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Wednesday, June 7, 2017

God’s Fatherhood, the Source of Our Hope

The Holy Father’s Catechesis

Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!

There was something fascinating in Jesus’ prayer, so fascinating that one day His disciples asked to be introduced to it. The episode is found in Luke’s Gospel, who is, among the Evangelists, the one who in the main has documented the mystery of the “praying” Christ: the Lord prayed. Jesus’ disciples were impressed by the fact that He would withdraw in solitude and “immerse” Himself in prayer, especially in the morning and in the evening. Therefore, one day they asked Him to teach them also to pray (Cf. Luke 11:1).

And it was then that Jesus transmitted what became the Christian prayer par excellence: the “Our Father.” In truth, Luke, in regard to Matthew, gives us Jesus’ prayer in a somewhat abbreviated form, which begins with the simple invocation: “Father” (v. 2).

All the mystery of Christian prayer is summarized here, in this word: to have the courage to call God with the name of Father. The liturgy also affirms it when, inviting us to recite Jesus’ communal prayer, used the expression “we dare to say.”

In fact, to call God with the name of “Father” is not in any way a fact taken for granted. We would have been led to use the highest titles, which seem to us more respectful of his transcendence.

Instead, to invoke Him as “Father” puts us in a relationship of confidence with Him, as a child who turns to his father, knowing that he is loved and cared for by him. This is the great revolution that Christianity imprints in man’s religious psychology. The mystery of God, which always fascinates us and makes us feel small, does not, however, make us more afraid, it does not crush us; it does not make us anxious. This is a difficult revolution to receive in our human mind, so true is this that even in the accounts of the Resurrection it is said that the women, after seeing the empty tomb and the Angel, “they went out and fled [. . .] for trembling and astonishment had come upon them” (Mark 16:8). However, Jesus reveals to us that God is a good Father, and he says to us: “Do not be afraid!”

We think of the parable of the merciful father (Cf. Luke 11-32). Jesus talks of a father who has only love for his children. A father who does not punish his son for his arrogance and who is even capable of entrusting to him his part of the inheritance and of letting him leave the home. God is Father, says Jesus, but not in the human way, because there is no father in this world who would behave as the protagonist of this parable. God is Father in His way: good, vulnerable before man’s free will, capable only of conjugating the verb “To love.” When the rebellious son, after having squandered everything, finally returns to his childhood home, that father does not apply criteria of human justice, but feels first of all the need to forgive, and with his embrace he makes his son understand that in all that long time of absence he failed, he painfully failed his father’s love.

What an unfathomable mystery is a God who has this type of love in his dealings with his children! Perhaps it is for this reason that, evoking the center of the Christian mystery, the Apostle Paul did not feel like translating into Greek a word that Jesus pronounced in Aramaic: ”abba.” Twice in his Letters (Cf. Romans 8:15; Galatians 4:6) Saint Paul touches upon this subject, and twice he leaves that word un-translated, in the same way in which it flowered on Jesus’ lips, “abba.” An even more intimate term than “father,” and that some translate “daddy, babbo [Italian way of saying ‘daddy’].”

Dear brothers and sisters, we are never alone. We can be far, hostile; we can even say we are “without God.” But Jesus Christ’s Gospel reveals to us that God cannot be without us: He will never be a God “without man”; it is He who cannot be without us, and this is a great mystery! God cannot be God without man: this is a great mystery! And this certainty is the source of our hope, which we find kept in all the invocations of the Our Father, When we are in need of help, Jesus does not tell us to be resigned and to shut ourselves in ourselves, but to turn to the Father and to ask Him with trust. All our needs, the most evident and daily as food, health, work to that of being forgiven and sustained in temptations, are not the mirror of our solitude: instead, there is a Father who always looks at us with love, and who certainly does not abandon us.

Now I propose something to you: every one of us has so many problems, so many needs. Let us think, a bit, in silence, of these problems and these needs. We also think of the Father, of our Father, who cannot be without us, and who is looking at us at this moment. And all together, with trust and hope, we pray: “Our Father, Who art in Heaven . . .”

Thank you!

[Original text: Italian] [Translation by Virginia M. Forester]

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