This morning’s General Audience was held at 9:20 in Paul VI Hall, where the Holy Father Francis met with groups of pilgrims and faithful from Italy and from all over the world.
Continuing with the series of catecheses on the “Our Father,” in his address in Italian the Pope focused his meditation on the theme: “Knock, and it will be opened to you” (Biblical passage: from the Gospel according to Luke 11:9-13).
After summarizing his catechesis in several languages, the Holy Father expressed special greetings to groups of faithful present.
The General Audience ended with the singing of the Pater Noster and the Apostolic Blessing.
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The Holy Father’s Catechesis
Today’s catechesis makes reference to the Gospel of Luke. In fact, it’s especially this Gospel, from the childhood accounts, that describes the figure of Christ in an atmosphere dense with prayer. In it are contained the three hymns that mark the Church’s prayer every day: the Benedictus, the Magnificat and the Nunc dimittis. And in this catechesis on the Our Father we go on, we see Jesus as a man of prayer. Jesus prays. In Luke’s account, for instance, the episode of the Transfiguration springs from a moment of prayer. It says thus: “And as He was praying, the appearance of his countenance was altered, and his raiment became dazzling white” (9:29). However, every step of Jesus’ life is as though driven by the breath of the Spirit, who guides Him in all His actions. Jesus prays in the Baptism at the Jordan, He talks with the Father before taking the most important decisions; He often retires in solitude to pray, He intercedes for Peter who from there would soon deny Him. He says so: “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail” (Luke 22:31-32). This is consoling: to know that Jesus prays for us, He prays for me, for each one of us so that our faith won’t fail. And this is true. “But Father, does he still do so? He still does so, before the Father. Jesus prays for me. Each one of us can say this. And we can also say to Jesus: “You are praying for me, continue to pray as I need it,” — so, brave.
Even the Messiah’s death is immersed in an atmosphere of prayer, so much so that the hours of the Passion seem marked by a surprising calm: Jesus consoles the women, prays for His crucifiers, promises Paradise to the good thief, expires saying: “Father, into thy hands I commit my spirit!” (Luke 23:46) Jesus’ prayer seems to deaden the most violent emotions, the desires of vendetta and revenge, reconciles man with his severest enemy, reconciles man with this enemy, which is death.
It’s always in Luke’s Gospel that we find the request, expressed by one of the disciples, to be able to be educated by Jesus Himself to prayer. And it says thus: “Lord, teach us to pray” (11:1). They saw Him who was praying. “Teach us — we too can say to the Lord — Lord you are praying for me, I know it, but teach me to pray, so that I too can pray.”
Born from this request is quite an extensive teaching, through which Jesus explains to His own with what words and what sentiments they should address God.
The first part of this teaching is precisely the Our Father. Pray thus: “Father, who art in Heaven.” “Father,” that word that is so lovely to say. We can be in prayer the whole time with only that word: “Father.” And feel we have a father: not a master or a stepfather — no, a father. A Christian addresses God calling Him first of all “Father.”
In this teaching that Jesus gives to His disciples, it’s interesting to pause on some instructions that crown the prayer’s text. Jesus explains some things to give us confidence. They emphasize the attitudes of the praying believer. For instance, there is the parable of the importunate friend, who goes to disturb a whole family that is sleeping, because a person arrived suddenly from a trip and there are no loaves to offer him. What does Jesus say to this man who knocks on the door and wakes his friend?: “I tell you — explains Jesus — though he will not get up to give them to him because he is a friend, yet because of his importunity he will rise and give him whatever he needs” (Luke 11:9). With this He wants to teach us to pray and to insist in prayer. And immediately after He gives the example of a father who has a hungry son. All of you, fathers and grandparents who are here, when your son or grandson asks for something, is hungry and asks and asks, then cries, yells, is hungry: “What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent?” (v. 11). And you all have the experience when your son asks, you give him to eat what he asks for, for his good. With these words Jesus makes it understood that God always answers, that no prayer will remain unheard. Why? — because He is Father, and does not forget His suffering children.
These affirmations, of course, put us in crisis, as so many of our prayers seem not to obtain any result. How many times we have asked and not obtained, — We’ve all experienced this — how many times have we knocked and found a closed door? In those moments, Jesus recommends that we insist and not give up. Prayer always transforms the reality — always. If the things around us don’t change, at least we change, our heart changes. Jesus has promised the gift of the Holy Spirit to every man and every woman who prays.
We can be certain that God will answer. The only uncertainty is due to the times, but we must not doubt that He will respond. Perhaps we’ll have to insist our whole life, but He will answer. He has promised it: He isn’t like a father who gives a serpent instead of a fish. There’s nothing more certain: the desire for happiness that we all have in our heart will one day be fulfilled. Jesus says: “And will not God vindicate His elect, who cry to Him day and night?” (Luke 18:7). Yes, He will do justice; He will listen to us. What a day of glory and resurrection that day will ever be! To pray is from now on the victory over loneliness and despair. Pray. Prayer changes the reality; let’s not forget it. It either changes things or changes our heart, but it always changes. Prayer is from now on the victory over loneliness and over despair. It’s as if seeing every fragment of creation that buzzes in the torpor of a history of which sometimes, we don’t understand the reason. But it is in movement, on the way, and at the end of every road, what is at the end of our road? At the end of prayer, at the end of a time in which we are praying, at the end of life, what is there? There is a Father who awaits everything and awaits everyone with wide-open arms. Let us look at this Father.[Original text: Italian] [ZENIT’s translation by Virginia M. Forrester]
A warm greeting and welcome go to the Italian-speaking pilgrims.
I am happy to receive the priests of the Diocese of Trapani, accompanied by the Bishop, Monsignor Pietro Maria Fragnelli and the seminarians of the Military Ordinariate for Italy, with the Archbishop, Monsignor Santo Marciano.
I greet the parishes, in particular that of Saints Cosmas and Damian of Terracina; “The Children of Light” Association and the Vassalluzzo Institute of Roccapiemonte.
A particular thought goes to young people, the elderly, the sick and newlyweds. There are so many today!
Next Sunday we will celebrate the Feast of the Lord’s Baptism. This celebration, which closes the liturgical season of Christmas, invites us to rediscover the grace of the Sacrament of our Baptism. Baptism made us Christians, incorporating us in Christ and in His Church. We all know the date of our birth, but not all know the date of their Baptism, which is the birth to the life of the Church, when the Holy Spirit comes to our heart. Therefore, I ask you, today for instance, to prepare ourselves for next Sunday’s Feast, to ask – those who know it, to remember it –, and those that don’t know the date of their Baptism, to ask their relatives, godparents, parents, grandparents: “When was I born to the life of faith?” Namely, “when was I baptized?” And always fix in your heart the date of your Baptism. Will you do so? It’s very important to celebrate the day of our Baptism. We thank the Lord for the gift of faith and we ask the Holy Spirit for the strength to be courageous witnesses of Jesus.[Original text: Italian] [ZENIT’s translation by Virginia M. Forrester]