Wednesday, May 15, 2019

General Audience: Deliver us from evil

This morning's General Audience began at 9:10am local time (3:10am EDT) in Saint Peter's Square, where the Holy Father met with groups of pilgrims and the faithful from Italy and from every corner of the world.

In his speech, the Pope continued the cycle of catecheses on the Our Father, adding his meditation on the theme: But deliver us from evil (1 Peter 5:6-9).

After having summarized his catechesis in various languages, the Holy Father offered particular greetings to each group of the faithful in attendance.

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

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

Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!

Here we are, finally arriving at the seventh question posed in the Our Father: But deliver us from evil  (Mt 6:13b).

With this expression, the one who prays is not only asking not to be abandoned in the time of temptation, but also begging to be freed from evil. The original Greek verb is very strong: it evokes the presence of the evil one who tends to grasp and bite us (cf 1 Pt 5: 8) and from which we ask God for liberation. The apostle Peter also says that the evil one, the devil, is around us like a furious lion, ready to devour us, and we ask God to deliver us from this threat.

With this double plea: do not abandon us and deliver us, an essential characteristic of Christian prayer emerges. Jesus teaches his friends to put the invocation of the Father before everything else, even and especially at times when the evil one makes his threatening presence felt. In fact, Christian prayer does not close its eyes to life. It is a filial prayer and not a childlike prayer. A prayer that is not so infatuated with the paternity of God that it forgets the fact that the path of man is fraught with difficulties. If not for the last verses of the Our Father how could sinners, the persecuted, the desperate, the dying pray? The last petition is our petition, especially when we are limited, which is always.

There is an evil in our life, which is an indisputable presence. History books are the desolate catalog of how much our existence in this world has been an often failed adventure. There is a mysterious evil, which is certainly not the work of God but which penetrates silently into the folds of history. It is silent, like the snake that silently carries poison. At times evil seems to take over: on certain days its presence seems even sharper than that of God's mercy.

The person praying is not blind; he or she sees this evil that is so cumbersome and so at odds with the very mystery of God. We see it in nature, in history, even in our own hearts because there is no one among us who can say that they are exempt from evil, or not at least tempted. We all know what evil is; we all know what temptation is; all of us have experienced the temptation of sin upon our flesh. But it is the tempter that moves us and pushes us to evil, telling us: do this, think this, follow that path.

The last cry of the Our Father is hurled against this evil with wide brims, which holds under its umbrella the most diverse experiences: the mourning of mankind, innocent pain, slavery, the exploitation of others, the cry of innocent children. All these events protest in the heart of man and become voices in the last word of Jesus' prayer.

It is precisely in the stories of the Passion that some expressions of the Our Father find their most striking echo. Jesus says: Abba! Father! For you, everything is possible: remove this cup from me! But not what I want, but what you want (Mk 14:36). Jesus fully experiences the piercing of evil. Not only death, but death on the cross. Not only loneliness, but also contempt, humiliation. Not only malice, but also cruelty, ruthlessness against Him. That's what man is: a being devoted to life, who dreams of love and good, but who then continually exposes himself to evil and to his fellow human beings, to the point that we can be tempted to despair for mankind.

Dear brothers and sisters, the Our Father resembles a symphony that asks us to fulfill ourselves in each of us. The Christian knows how overwhelming the power of evil is, and at the same time he experiences how much Jesus, who has never succumbed to his flattery, is on our side and comes to our aid.

Thus the prayer of Jesus leaves us the most precious of inheritances: the presence of the Son of God who has freed us from evil, struggling to convert us. In the hour of the final fight, Peter begins to put the sword back into its sheath, the repentant thief secures heaven, and for all the men gathered around Jesus, unaware of the tragedy that was taking place, he offers a word of peace: Father, forgive them because they do not know what they are doing (Lk 23:34).

From the forgiveness of Jesus on the cross comes peace, true peace comes from the cross: it is a gift of the Risen One, a gift that Jesus gives us. Think that the first greeting of the risen Jesus is peace be with you, peace to your souls, to your hearts, to your lives. The Lord gives us peace, gives us forgiveness but we must ask: deliver us from evil, so as not to fall into evil. This is our hope, the strength that gives us the risen Jesus, who is here, among us: he is here. He is here; with that strength he gives us the ability to move forward, and he promises to free us from evil.

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, Scotland, Ireland, Denmark, Ghana, Namibia, Australia, India, Indonesia, Korea, China, Canada and the United States of America. I greet the representatives of university centres and institutes for studies on the family, gathered from different countries for the first Family International Monitor meeting, sponsored by the John Paul II Pontifical Institute. This meeting takes place on the occasion of the International Day of Families, which this year recalls the role of families in the care of creation, our common home. 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!

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