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When I Pray ‘Father,’ It Gets to Roots of My Christian Identity, Says Pope

Invites us to ask the Holy Spirit for help if we do not feel that God is our father

The Gospel of today’s Mass recounts Jesus teaching his disciples the “Our Father” prayer, and Pope Francis’ reflections on this prayer this morning during his homily at Casa Santa Marta are a good preparation for this weekend’s celebration of Father’s Day in many countries.

According to Vatican Radio, the Pope noted that Jesus always used the word “Father” in the most important or challenging moments of his life, saying our Father “knows the things we need, before we even ask Him.” He is a Father who listens to us in secret just like Jesus advised us to pray in secret.

“It’s through this Father that we receive our identity as children. And when I say ‘Father’ this goes right to the roots of my identity: my Christian identity is to be his child and this is a grace of the Holy Spirit.  Nobody can say ‘Father’ without the grace of the Spirit. ‘Father’ is the word that Jesus used in the most important moments: when he was full of joy, or emotion: ‘Father, I bless you for revealing these things to little children.’ Or weeping, in front of the tomb of his friend Lazarus: ‘Father, I thank you for hearing my prayer,’ or else at the end, in the final moments of his life, right at the very end.”

The Holy Father reflected that “unless we feel that we are his children [and] without considering ourselves as his children, without saying ‘Father,’ our prayer is a pagan one, it’s just a prayer of words.”

The Pontiff said that this prayer taught by Jesus should be the cornerstone of our prayer life.

If we are not able to begin our prayer with this word, he warned, “our prayer will go nowhere.”

“’Father.’ It’s about feeling that our Father is looking at me, feeling that this word ‘Father’ is not a waste of time like the words in the prayers of pagans: it’s a call to Him who gave me my identity as his child. This is the dimension of Christian prayer – ‘Father’ and we can pray to all the saints, the angels, we can go on processions, pilgrimages … all of this is wonderful but we must always begin (our prayers) with ‘Father’ and be aware that we are his children and that we have a Father who loves us and who knows all our needs. This is that dimension,” the Pope said.

Brothers and sisters

Francis said that the part of the prayer about forgiving trespasses springs from this same certainty, since we are all brothers and sisters of the same family.

Rather than behaving like Cain who hated his own brother, he said, it’s so important for us to forgive, to forget offences against us, that healthy attitude of saying ‘let’s forget this’ and not harbour feelings of rancour, resentment or a desire for revenge.

“It’s good for us to sometimes examine our own consciences on this point,” he said. “For me, is God my Father? Do I feel that He is my Father? And if I don’t feel that, let me ask the Holy Spirit to teach me to feel that way. And am I able to forget offences, to forgive, to let go of it, and if not, let us ask the Father: ‘these people too are your children, they did something horrible to me … can you help me to forgive them?’ Let us carry out this examination of our consciences and it will do us a lot of good, good, good. ‘Father’ and ‘our’: give us our identity as his children and give us a family to journey with during our lives.”

Readings provided by the US bishops’ conference:

Thursday of the Eleventh Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 368

Reading 1 SIR 48:1-14

Like a fire there appeared the prophet Elijah
whose words were as a flaming furnace.
Their staff of bread he shattered,
in his zeal he reduced them to straits;
By the Lord’s word he shut up the heavens
and three times brought down fire.
How awesome are you, Elijah, in your wondrous deeds!
Whose glory is equal to yours?
You brought a dead man back to life
from the nether world, by the will of the LORD.
You sent kings down to destruction,
and easily broke their power into pieces.
You brought down nobles, from their beds of sickness.
You heard threats at Sinai,
at Horeb avenging judgments.
You anointed kings who should inflict vengeance,
and a prophet as your successor.
You were taken aloft in a whirlwind of fire,
in a chariot with fiery horses.
You were destined, it is written, in time to come
to put an end to wrath before the day of the LORD,
To turn back the hearts of fathers toward their sons,
and to re-establish the tribes of Jacob.
Blessed is he who shall have seen you
And who falls asleep in your friendship.
For we live only in our life,
but after death our name will not be such.
O Elijah, enveloped in the whirlwind!Then Elisha, filled with the twofold portion of his spirit,
wrought many marvels by his mere word.
During his lifetime he feared no one,
nor was any man able to intimidate his will.
Nothing was beyond his power;
beneath him flesh was brought back into life.
In life he performed wonders,
and after death, marvelous deeds.

Responsorial Psalm PS 97:1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 7

R. (12a) Rejoice in the Lord, you just!
The LORD is king; let the earth rejoice;
let the many isles be glad.
Clouds and darkness are round about him,
justice and judgment are the foundation of his throne.
R. Rejoice in the Lord, you just!
Fire goes before him
and consumes his foes round about.
His lightnings illumine the world;
the earth sees and trembles.
R. Rejoice in the Lord, you just!
The mountains melt like wax before the LORD,
before the Lord of all the earth.
The heavens proclaim his justice,
and all peoples see his glory.
R. Rejoice in the Lord, you just!
All who worship graven things are put to shame,
who glory in the things of nought;
all gods are prostrate before him.
R. Rejoice in the Lord, you just!

Alleluia ROM 8:15BC

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
You have received a spirit of adoption as sons
through which we cry: Abba! Father!
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel MT 6:7-15

Jesus said to his disciples:
“In praying, do not babble like the pagans,
who think that they will be heard because of their many words.
Do not be like them.
Your Father knows what you need before you ask him.“This is how you are to pray:‘Our Father who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name,
thy Kingdom come,
thy will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread;
and forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us;
and lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.’

“If you forgive others their transgressions,
your heavenly Father will forgive you.
But if you do not forgive others,
neither will your Father forgive your transgressions.”

About Kathleen Naab

United States

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