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Pope at General Audience on ‘Our Father, Who Art in Heaven’ (Full Text)

‘If even all our earthly loves crumbled and we had nothing left other than dust, there is always for all of us, burning, the unique and faithful love of God’

This morning’s General Audience was held in two stages. At 9:10 the Holy Father Francis received, in the Vatican Basilica, the participants in the pilgrimage of the Archdiocese of Benevento.

At 9:45 the Pope met in Paul VI Hall with a group 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: “Father who art in Heaven” (Biblical passage: Isaiah 49:14-16).

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!

Today’s Audience is unfolding in two stages. Earlier I met with faithful of Benevento, who were in Saint Peter’s, and now with you. And this is due to the delicacy of the Prefecture of the Papal Household that did not want you to catch cold. We thank them who did this. Thank you.

We continue the catechesis on the “Our Father.” The first step of every Christian prayer is the entrance in a mystery, that of God’s paternity. We can’t pray like parrots. Either you enter the mystery, in the awareness that God is your Father, or you don’t pray. If I want to pray to God my Father, I begin with the mystery. To understand in what measure God is our Father, we think of the figure of our parents; however, we must always in some measure “refine it,” purify it. The Catechism of the Catholic Church also states it, it says thus: “The purification of our hearts has to do with paternal or maternal images, stemming from our personal and cultural history, and influencing our relationship with God” (n. 2779).

None of us have had perfect parents, none, as we, in turn, will never be perfect parents or Pastors. We all have defects, all. We live our relationships of love always under the sign of our limitations and also of our egoism. Therefore, they are often sullied by desires of possession or of manipulation of the other. Therefore, sometimes declarations of love are changed into feelings of anger and hostility. But look, these two loved one another so much last week <and> today they hate each other to death. We see this every day! It’s because of this, because we all have bitter roots inside, which aren’t good and sometimes come out and do evil.

See why, when we speak of God as “Father,” while we think of the image of our parents, especially if they loved us, at the same time we should go beyond. Because the love of God is that of the Father “who is in Heaven,” according to the expression that Jesus invites us to use: it’s total love, which we in this life savour only imperfectly. Men and women are eternally beggars of love — we are beggars of love, we are in need of love — they seek a place where they will finally be loved, but they don’t find it. How many disappointed friendships and loves there are in our world — so many!

In mythology, the Greek god of love is absolutely the most tragic: one doesn’t understand if he is an angelic being or a demon. Mythology says that he is the son of Poros and of Penia, that is, of expediency and of poverty, destined to bear in himself a bit of the physiognomy of these parents. From here we can think of the ambivalent nature of human love, capable of flowering and of living arrogantly in an hour of the day, and immediately after wither and die; that which grips always flees away (Cf. Plato, Symposium, 203). There is an expression of the prophet Hosea that frames mercilessly the congenital weakness of our love: “Your love is like a morning cloud, like the dew that goes early away: (6:4). See what our love often is: a promise that is hard to keep, an attempt that soon parches and evaporates; it’s somewhat as when the sun comes out in the morning and the dew of the night goes away.

How many times we men have loved in this very weak and intermittent way. We all have the experience: we have loved but then that love fell or became weak. Desirous of loving, we then come up against our limitations, with the poverty of our strength, incapable of keeping a promise that in the days of grace  seemed easy to realize.  At bottom, the Apostle Peter had fear and had to flee. The Apostle Peter was not faithful to Jesus’ love. There is always this weakness that makes us fall. We are beggars who on the way risk not ever finding completely that treasure that we seek from the first day of our life: love.

However, another love exists, that of the Father “who is in Heaven.” No one should doubt of being the recipient of this love. He loves us. We can say, “He loves me.” If even our father and our mother did not love us — a historical hypothesis –, there is a God in Heaven who loves us like no one on this earth has done or can ever do. God’s love is constant. The prophet Isaiah says: “Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, yet will I not forget you. Behold, I have graven you on the palms of my hands” (49:15-16). Today tattoo is in fashion: “I have graven you on the palms of my hands.” I have made a tattoo of you on my hands. I am on God’s hands thus, and I can’t take it off. The love of God is like the love of a mother, who can never forget. And if a mother forgets? “I will never forget you,” says the Lord. This is God’s perfect love; this is how He loves us. If even all our earthly loves crumbled and we had nothing left other than dust, there is always for all of us, burning, the unique and faithful love of God.

In the hunger of love that we all feel, let us not look for something that doesn’t exist: it is, instead, an invitation to know God who is Father. Saint Augustine’s conversion, for instance, passed through this crest: the young and brilliant rector was simply seeking among creatures something that no creature could give, until one day he had the courage to look up. And on that day he knew God — God who loves.

The expression “in Heaven” does not intend to express distance, but a radical diversity of love, another dimension of love, a tireless love, a love that will always remain, rather, that is always at hand. Suffice it to say “Our Father who art in Heaven,” and that love comes.

Therefore, don’t fear. None of us is alone. If by misfortune your earthly father  had forgotten you and you resented him, you are not denied the fundamental experience of the Christian faith: that of knowing that you are the most beloved child of God, and there is nothing in life that can extinguish His passionate love for you.

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

In Italian

A warm welcome goes to the Italian-speaking pilgrims.

I’m happy to receive the Sisters of Mary Help of Christians and the parish groups, in particular, that of Sant’Arcangelo of Romagna.

I welcome the faithful from San Giorgio Lucano: I will gladly bless the effigy of Our Lady of the Angels that is venerated in the local Shrine.

I greet the Lazio Regional Committee of the Soccer Game Italian Federation-Amateur National League; the Group of the Personnel of the Police Headquarters of Campobasso; the Families of the Paediatric Oncology Department of the Salesi Hospital of Ancona; the Student s of the Anti-Corruption Master’s of the Tor Vergata University of Rome and the School Institutes.

And I would like to recall to you of Campobasso an historical curiosity, but it touches you. I’m from the South, close to the Antarctica. You know that the first chaplain who went to Antarctica was a fellow-citizen of yours, born in Campobasso. Congratulations for this honour!

A particular thought goes to young people, the elderly, the sick and newlyweds.

Next Friday we will celebrate the feast of the Chair of Apostle Saint Peter. Pray for me and for my ministry, also for Pope Benedict, so that I always and everywhere confirm brethren in the faith.

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

© Libreria Editrice Vatican

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