This morning’s General Audience was held at 9:10 in St. Peter’s Square, 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: “But deliver us from evil” (Biblical passage: From the First Letter of the Apostle Saint Peter 5:6-9).
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
Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!
Here we have finally arrived at the seventh question of the “Our Father”: “But deliver us from evil” (Matthew 6:13b).
With this expression, one who prays not only asks not to be abandoned in the time of temptation, but also implores to be freed from evil. The original Greek verb is very strong: it evokes the presence of the Evil One, which tends to grab us and bite us (Cf. 1 Peter 5:8) and from which one asks God to be liberated. The Apostle Peter says also that the Evil One, the devil, is around us like a roaring lion, to devour us, and we ask God to liberate us.
With this twofold supplication: “not to abandon us” and “to liberate us” an essential characteristic emerges of Christian prayer. Jesus teaches His friends to put the invocation to the Father before all, also and especially in moments in which the Evil One makes his menacing presence felt. In fact, Christian prayer doesn’t close the eyes on life. It’s a filial prayer and not an infantile prayer. It’s not so infatuated with God’s paternity as to forget that man’s path is fraught with difficulties. If the last verses of the “Our Father’ didn’t exist, how could sinners, the persecuted, the desperate, the dying pray? The last petition is precisely our petition when we will be at the limit, always.
There is an evil in our life, which is an incontestable presence. The history books are the desolating catalogue of how our existence in this world has often been a bankrupt adventure. There is a mysterious evil, which is certainly not God’s work, but which penetrates silently between history’s folds. Silent as the serpent that carries poison silently. In some moments, it seems to take over: on certain days its presence seems even clearer than that of God’s mercy.
A man of prayer isn’t blind, and he sees limpidly before his eyes this very cumbersome evil and so in contradiction with the mystery itself of God. He sees it in nature, in history, even in his own heart. Because there isn’t anyone in our midst who can say he is exempt from evil, or from not being at least tempted. All of us know what evil is; all of us know what temptation is; all of us have experienced temptation in our flesh, of whatever sin. However, it’s the tempter who moves us and pushes us to evil, saying to us: “do this, think this, go on that path.”
The last cry of the “Our Father” is lashed out against this evil <that torments one>, which has under its umbrella the most diverse experiences: man’s mourning, innocent pain, slavery, instrumentalization of the other, the cry of innocent children. All these events protests in man’s heart and become a voice in the last word of Jesus’ prayer.
It’s precisely in the accounts of the Passion that some expressions of the “Our Father” find their most striking echo. Jesus says: “Abba! Father, all things are possible to Thee; remove this cup from Me; yet not what I will, but what Thou wilt” (Mark 14:36). Jesus experiences wholly the piercing of evil, not only death but death on a cross; not only solitude but contempt <and> humiliation; not only malevolence but also cruelty, fury against Him. See what man is: a being devoted to life, who dreams of love and goodness, but who then exposes himself continually to evil and his fellow men, to the point that we can be tempted to despair of man.
Dear brothers and sisters, thus the “Our Father” is like a symphony that asks to be accomplished in each one of us. The Christian knows how subjugating the power of evil is and, at the same time, has the experience that Jesus, who never yielded to its blandishments, is in our side and comes to our aid.
Thus, Jesus’ prayer leaves us the most precious of heredities: the presence of the Son of God who has freed us from evil, fighting to convert it. In the hour of the final combat, He intimates to Peter to put back his sword in its sheath; to the repentant thief He assures Paradise, to all the men who were around Him, unaware of the tragedy that was being consummated, He offers a word of peace: “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).
From Jesus’ forgiveness on the cross flows peace, true peace comes from the cross: it’s a gift of the Risen one, a gift that Jesus gives us. Think that the Risen Jesus’ first greeting is “peace to you,” peace to your souls, to your hearts, to your lives. The Lord gives us peace, He gives us forgiveness but we must ask: “deliver us from evil,” so as not to fall into evil. This is our hope, the strength that the Risen Jesus gives us, who is here, in our midst: He is here. He is here with that strength that He gives us to go on, and He promises to free us from evil.[Original text: Italian] [ZENIT’s translation by Virginia M. Forrester]
A warm welcome goes to the Italian-speaking faithful.
I’m happy to receive the Chapter Members of the Daughters of Jesus; the Women Religious of the “Mater Ecclesiae” Missionary College and the Sisters of Saint Joseph of Annecy.
I greet the parish groups, he refugees from Libya, welcomed at Better World; the Delegation of Save the Children-Italy; the Annibale Maria Association of France; the Casilina 1 and 2 extraordinary Reception Centers of Rome; the Delegation of the Municipality of Acireale and of Castellamare di Stabia.
A particular thought goes to young people, the elderly, the sick and newlyweds. In this month of May, dedicated to Our Lady, I invite you to imitate Her. Be courageous and capable of opening your heart to God and to brothers, to be able to be instruments of God’s mercy and tenderness.