Francis drew inspiration from the figure of Jonah, a prophet who tries to flee from the Lord’s call, a difficult mission entrusted the Lord entrusted to him.
When the ship that Jonah had boarded was tossed by a storm, the pagan sailors asked him, as a man of God, to pray that they might escape sure death. Jonah prays on behalf of the sailors, and, taking up once more his prophetic mission, shows himself ready to sacrifice his life for their sake. As a result, the sailors come to acknowledge the true God.
This story, the Jesuit Pope underlined, reminds us of the link between hope and prayer. Anguish in the face of death, he stressed, often makes us recognize our human frailty and our need to pray for salvation.
“The reaction of these ‘pagans,'”Francis observed, “was the right reaction in face of death, in face of danger, because it is then that man has a complete experience of his frailty and his need of salvation. The instinctive horror of dying awakens the necessity to hope in the God of life.”
The pagans’ desperate hope that this ‘god’ will prevent them from perishing, the Pontiff said, are “words of hope that becomes prayer.” This supplication full of anguish, Francis noted, comes from lips of men facing the imminent danger of death.
“We disdain too easily from turning to God in our need as if it were only a self-interested prayer, and, hence, imperfect. However, God knows our weakness, He knows that we remember Him to ask for help, and with the indulgent smile of a father, He responds benevolently,” the Pope said.
“Hope, which had induced them to pray so that they would not die, is now revealed more powerful and operates a reality that goes beyond what they hoped for: not only do they not perish in the tempest, but they open themselves to the acknowledgement of the true and only Lord of Heaven and earth.”
Pope Francis concluded, praying that the Lord make us understand this connection between prayer and hope, and for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity which is beginning, making us reflect on the love of Christ and pushing us toward reconciliation.
The Holy See Press Office also confirmed to journalists present that before entering the General Audience, the Pope, on his way in, greeted a boy with leukemia, but didn’t have details to provide about his age or what nation he was from.
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