other, it is we who cry out.
"St. Paul wants us to understand that Christian prayer is never, and never occurs in one direction between us and God, it is not only 'our action'; rather, it is the expression of a reciprocal relationship in which God acts first: it is the Holy Spirit who cries out in us, and we are able to cry out because the impulse comes from the Holy Spirit," he proposed.
Secondly, the Pope continued, we understand that "the prayer of the Spirit of Christ in us and ours in Him, is not merely an individual act; rather, it is an act of the entire Church. In prayer our hearts are opened, we enter into communion not only with God, but also with all of God’s children, for we are one. When we turn to the Father in our interior room, in silence and recollection, we are never alone. He who speaks with God is not alone. We are in the great prayer of the Church, we are part of a great symphony, which the Christian community scattered in every part of the world and in every time raises to God; certainly, the musicians and the instruments are varied -- and this is an enriching element -- but the melody of praise is one and harmonious.
"Every time, then, that we cry out and say: 'Abba! Father!' it is the Church, the whole communion of people in prayer that supports our invocation and our invocation is the Church’s invocation."
The Bishop of Rome offered a final reflection about Mary, who also teaches us to say, "Abba."
"Dear brothers and sisters," he concluded, "let us learn in our prayer to taste the beauty of being friends, indeed, of being children of God, of being able to call upon Him with the confidence and trust that a child has in his parents who love him. Let us open our prayer to the action of the Holy Spirit that He may cry out to God in us “Abba! Father!” and that our prayer may change and constantly convert our way of thinking and acting, conforming it ever more to that of the Only begotten Son, Jesus Christ."
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Full text: www.zenit.org/article-34832?l=english