(CNA) Jesus has transformed the human experience of prayer, