Pope Francis Explains "The proof of prayer is the real love of one’s neighbour." FULL TEXT + Video


Paul VI Audience Hall
Wednesday, 7 October 2020


Catechesis “Healing the world”: 9. Elijah's prayer

Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!

Let us resume today our catechesis on prayer, which we have interrupted for the catechesis on the care of creation, and which we will now resume; and let us meet one of the most compelling characters in the whole of Sacred Scripture: the prophet Elijah. He goes beyond the confines of his time, and we can also see his presence in some episodes of the Gospel. He appeared at Jesus' side, together with Moses, at the moment of the Transfiguration (cf. Mt 17:3). Jesus Himself refers to him to give credit to the testimony of John the Baptist (cf. Mt 17:10-13).

In the Bible, Elijah appears suddenly, in a mysterious way, coming from a small village that is completely marginal (cf. 1 Kings 17:1); and in the end he leaves the scene, under the eyes of the disciple Elisha, on a chariot of fire that takes him to heaven (cf. 2 Kings 2:11-12). He is therefore a man without a precise origin, and above all without an end, taken up into heaven: for this reason his return was expected before the coming of the Messiah, as a precursor. In this way the return of Elijah was awaited.

Scripture presents Elijah as a man of crystalline faith: his very name, which may mean “Yahweh is God”, encloses the secret of his mission. He will be like this for the rest of his life: a man of integrity, incapable of petty compromises. His symbol is fire, the image of God's purifying power. He will be the first to be put to the test, and he will remain faithful. He is the example of all people of faith who know temptation and suffering, but do not fail to live up to the ideal for which they were born.

Prayer is the lifeblood that constantly nourishes his existence. For this reason, he is one of those most dear to the monastic tradition, so much so that some have elected him as the spiritual father of the life consecrated to God. Elijah is the man of God, who stands as a defender of the primacy of the Most High. And yet, he too is forced to come to terms with his own frailties. It is difficult to say which experiences were most useful to him: the defeat of the false prophets on Mount Carmel (cf. 1 Kings 18:20-40), or his bewilderment in which he finds that he is “no better than [his] ancestors” (see 1 Kings 19:4). In the soul of those who pray, the sense of their own weakness is more precious than moments of exaltation, when it seems that life is a series of victories and successes. This always happens in prayer: moments of prayer that we feel lift us up, even of enthusiasm, and moments of prayer of pain, aridity, trial. This is what prayer is: letting ourselves be carried by God, and also letting ourselves be struck by unpleasant situations and even temptations. This is a reality found in many other biblical vocations, even in the New Testament; think, for example, of St Peter and St Paul. Their lives were like this too: moments of exultation and moments of low spirits, of suffering.

Elijah is the man of contemplative life and, at the same time, of active life, preoccupied with the events of his time, capable of clashing with the king and queen after they had Nabot killed to take possession of his vineyard (cf. 1 Kings 21:1-24). How much we are in need of believers, of zealous Christians, who act before people who have managerial responsibility with the courage of Elijah, to say, “This must not be done! This is murder!”. We need Elijah’s spirit. He shows us that there should be no dichotomy in the life of those who pray: one stands before the Lord and goes towards the brothers to whom He sends us. Prayer is not about locking oneself up with the Lord to make one’s soul appear beautiful: no, this is not prayer, this is false prayer. Prayer is a confrontation with God, and letting oneself be sent to serve one’s brothers and sisters. The proof of prayer is the real love of one’s neighbour. And vice versa: believers act in the world after having first kept silent and prayed; otherwise, their action is impulsive, it is devoid of discernment, it is rushing without a destination. Believers behave in this way, they do so many injustices because they did not go to pray to the Lord first, to discern what they must do.

The pages of the Bible suggest that Elijah's faith also made progress: he too grew in prayer, he refined it little by little. The face of God came into focus for him as he walked. He reached his peak in that extraordinary experience, when God manifested Himself to Elijah on the mount (cf. 1 Kings 19:9-13). He manifests himself not in the storm, not in the earthquake or the devouring fire, but in “a light murmuring sound” (v. 12). Or better, a translation that reflects that experience well: in a thread of resounding silence. This is how God manifests Himself to Elijah. It is with this humble sign that God communicates with Elijah, who at that moment is a fugitive prophet who has lost peace. God comes forward to meet a tired man, a man who thought he had failed on all fronts, and with that gentle breeze, with that thread of resounding silence, He brings calm and peace back into the heart.

This is the story of Elijah, but it seems written for all of us. In some evenings we can feel useless and lonely. It is then that prayer will come and knock on the door of our hearts. We can all gather a corner of Elijah's cloak, just as his disciple Elisha collected half his cloak. And even if we have done something wrong, or if we feel threatened and frightened, when we return before God with prayer, serenity and peace will return as if by miracle. This is what the example of Elijah shows us.

Special greetings in Other Languages

I welcome all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors who join us for today’s Audience. Upon you and your families I invoke the joy and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ. God bless you!

 Je suis heureux de saluer les personnes de langue française. Demandons par the intercession de Notre-Dame du Rosaire la grâce d'être des hommes et des femmes intègres et dignes de foi, afin que, dans la prière, le Seigneur rejoigne chacun de nous dans sa vie et him women la paix et la sérénité. Que Dieu vous bénisse!

