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Wednesday, June 7, 2017

General Audience on God's fatherhood

This morning's General Audience began at 9:20am 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 focused on the theme: God's fatherhood as a source of hope (cf Lk 11:1-4).

After having summarized his catechesis in various languages, the Holy Father shared particular greetings with each group of the faithful in attendance.  He then issued a call for the prayer initiative known as A minute for peace.

The General Audience concluded with the chanting of the Pater Noster and the Apostolic blessing.

Catechesis of the Holy Father, Pope Francis
for the General Audience

Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!

There was something fascinating about Jesus' prayer life, so fascinating that one day, his disciples asked him to teach them about it.  The episode is found in the gospel of Luke, who of all the evangelists is the one who documented most in detail the mystery of Christ at prayer: the Lord prayed.  Jesus' disciples were struck by the fact that especially in the morning and in the evening, he would retire in solitude and immerse himself in prayer.  For this reason, one day, they asked him to teach them how to pray (cf Lk 11:1).

So it was that Jesus passed on to them the words that became the Christian prayer par excellence: the Our Father.  To tell the truth, compared with Matthew, Luke gives us the words of Jesus' prayer in an abbreviated form which begins with a simple invocation: Father (Lk 11:2).

The entire mystery of Christian prayer is summarized here, in this word: to have the courage to address God with the name of Father.  This is also affirmed in the liturgy when, inviting us to recite together the prayer of Jesus, we use the expression: we dare to say.

In fact, calling on God with the name Father is by no means something that we deserve.  We would normally expect to use more elevated titles, which might seem more respectful of his transcendence.  Instead, we call him Father, which puts us into a relationship of confiding in Him, like a child who calls upon its father, knowing that she is loved and cared for by him.  This is the great revolution that Christianity embodies in the religious psychology of mankind.  The mystery of God, which always fascinates us and makes us feel small, but no longer afraid, does not overpower us or cause us anxiety.  This is a revolution that is difficult to grasp and to welcome in our human soul; even in the stories of the Resurrection, it is said that the women, after having seen the empty tomb and the angel, ran away ... because they were filled with fear and astonishment (Mk 16:8).  However, Jesus reveals to us the fact that God is a good Father; he says to us: Do not be afraid!

Let us consider the parable of the merciful father (cf Lk 15:11-32).  Jesus speaks of a father who is known to be filled with love for his children: a father who does not punish his son for his arrogance and who is even able to give him his share of the inheritance and to allow him to leave the house.  God is a Father, Jesus says, but not in a human way, for there is no father in this world who would behave like the hero in this parable.  God is a Father in his own way: good, helpless in the face of man's free will, capable only of conjugating the verb to love.  When his rebellious son, after having squandered everything, finally returns to his ancestral home, his father does not apply criteria according to human justice, but rather he feels the need to forgive, and with his embrace, makes his son understand that during the entire time of his absence, he was missed, and sorrowfully absent from his father's freely offered love.

What an unfathomable mystery is our God who offers this kind of love even in the face of his children's disobedience!

Perhaps it is for this reason that, evoking the heart of the Christian mystery, the apostle Paul does not feel that he can adequately translate into Greek a word that Jesus - in Aramaic - pronounced abba.  Twice, Saint Paul touches on this theme in his epistles (cf Rom 8:15; Gal 4:6), and twice he leaves this word without translating it, in the same form in which it was proclaimed on the lips of Jesus: abba - a term that is even more intimate than father, a term that some have translated as dad or daddy.

Dear brothers and sisters, we are never alone.  We can be far distant, hostile, we can even claim to be without God.  But the gospel of Jesus Christ reveals to us the fact that God can never be without us.  He will never be a God without mankind.  It is he who can never live without us, and this is a profound mystery!  God cannot be God without mankind: this is a great mystery!  This certainty is the source of our hope, a hope that is conserved in every utterance of the Our Father.  When we need help, Jesus never tells us to give up, to close ourselves off within ourselves, rather he encourages us to turn to the Father and to speak to Him with confidence and trust.  All our needs, including the most evident and daily necessities - such as food, health, work, even the need to be forgiven and supported in times of temptation, are not mirrors to reflect our solitude: instead, we have a Father who is always looking upon us with love, a Father who will surely not abandon us.

Now, I want to propose something: every one of us has many problems and many needs.  Let us think about them for a little while, in silence: think about the problems and the many needs.  Let us think also about the Father, our Father, who cannot be without us, and who in this moment is gazing upon us.  And all together, with trust and hope, let us pray: Our Father, who art in heaven ...

Thank you!

The Holy Father's catechesis was then summarized in various languages, and he offered greetings to each group of the faithful in attendance.  To English-speaking visitors, he said:

I greet the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors taking part in today’s Audience, particularly the groups from England, Scotland, Germany, the Netherlands, Ghana, India, Indonesia, Singapore, Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan, the Philippines, Canada and the United States of America. Upon all of you, and your families, I invoke the joy and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ.

At the conclusion of the General Audience, the Holy Father invited all those who were present to join him in prayer tomorrow.  He said:

Tomorrow, at 1:00pm, the initiative known as A minute for peace will be observed in various countries throughout the world.  This is a little moment of prayer in memory of the meeting that took place here at the Vatican between the late Israeli President Simon Peres, the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and me.  In our time, there is such need for prayer - Christians, Jews and Muslims.  We must continue to pray for peace.
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