Wednesday, May 22, 2019

General Audience: Call on the Father

This morning's General Audience began at 9:10am local time (3:10am EDT) 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 concluded the cycle of catecheses on the Our Father, adding his meditation on the theme: Wherever you are, call on the Father (cf Rom 8:15).

After having summarized his catechesis in various languages, the Holy Father offered particular greetings to each group of the faithful in attendance.  Then, he issued an invitation to pray for the Catholic faithful in China on the occasion of the Feast of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Help of Christians, who is venerated at the Shrine of Our Lady of Sheshan in Shanghai, whose feast day will be observed on Friday, 24 May.

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!

Today, we conclude the cycle of teachings on the Our Father.  We can say that Christian prayer is born of the audacity to call out to God with the name of Father. This is the root of Christian prayer: saying Father to God. But it takes courage! It is not a question of a formula, but of a filial intimacy in which we are introduced by grace: Jesus is the one who reveals the Father and gives us familiarity with Him. He does not leave us a formula to be mechanically repeated. As with any vocal prayer, it is through the Word of God that the Holy Spirit teaches the children of God to pray to their Father (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2766). Jesus himself used different expressions to pray to the Father. If we read the Gospels carefully, we discover that these expressions of prayer that emerge on the lips of Jesus recall the text of the Our Father.

For example, on the night of Gethsemane Jesus prayed in this way: Abba! Father! Everything is possible for you: remove this cup from me! But not what I want, but what you want (Mk 14:36). We have already recalled this text of the Gospel of Mark. How can we fail to recognize in this prayer, however brief it is, a trace of the Our Father? In the midst of darkness, Jesus calls upon God with the name of Abbà, with filial trust and, while feeling fear and anguish, he asks that the Father's will be fulfilled.

In other passages of the Gospel Jesus insists that his disciples cultivate a spirit of prayer. Prayer must be insistent, and above all it must bring the memory of others, especially when we experience difficult relationships with them. Jesus says: When you begin to pray, if you have something against someone, forgive that person, because even your Father who is in heaven forgives you your faults (Mk 11:25). How can we fail to recognize the similarity with the Our Father in these expressions? And the examples could be numerous, even for us.

In the writings of Saint Paul we do not find the text of the Our Father, but the Father's presence emerges in that stupendous synthesis where the invocation of the Christian is condensed into a single word: Abbà (cf Rom 8:15; Gal 4:6).

In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus fully satisfies the request of the disciples who, seeing him often secluded and plunged into prayer, one day decide to ask him: Lord, teach us to pray, like John - the Baptist - taught his disciples (Lk 11:1). And then the Master taught them the prayer addressed to the Father.

Considering the New Testament as a whole, it is clear that the first protagonist of every Christian prayer is the Holy Spirit. Let's not forget this: the protagonist of every Christian prayer is the Holy Spirit. We could never pray without the strength of the Holy Spirit. He is the one who prays in us and moves us to pray well. We can ask the Spirit to teach us to pray, because He is the protagonist, the one who performs true prayer in us. He blows in the heart of each of us, who are disciples of Jesus. The Spirit enables us to pray as children of God, which we really are through Baptism. The Spirit makes us pray in a furrow that Jesus has dug for us. This is the mystery of Christian prayer: by grace we are attracted to that dialogue of love between the persons of the Most Holy Trinity.

Jesus prayed like this. Sometimes he used expressions that are certainly very far from the text of the Our Father. Think of the opening words of Psalm 22, which Jesus pronounced on the cross: My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? (Mt 27:46). Can the heavenly Father abandon his Son? No, certainly not. Yet his love for us, sinners, brought Jesus to this point: to the point of experiencing the abandonment of God, his distance, because he had taken all our sins upon himself. But even in the most anguished cry, the words my God, my God remain. In that my there is the nucleus of the relationship with the Father, there is the nucleus of faith and prayer.

This is why, starting from this nucleus, Christians can pray in every situation. We can repeat all the prayers of the Bible, especially of the Psalms; but we can also pray with so many expressions that through millennia of history have gushed from the hearts of mankind. And we never cease to tell the Father about our brothers and sisters in humanity, so that none of them, especially the poor, remain without a consolation and a portion of love.

At the end of this catechesis, we can repeat the prayer of Jesus: I praise you, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned and revealed them to little ones" (Lk 10:21). To pray we must make ourselves small, so that the Holy Spirit may come into us and we must let him guide us in prayer.

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

I greet the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors taking part in today’s Audience, especially those from England, Belgium, Tanzania, New Zealand, China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam, Canada and the United States of America. In the joy of the Risen Christ, I invoke upon you and your families the loving mercy of God our Father. May the Lord bless you all!

At the conclusion of the General Audience, the Holy Father made the following appeal:

Next Friday, 24 May, we will celebrate the Feast of the Blessed Virgin Mary Help of Christians, who his especially venerated in China at the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Sheshan, near Shanghai.

On such a joyous occasion, I express a special closeness and affection for all Catholics in China, who, through daily efforts and trials, continue to believe, to hope and to love.

Dear faithful in China, may our Mommy in heaven help you all to be witnesses of charity and fraternity, and may she keep you always united in communion with the universal Church.  I am praying for you and I bless you.

Let us pray together to Our Lady:  Hail Mary ...
Original text in Italian

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