St. Peter's Square
Wednesday, 5 December 2018
Catechesis on the "Our Father": 1. Teach us how to pray
Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!
Today we begin a cycle of catechesis on the "Our Father".
The Gospels have given us very vivid portraits of Jesus as a man of prayer: Jesus prayed. Despite the urgency of his mission and the urgency of so many people who claim him, Jesus feels the need to seclude himself in solitude and to pray. The Gospel of Mark tells us this detail from the first page of the public ministry of Jesus (cf. 1: 35). The inaugural day of Jesus in Capernaum ended triumphantly. When the sun comes down, multitudes of sick people come to the door where Jesus dwells: the Messiah preaches and heals. The ancient prophecies and expectations of so many suffering people are realized: Jesus is the near God, the God who frees us. But that crowd is still small compared to many other crowds that will gather around the prophet of Nazareth; at times it is about oceanic assemblies, and Jesus is at the center of everything, the expected by the people, the outcome of the hope of Israel.
But Jesus tells his family that he must go elsewhere; that it is not people who seek Him, but He is first and foremost looking for others. So he must not take root, but remain a constant pilgrim on the roads of Galilee (verses 38-39). And also a pilgrim to the Father, that is: praying. On the way of prayer. Jesus prays.
And everything happens in a night of prayer.
In some pages of Scripture it seems above all to be the prayer of Jesus, his intimacy with the Father, to govern everything. It will be for example, above all on the night of Gethsemane. The last part of Jesus' journey (in absolute the most difficult of those that until then he did) seems to find his meaning in the continuous listening that Jesus gives to the Father. A prayer certainly not easy, indeed, a real "agony", in the sense of the athletes' agonism, and yet a prayer capable of supporting the path of the cross.
Here is the essential point: there, Jesus prayed.
Jesus prayed intensely in public moments, sharing the liturgy of his people, but he also sought places gathered, separated from the whirlwind of the world, places that allowed them to descend into the secret of his soul: he is the prophet who knows the stones of the desert and climbs into high on the mountains. The last words of Jesus, before blowing on the cross, are words of the psalms, that is of prayer, of the prayer of the Jews: he prayed with the prayers that his mother had taught him.
Jesus prayed as he prays as every man in the world. Yet, in his way of praying, there was also contained a mystery, something that certainly did not escape the eyes of his disciples, if we find in the gospels that simple and immediate supplication: "Lord, teach us to pray" (Lk 11.1 ). They saw Jesus pray and they wanted to learn to pray: "Lord, teach us to pray". And Jesus does not refuse, he is not jealous of his intimacy with the Father, but he came precisely to introduce us into this relationship with the Father. And so he becomes a teacher of prayer for his disciples, as he certainly wants to be for all of us. We should also say, "Lord, teach me to pray. Teach me".
Even if we have been praying for so many years, we must always learn! The prayer of man, this yearning that is born so naturally from his soul, is perhaps one of the most dense mysteries of the universe. And we do not even know if the prayers we address to God are actually those that He wants to hear. The Bible also gives us testimony of inopportune prayers, which are eventually rejected by God: just remember the parable of the Pharisee and the publican. Only the latter, the publican, returns home from the justified temple, because the Pharisee was proud and he liked that people saw him praying and pretended to pray: the heart was cold. And Jesus says: this is not justified "because whoever exalts himself will be humiliated, whoever humbles himself will be exalted" (Lk 18: 14). The first step to praying is to be humble, to go to the Father and say: "Look at me, I am a sinner, I am weak, I am bad", everyone knows what to say. But always we start with humility, and the Lord listens. Humble prayer is heard by the Lord.
Therefore, beginning this cycle of catechesis on the prayer of Jesus, the most beautiful and fair thing that we all have to do is to repeat the invocation of the disciples: "Teacher, teach us to pray!". In this time of Advent it will be beautiful to repeat it: "Lord, teach me to pray". We can all go a little further and pray better; but ask the Lord: "Lord, teach me to pray". We do this in this time of Advent, and He certainly will not let our invocation fall into emptiness.
Greetings in various languages:
Je suis heureux de saluer les pèlerins venus de France et de divers pays francophones, en particulier les jeunes du collège de Vertou. En ce temps de l’Avent, demandons à l’Esprit Saint de nous aider à répéter l’invocation des disciples : « Maître, apprends-nous à prier ». Et, soyons sûrs qu’il ne laissera pas tomber dans le vide notre demande. Que Dieu vous bénisse !
