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Wednesday, May 25, 2016

General Audience about the widow and the unjust judge

Today's General Audience began at 10:00am in Saint Peter's Square where the Holy Father, Pope Francis met with groups of pilgrims and the faithful from Italy and from every corner of the world.

In his speech, the Pope continued his meditations on mercy from the biblical perspective, focusing on the parable of the widow and the unjust judge (Lk 18:1-5).

After having summarized his catechesis in various languages, the Holy Father addressed particular greetings to each group of the faithful in attendance.  He then issued a call on the occasion of the International Day of Missing Children which is observed today and an invitation to participate in the traditional procession for Corpus Christi which will be held in Rome tomorrow.

At the conclusion of the audience, following the chanting of the Pater Noster and before the Apostolic Blessing, Pope Francis exhorted those in attendance to pray for the dramatic situation in Syria.

Catechesis of His Holiness, Pope Francis
for the General Audience

Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!

The gospel parable we just heard (cf Lk 18:1-8) contains an important teaching: The need to pray always and not lose heart (Lk 18:1). Therefore, it is not about praying sometimes, when I feel like it. No, Jesus says that we must pray always, and not lose heart, and He gives the example of the widow and the judge.

The judge is a powerful character, called to hand down sentences on the basis of the Law of Moses. Therefore, the biblical tradition recommended that judges be persons fearful of God, worthy of faith, impartial and incorruptible (cf Ex 18:21). This judge, however, neither feared God nor regarded man (Lk 18:2). He was an iniquitous judge, without scruples, who did not take the Law into account but did what he wished, according to his interest. A widow comes to him to seek justice. Widows, together with orphans and foreigners, were the weakest categories of the society. The rights accorded to them by the Law could be easily trampled because, being persons alone and without defence, they could hardly make themselves heard: a poor widow, there, alone, no one defended her; they could ignore her, also not grant her justice. The same with the orphan, so also the foreigner, the migrant; at that time this problem was very pronounced. Faced with the judge’s indifference, the widow takes recourse to her only weapon: to continue insistently to implore him, presenting him with her request for justice. And, precisely with this perseverance, she accomplishes her purpose. At a certain point, in fact, at a certain point the judge listens to her, not because he is moved by mercy, or because his conscience imposed it on him; he simply admits: because this widow bothers me, I will vindicate her, or she will wear me out by her continual coming (Lk 18:5).

Jesus draws a twofold conclusion from this parable: if the widow succeeded in bending the dishonest judge with her insistent requests, how much more God, who is a good and just Father, will vindicate His elect, who cry to Him day and night?. And, moreover, He will vindicate them speedily (Lk 18:7-8).

Therefore, Jesus exhorts us to pray without losing heart. We all experience moments of tiredness and discouragement, especially when our prayer seems ineffective. But Jesus assures us: as opposed to the dishonest judge, God speedily listens to His children even if He does not do so in the time and ways that we wish. Prayer is not a magic wand. It helps to keep faith in God and to entrust ourselves to Him, even when we do not understand His will.

In this matter, Jesus Himself – who prayed so much! – is our example. The Letter to the Hebrews reminds us that In the days of His flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to Him who was able to save Him from death, and He was heard for His godly fear (Heb 5:7). At first sight this affirmation seems unlikely, because Jesus died on the cross. Yet the Letter to the Hebrews is not mistaken: God truly saved Jesus from death giving Him complete victory over it, but the way followed to obtain it passed through death itself! The reference to the supplication that God heard refers to Jesus’ prayer in Gethsemane. Assailed by imminent anguish, Jesus prays to the Father to let the bitter chalice of the Passion pass from Him, but His prayer is pervaded by trust in the Father and He entrusts Himself to His will without reservations: Nevertheless – says Jesus – not as I will, but as Thou wilt (Mt 26:39). The object of the prayer passes to the second level; what matters first of all is His relationship with the Father. Do you see what prayer does: it transforms the desire and moulds it according to God’s will, whatever it is, because one who prays aspires first of all to union with Him, merciful Love.

The parable ends with a question: Nevertheless, when the Son of man comes, will He find faith on earth? (Lk 18:8). And, with this question, we are all put on guard: we must not desist from prayer even if it is not answered. It is prayer that preserves faith; without it, faith vacillates! Let us ask the Lord for a faith that makes itself incessant, persevering prayer, such as that of the widow in the parable, a faith that is nourished by the desire for His coming. And, in prayer, we experience God’s compassion, as a Father, He comes to meet His children full of merciful love.

This catechesis was then summarized in various languages, and the Holy Father offered greetings to each group of the faithful in attendance.  To English-speaking pilgrims, His Holiness said:

I greet the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors taking part in today’s Audience, particularly those from England, Ireland, Scotland, Denmark, Switzerland, China, Indonesia, Japan, Nigeria, the Philippines, Seychelles, Canada and the United States of America. With prayerful good wishes that the present Jubilee of Mercy will be a moment of grace and spiritual renewal for you and your families, I invoke upon all of you joy and peace in our Lord Jesus Christ.

Following the greetings offered to each group of pilgrims, prior to concluding the audience, the Holy Father made the following two requests:

Today, we observe the International Day of Missing Children.  It is a duty for all people to protect our children, above all those who are exposed to elevated risk of exploitation, trafficking and deviant behaviour.  I hope that the civic and religious authorities will work toward raising awareness, in order to avoid indifference to the hardships faced by lonely children, those who are exploited and separated from their families and from their social contexts, children who cannot grow up in peace and look forward with hope to the future.  I invite all people to pray that every child may be restored to the affection of their loved ones.

Tomorrow in Rome, we will hold the traditional Corpus Christi procession.  At 7:00pm in the Square outside the Basilica of Saint John Lateran, I will celebrate Mass, and then we will adore the Blessed Sacrament while travelling in procession to the Basilica of Saint Mary Major.  I invite all Romans and pilgrims to participate in this solemn public act of faith and love for Jesus who is truly present in the Eucharist.

Last Monday, in our beloved Syria, there were some terrorist attacks, which resulted in the death of hundreds of unarmed civilians.  I call upon all people to pray to the merciful Father and to Our Lady, asking for the gift of eternal rest for the victims, consolation for the families and the conversion of the hearts of those who bring about death and destruction.  All together, let us pray to Our Lady.

Hail Mary ...
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