This morning’s General Audience was held at 9:20 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 “Thy Kingdom come” (Biblical passage: From the Gospel according to Matthew 13:31-32).
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.
The Holy Father’s Catechesis
Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!
When we pray the “Our Father,” the second invocation with which we address God is “Thy Kingdom come” (Matthew 6:10). After having prayed that His Name be hallowed, the believer expresses the desire that the coming of His Kingdom be hastened. This desire gushes forth, so to speak, from Christ’s heart itself, who began His preaching in Galilee proclaiming: “The time is fulfilled, and the Kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the Gospel.” These words are not at all a threat; on the contrary, they are a happy proclamation, a message of joy. Jesus doesn’t want to push people to convert by sowing fear of God’s impending judgment or the sense of guilt for the evil committed. Jesus doesn’t proselytize: He simply proclaims. On the contrary, what He brings is the Good News of salvation, and from it, He calls to conversion. Each one is invited to believe in the “Gospel”: God’s lordship made itself close to His children. This is the Gospel: God’s lordship made itself close to His children. And Jesus proclaims this wonderful thing, this grace: God, the Father, loves us, He is close to us and He teaches us to walk on the path of holiness.
The signs of the coming of this Kingdom are many, and all are positive. Jesus begins His ministry by taking care of the sick, be it in body or in soul, of those that experienced social exclusion — such as lepers –, of sinners regarded with contempt by all, also of those were greater sinners than them but feigned to be just. And what does Jesus call these? “Hypocrites.” Jesus Himself points out these signs, the signs of the Kingdom of God: “the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have Good News preached to them” (Matthew 11:5).
“Thy Kingdom come!” a Christian repeats insistently when he prays the “Our Father.” Jesus came, but the world is still marked by sin, populated by so many suffering people, by persons who don’t reconcile themselves and don’t forgive, by wars and by so many forms of exploitation. We think of child trafficking, for example. All these facts are proof that Christ’s victory has not yet been completely implemented: so many men and women still live with their heart closed. It’s especially in these situations that the second invocation of the “Our Father” emerges on a Christian’s lips: “Thy Kingdom come!” Which is as if to say: “ Father, we need You! Jesus, we need You to be Lord in our midst everywhere and forever!” “Thy Kingdom come, You be in our midst.”
Sometimes we ask ourselves: why is this Kingdom realized so slowly? Jesus likes to talk of His victory with the language of parables. For instance, He says that the Kingdom of God is like a field where the good seed and the weeds grow together: the worst error would be to want to intervene immediately, extirpating from the world those that seem to us weeds. God isn’t like us; God has patience. It’s not with violence that the Kingdom is established in the world: His style of propagation is meekness (Cf. Matthew 13:24-30).
God’s Kingdom is certainly a great force, the greatest there is, but not according to the world’s criteria; that’s why it seems that it never has the absolute majority. It’s as the leaven that is mixed into the flour: it seems to disappear yet it is precisely what makes the dough ferment (Cf. Matthew 13:33). Or it’s like a grain of mustard seed, so small, almost invisible, but which bears in itself the explosive force of nature, and once grown, it becomes the largest of all the trees of the vegetable garden (Cf. Matthew 13:31-32).
In this “destiny” of the Kingdom of God, the connection can be intuited with Jesus’ life: for His contemporaries, He was also a weak sign, an almost unknown event to the official historians of the time. He described Himself as “a grain of wheat,” which dies in the earth, but only thus can it bear “much fruit” (Cf. John 12:24). The symbol of the seed is eloquent: one day the farmer sinks it in the earth (a gesture that seems like a burial). And then he “sleeps and rises night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows, he knows not how” (Mark 4:27). A seed that sprouts is more God’s work than that of the man who sowed it (Cf. Mark 4:27). God always precedes us; God always surprises us. Thanks to Him, after the night of Good Friday there is a dawn of Resurrection able to illuminate the whole world with hope.
“Thy Kingdom come!” We sow this word in the midst of our sins and our failures. We give it to persons that are defeated and bowed down by life, to those that have tasted more hatred than love, those who have lived useless days without understanding why. We give it to those that have fought for justice, to all the martyrs of history, and to those that have concluded that they fought for nothing and that evil dominates in this world. We will then hear the “Our Father” prayer respond. It will repeat for the umpteenth time those words of hope, the same that the Spirit has placed as seal of all the Sacred Scriptures: “’Surely I am coming soon!’ This is the Lord’s answer. “I am coming soon.” Amen. And the Lord’s Church answers: “Come, Lord Jesus” (Cf. Revelation 2:20). “Thy Kingdom come” is as if saying “Come, Lord Jesus.” And Jesus says: I am coming soon.” And Jesus comes, in His own way, but every day. We trust in this. And when we pray the “Our Father” we always say: “Thy Kingdom come,” to hear in our heart: “Surely, surely I am coming soon.” Thank you!
© Libreria Editrice Vatican[Original text: Italian] [ZENIT’s translation by Virginia M. Forrester]
A warm welcome goes to the Italian-speaking pilgrims.
I’m happy to receive the Schools’ Marist Brothers; the Sisters Daughters of the Church and the young people of Christian Initiation of the Parrish of Arqua Petrarca.
I welcome the faithful from Bisignano, on the occasion of the blessing of the effigy of Sant’Umile, which is venerated in the local Shrine.
I greet the “Reception without Borders” Association of Matera; the school institutes, in particular, that of Legnano and of Corbetta.
A special thought goes to young people, the elderly, the sick and newlyweds. Today, Ash Wednesday, the Lenten journey begins. I hope that each one of you will live this time in a genuine penitential spirit and of conversion, as a return to the Father, who waits for all with open arms to admit us to the most intimate communion with Him.
© Libreria Editrice Vatican[[Original text: Italian] [ZENIT’s translation by Virginia M. Forrester]