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POPE’S GENERAL AUDIENCE – On the Prayer of Abraham (FULL TEXT)

‘We learn to talk with God as a child with his father: to listen to him, respond, argue, but transparent, as a child with his father’

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This morning’s General Audience was held at 9:30 am 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: “Abraham’s Prayer” (Genesis 15:1.3-6)

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.

* * *

The Holy Father’s Catechesis

Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!

There is a voice that resounds suddenly in Abraham’s life. A voice that invites him to undertake a journey that seems absurd: a voice that spurs him to uproot himself from his homeland, from the roots of his family, to go towards a new future, a different future. And all on the basis of a promise, which he has only to trust.  And to trust in a promise isn’t easy; one needs courage. And Abraham trusted.

The Bible is silent about the first Patriarch’s past. The logic of things lets one assume that he adored other divinities; perhaps he was a wise man, accustomed to scrutinizing the sky and the stars. In fact, the Lord promises him that his descendants would be as numerous as the stars that dot the skies.

And Abraham leaves. He listens to God’s voice and trusts His word. This is important: he trusts in God’s word. And with his departure a new way is born of conceiving the relationship with God; it’s for this reason that Patriarch Abraham is present in the great Jewish, Christian and Islamic spiritual traditions as the perfect man of God, capable of submitting to Him, even when His Will is revealed arduous, if not downright incomprehensible.”

Therefore, Abraham is the man of the Word. When God speaks, man becomes receptor of that Word and his life the place in which it asks to be incarnated. This is a great novelty in man’s religious journey: the life of the believer begins to be conceived as vocation, namely, as a call, as the place where a promise is realized; and he moves in the world not so much under the weight of an enigma, but with the strength of that promise, which will be realized one day. And Abraham believed in God’s promise. He believed and went, without knowing where he was going — so says the Letter to the Hebrews (Cf. 11:8). But he trusted.

On reading the Book of Genesis, we discover how Abraham lived prayer in continual fidelity to that Word, which periodically appeared along his journey. In sum, we can say that in Abraham’s life faith became history; faith became history.  In fact, with his life, with his example, Abraham teaches us this way, this path, on which faith becomes history. God is no longer seen only in cosmic phenomena, as a distant God, who can strike terror. The God of Abraham becomes “my God,” the God of my personal story, who guides my steps, who doesn’t abandon me, the God of my days, the companion of my adventures — the God-Providence. I ask myself and I ask you: do we have this experience of God? Of “my God,” the God that accompanies me, the God of my personal story, the God that guides my steps, who doesn’t abandon me, the God of my days? Do we have this experience? Let’s think about it a bit.

This experience of Abraham is testified also by one of the most original texts of the history of spirituality: Blaise Pascal’s Memorial. It begins thus: “God of Abraham, God of Isaac, God of Jacob, not of philosophers and of wise men. Certainty, certainty. Sentiment. Joy. Peace. God of Jesus Christ.” This Memorial, written on a small parchment, and found after his death, sewn inside a garment of the philosopher, doesn’t expresses an intellectual reflection, which a wise man can conceive about God, but the vivid sense experienced from His presence. Pascal even notes the precise moment in which he felt that reality, having finally found it: the evening of November 23, 1654. He is not an abstract God or a cosmic God — no. He is the God of a person, of a call, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, of Jacob, the God that is certainty, that is sentiment, that is joy.

“Abraham’s prayer is expressed first by deeds: a man of silence, he constructs an altar to the Lord at each stage of his journey” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2570). Abraham doesn’t build a temple, but scatters the path of stones that recall God’s transit. A surprising God, as when He visit him in the figure of three guests, which he and Sarah receive with care and that announce to them the birth of their son Isaac (Cf. Genesis 18:1-15). Abraham was one hundred years old, and his wife ninety, more or less. And they believed, they trusted God and Sarah, his wife, conceived — at that age! This is the God of Abraham, our God, who accompanies us.

So, Abraham became familiar with God, capable also of arguing with Him, but always faithful. He speaks with God and argues. Up to the supreme test when God asks him to sacrifice his son Isaac, son of his old age, sole heir. Here Abraham lives faith as a drama, as walking gropingly in the night, under a sky deprived this time of stars. And many times, it happens also to us, to walk in darkness, but with faith. God Himself held back Abraham’s hand already ready to strike, because He saw his truly total availability (Cf. Genesis 22:1-19).

Brothers and sisters, we learn from Abraham, we learn to pray with faith: to listen to the Lord, to walk, dialogue up to arguing. We aren’t afraid to argue with God! I will say something that even seems a heresy. Many times, I’ve heard people say to me: “You know, this happened to me and I got angry with God.” “You had the courage to get angry with God? “Yes, I got angry.” “But this is a form of prayer,” because only a child is capable of getting angry with his father and then meet him again. We learn from Abraham to pray with faith, to dialogue, to argue, but always ready to receive the word of God and to put it into practice. We learn to talk with God as a child with his father: to listen to him, respond, argue, but transparent, as a child with his father. Abraham teaches us to pray thus. Thank you.

[Original text: Italian] [ZENIT’s translation by Virginia M. Forrester]

In Italian

I greet the Italian-speaking faithful. The close feast of the Most Holy Trinity leads us back to the mystery of the intimate life of God, One and Triune, center of the Christian faith and which stimulates us to find in God’s love our comfort and our interior peace.

My thought goes to the elderly, to young people, to the sick and to newlyweds. Entrust yourselves to the Holy Spirit, “who is Lord and gives life,” and be open to His love so that you can transform your life, your families and your communities.

My Blessing to you all!

[Original text: Italian] [ZENIT’s translation by Virginia M. Forrester]
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