Paul VI Hall
Wednesday, February 13th 2019
Catechesis on the "Our Father": 6. Father of us all
Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!
We continue our journey to learn more and more how to pray as Jesus taught us. We must pray as He taught us to do it.
He said: when you pray, go into the silence of your room, withdraw from the world and turn to God calling him "Father!". Jesus wants his disciples not to be like the hypocrites who pray standing upright in the streets to be admired by the people (cf. Mt 6: 5). Jesus does not want hypocrisy. True prayer is that which takes place in the secret of conscience, of the heart: inscrutable, visible only to God. I and God. It shuns falsehood: with God it is impossible to pretend. It is impossible, before God there is no trick that has power, God knows us so, naked in the conscience, and pretend we can not. At the root of dialogue with God there is a silent dialogue, like the crossing of glances between two people who love each other: man and God meet the eyes, and this is prayer. To look at God and to allow oneself to be looked at from God: this is to pray. "But, father, I do not say words ...". Look at God and let yourself be watched by Him: it is a prayer, a beautiful prayer!
Yet, although the disciple's prayer is all confidential, it never expires in intimism. In the secret of conscience, the Christian does not leave the world outside the door of his room, but he carries in his heart people and situations, problems, so many things, all of them carry in prayer.
There is an impressive absence in the text of "Our Father". If I ask you what is the awesome absence in the text of "Our Father"? It will not be easy to answer. A word is missing. Think of all: what is missing in "our Father"? Think, what is missing? A word. A word that in our time - but perhaps always - all hold in high esteem. What is the word that is missing in the "Our Father" that we pray every day? To save time I will say it: the word "I" is missing. Never says "I". Jesus teaches us to pray, having the "You" on our lips, because Christian prayer is dialogue: "may your name be sanctified, your kingdom come, your will be done". Not my name, my kingdom, my will. Not me, it's not right. And then it goes to "us". The whole second part of the "Our Father" is declined to the first plural person: "Give us our daily bread, forgive us our debts, do not abandon us to temptation, deliver us from evil". Even the most basic human questions - such as having food to quench hunger - are all plural. In Christian prayer, no one asks for bread for himself: give me the bread of today, no, give us, begs him for all, for all the poor of the world. We must not forget this, the word "I" is missing. Please with the you and with us. It is a good teaching of Jesus, do not forget it.
Why? Because there is no room for individualism in dialogue with God. There is no ostentation of one's problems as if we were the only ones in the world to suffer. There is no high prayer to God that is not the prayer of a community of brothers and sisters, we: we are in community, we are brothers and sisters, we are a people that prays, "we". Once the prison chaplain asked me a question: "Tell me, father, what is the word contrary to 'I'?". And I, naive, I said: "You". "This is the beginning of the war. The word opposite to 'I' is 'us', where there is peace, all together ". It is a beautiful teaching I received from that priest.
In prayer, a Christian brings all the difficulties of the people who live next to him: when he comes down in the evening, he tells God about the pains he has encountered on that day; he puts before him many faces, friends and even hostiles; he does not drive them away as dangerous distractions. If one does not realize that there are so many people around him that are suffering, if he does not pity the tears of the poor, if he is addicted to everything, then it means that his heart ... how is it? Wilted? No, worse: it is made of stone. In this case it is good to beg the Lord to touch us with his Spirit and soften our heart: "Touch my heart, O Lord". It is a beautiful prayer: "Lord, soften my heart, so that I can understand and take charge of all the problems, all the pains of others". Christ did not pass unharmed by the miseries of the world: whenever he perceived a loneliness, a pain of the body or the spirit, he felt a strong sense of compassion, like a mother's womb. This "feeling compassion" - let us not forget this very Christian word: feeling compassion - is one of the key verbs of the Gospel: it is what drives the good Samaritan to approach the wounded man on the roadside, unlike others who have the hard heart.