I welcome all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors taking part in today’s Audience, especially those from Australia, New Zealand and the United States of America. My greeting also goes to the many groups of students and teachers present. Upon all of you, and your families, I invoke the Lord’s blessings of joy and peace. God bless you!
Einen adventlichen Gruß richte ich an die Pilger deutscher Sprache. Wir gehen auf Weihnachten zu. Gott wurde Mensch. In Jesus ist er in die Welt gekommen, um unser Leben zu teilen. Durch das Gebet wollen wir diese Beziehung lebendig erhalten. Der Herr schenke euch dazu seinen Heiligen Geist.
Saludo cordialmente a los peregrinos de lengua española venidos de España y Latinoamérica. Los animo a pedir a Dios como hicieron los discípulos: «Señor, enséñanos a rezar», para que nuestra oración no sea ni rutinaria ni egoísta, sino encarnada en nuestra vida y que sea agradable a nuestro Padre del cielo. Que Dios los bendiga. Muchas gracias.
Amados peregrinos vindos do Brasil, de Portugal e doutros países de língua portuguesa, sede benvindos! Das inúmeras coisas – tantas vezes duras – da vida, aprendei a elevar o coração até ao Pai do Céu, repousando no seio da sua infinita bondade, e vereis que as dores e aflições da vida vos farão menos mal. Que nada vos impeça de viver nesta amizade com Deus e testemunhar a todos a sua misericórdia! Sobre vós e vossa família desça, generosa, a sua Bênção.
أُرحّبُ بالحجّاجِ الناطقينَ باللّغةِ العربيّة، وخاصةً بالقادمينَ من الشرق الأوسط. أيّها الإخوةُ والأخواتُ الأعزّاء، لنربِّ أنفسنا على علاقة عميقة مع الرب وصلاة مستمرّة مُفعمة بالثقة، قادرة على إنارة حياتنا كما يعلّمنا يسوع؛ ولنطلب منه نعمة أن ننقل للأشخاص الذين نلتقي بهم على دربنا، فرح اللقاء مع الرب، نور حياتنا. ليبارككم الرب!
Witam polskich pielgrzymów. W sposób szczególny pozdrawiam redaktorów Sekcji Polskiej Radia Watykańskiego, która w tych dniach obchodzi 80.rocznicę istnienia. Dziękuję wam za waszą służbę dla papieża i dla Kościoła. W najbliższą niedzielę w Polsce obchodzony będzie XIX Dzień modlitwy i pomocy Kościołowi na Wschodzie. Z wdzięcznością myślę o wszystkich, którzy przez modlitwę i konkretne dzieła wspierają wspólnoty kościelne w krajach sąsiadujących. Wszystkim życzę spokojnego i pełnego łask czasu Adwentu. Z serca wam błogosławię.
S radošću pozdravljam i blagoslivljam hrvatske hodočasnike, a osobito bračne parove iz Dubrovačke biskupije, zajedno s njihovim pastirom msgr. Matom Uzinićem. Dragi supružnici, jučer ste u Bazilici Sv. Petra obnovili bračna obećanja, priznajući da vas je Gospodin pratio u radosnim i žalosnim prilikama života. Ohrabrujem vas da živite supružničku ljubav, znak ljubavi između Krista i Crkve, rasteći svakodnevno u uzajamnom sebedarju po malim gestama. U ovo vrijeme došašća, neka vam Blažena Djevica Marija bude uzor kako primiti Gospodina i povjeriti se Njemu. Hvaljen Isus i Marija!
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I extend a cordial welcome to Italian-speaking pilgrims.
I am pleased to welcome the Daughters of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart and the parish groups, in particular those of Sant'Elia a Pianisi, of Rome and of Pescara.
I greet the Nice Cavalry Regiment of Bellinzago Novarese; retired old age clubs in the province of Trento and the 70-year-old from Paterno di Lucania.
A particular thought I address to the young, the elderly, the sick and the newlyweds.
Next Saturday we will celebrate the solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the B.V. Maria. Let us entrust ourselves to Our Lady! She, as a model of faith and obedience to the Lord, help us to prepare our hearts to welcome the Child Jesus on his Christmas. Thank you.