[I am pleased to greet the French-speaking faithful. We ask, through the intercession of Our Lady of the Rosary, for the grace to be men and women of integrity and worthy of faith, so that, in prayer, the Lord unites each of us in his life and gives us peace and serenity. God bless you!]

I welcome all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors who join us for today’s Audience. Upon you and your families I invoke the joy and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ. God bless you!

[I cordially greet the English-speaking faithful. Upon you and your families I invoke the joy and peace of Christ. God bless you!]

Einen herzlichen Gruß richte ich an die Gläubigen deutscher Sprache, insbesonde an die Jugendlichen aus der Schweiz, welche an der Informationswoche der Päpstlichen Schweizergarde teilnehmen. Das heutige Fest Unserer Lieben Frau vom Rosenkranz erinnert uns daran, wie wichtig das kontemplative Gebet ist. Wenn wir die Geheimnisse des Heiles betrachten, enthüllt sich uns immer mehr das Angesicht der Liebe Gottes selbst, das wir gerufen sind, in Ewigkeit zu schauen. Die Gottesmutter möge uns sicher auf unserem Weg hin zum Herrn führen.

[I address a cordial greeting to the German-speaking faithful, in particular to the young people from Switzerland who are taking part in a learning week on the Pontifical Swiss Guard. Today's feast of the Blessed Virgin of the Rosary reminds us of the importance of contemplative prayer. By meditating on the mysteries of salvation, the face of love of God himself that we are called to contemplate in eternity is revealed more and more. May Our Lady be our sure guide on the path to the Lord.]

I cordially greet los peregrinos de lengua española. Por intercesión de Nuestra Señora del Rosario, el Señor nos conceda crecer en nuestro camino de oración, para vivir en intimidad con Él, y haga que, en medio de este tiempo de pandemia, nuestra vida sea a loving service a todos nuestros hermanos y hermanas , en especial a quienes se sienten abandonados y desprotegidos. Que Dios los bendiga a todos.

Dirijo uma saudação cordial aos peregrinos and ouvintes de língua portuguesa, convidando-vos a tomar or rosário nas mãos todos os dias and erguer or vosso olhar para Nossa Senhora, sinal de consolação and esperança segura. Que a Virgem Santa ilumine e proteja toda a peregrinação da vossa vida até à Casa do Pai! Obrigado.

[I address a cordial greeting to the Portuguese-speaking pilgrims and listeners and I invite you to take the rosary in your hand every day and to raise your gaze to Our Lady, a sign of consolation and sure hope. May the Holy Virgin enlighten and protect the entire pilgrimage of your life to the Father's House! Thank you.]

أُحيّي المؤمنينَ الناطقينَ باللغةِ العربية. نحتفلُ الية بعيدِ سيّدةِ الورديّةِ المقدّسة. أَدعوكُم أن تُصلوا مسبحةَ الورديّة وأن تحملوها بين أيديكم أو في جيوبِكم. إن تلاوة المسبحة الوردية هي أجمل صلاة يمكن أن نقدمها لمريم العذراء, وهي تأمل في مراحل حياة يسوع المخلص مع أمه مريم, وهي سلاح يحمينا من الشرور والتجارب. ليباركْكُم الرّبُّ جميعًا!

[I greet the Arabic-speaking faithful. Today we celebrate the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary. I invite you to pray the rosary, and to carry it in your hands or in your pockets. The recitation of the rosary is the most beautiful prayer we can offer to the Virgin Mary; it is a contemplation on the stages of the life of Jesus the Savior with his Mother Mary and is a weapon that protects us from evils and temptations. God bless you all!]

Serdeczne pozdrowienie kieruję do Polaków. Dzisiaj obchodzimy wspomnienie Najświętszej Maryi Panny Różańcowej. Matka Boża w swych objawieniach często wzywała ludzi do odmawiania Różańca, zwłaszcza w obliczu zagrożeń dla świata. Także dzisiaj, w tym czasie pandemii, koniecznie musimy trzymać w naszych dłoniach różaniec, modląc się za siebie, za swoich bliskich i za wszystkich ludzi. Zawierzam was Królowej Różańca Świętego i z serca wszystkim błogosławię.

[I extend a cordial greeting to all Poles. Today we celebrate the memory of the Blessed Virgin Mary of the Rosary. Our Lady in her apparitions often exhorted the recitation of the Rosary, especially in the face of threats looming over the world. Even today, in this time of pandemic, it is necessary to hold the rosary in our hands, praying for us, for our loved ones and for all men. I entrust you all to the Queen of the Rosary and I cordially bless you.]

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I address a cordial greeting to the Italian-speaking faithful. Today is the feast of the Madonna del Rosario. I invite everyone to rediscover, especially during this month of October, the beauty of the prayer of the Rosary, which has nourished the faith of the Christian people through the centuries.

Finally, my thoughts go, as usual, to the elderly, young people, the sick and newlyweds: they are there, aren't they? Are there still brave ones? I entrust you to the maternal protection of the Virgin Mary, Mother of Christ and our mother, so that each one may be a joyful witness of Christ's charity.