This morning’s General Audience was held from the Library of the Apostolic Vatican Palace.
Continuing with the series of catecheses on prayer, in his address in Italian the Pope focused his meditation on the theme: “The Prayer of the Christian” (Psalm 63:2-5.9).
After summarizing his catechesis in several languages, the Holy Father expressed special greetings to the faithful.
The General Audience ended with the recitation of the Pater Noster and the Apostolic Blessing.
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The Holy Father’s Catechesis
Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!
Today we take the second step in the course of catecheses on prayer, initiated last week.
Prayer belongs to all: to men of all religions, and probably also to those that don’t profess any. Prayer is born in the secret of ourselves, in that interior place that spiritual authors often call “heart” (Cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2562-2563), Therefore, to pray is not something peripheral in us; it’s not something secondary and marginal in us, but it is the most intimate mystery in us. It is this mystery that prays. The emotions pray, but it can’t be said that prayer is only emotion. The intelligence prays, but to pray isn’t only an intellectual act. The body prays, but one can speak with God even in the gravest disability. Therefore, it’s the whole man that prays, if his “heart” prays.
Prayer is a surge, it’s an invocation that goes beyond us, something that is born in the intimacy of our person and reaches out because it feels the nostalgia of an encounter. That nostalgia that is more than a need, more than a necessity: it is a way. Prayer is the voice of an “I” that is groping, which proceeds tentatively, in search of a “You.” The encounter between “me” and “You” can’t be done with calculators: it’s a human encounter and it often proceeds tentatively to find the “You” that my “I” is seeking.
Instead, a Christian’s prayer is born of a revelation: the “You” did not remain enveloped in mystery, but entered into relationship with us. Christianity is the religion that celebrates continually God’s “manifestation,” namely His epiphany. The first feasts of the Liturgical Year are the celebration of this God who doesn’t remain hidden, but who offers His friendship to men. God reveals His glory in the poverty of Bethlehem, in the contemplation of the Magi, in the Baptism at the Jordan, in the miracle of the wedding of Cana. John’s Gospel ends the great hymn of the Prologue with a synthetic affirmation: “No one has ever seen God; the only Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has made Him known” (1:18). It was Jesus who revealed God to us.
A Christian’s prayer enters in relationship with the God of the most tender face, who doesn’t want to strike fear in men. This is the first characteristic of Christian prayer. If men were always accustomed to approaching God somewhat intimidated, somewhat scared by this fascinating and tremendous mystery, if they were used to venerate Him with a servile attitude, similar to that of a subject who doesn’t want to lack respect for his lord, Christians, instead, turn to Him, daring to call Him confidently with the name of “Father.” In fact, Jesus uses the other word: “Papa.”
Christianity has banished from the bond with God every “feudal” relationship. In our faith’s patrimony expressions such as “subjection,” “slavery” of “vassalage” are not present, but rather words such as “covenant,” “friendship,” “promise,” “communion,” “closeness.” In his long farewell discourse to His disciples, Jesus said this: “No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide; so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, He may give it to you” (John 15:15-16). But this is a blank check: “All that you ask the Father in my name, I’ll give you everything’!
God is the friend, the ally, the spouse. One can establish in prayer a relationship of confidence with Him, so true is this that in the “Our Father” Jesus has taught us to address a series of questions to Him. We can ask God for everything, everything: to explain everything, to recount everything. It doesn’t matter if we feel at fault in the relationship with God: we aren’t good friends, we aren’t grateful children; we aren’t faithful spouses. He continues to love us. It’s what Jesus demonstrates definitively in the Last Supper when He says: “This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant of my blood” (Luke 22:20). In that gesture, Jesus anticipates in the Cenacle the mystery of the Cross. God is a faithful ally: if men stop loving, He, however, continues to love, even if love leads Him to Calvary. God is always close to the door of our heart and He waits for us to open to Him. And sometimes He knocks at our heart, but He is not invasive: He waits. God’s patience with us is the patience of a Papa, of one who loves us so much. I would say, it’s the patience of both a father and a mother — always close to our heart. When He knocks, He does so with tenderness and much love.
Let us all try to pray like this, entering in the mystery of the Covenant. To put ourselves in prayer in the merciful arms of God, to feel ourselves enveloped in that mystery of happiness that the Trinitarian life is, to feel ourselves as guests that do not merit so much honor. And to respect God, in the wonder of prayer: is it possible that You only know love? He doesn’t know hatred. He is hated but He doesn’t know hatred. He only knows love. This is the God to whom we pray. This is the incandescent nucleus of all Christian prayer, the God of love, our Father, who waits for us and accompanies us.[Original text: Italian] [ZENIT’s translation by Virginia M. Forrester]
© Libreria Editrice Vatican
I greet the Italian-speaking faithful. On the anniversary of the first Apparition to the little visionaries fo Fatima, I invite you to invoke the Virgin Mary so that She renders each one perseverant in love of God and neighbor.
A special thought goes to young people, the elderly, the sick and newlyweds. Take recourse constantly to Our Lady’s help. In Her, we find a solicitous and tender Mother, safe refuge in adversities.
My blessing to all![Original text: Italian] [ZENIT’s translation by Virginia M. Forrester]
© Libreria Editrice Vatican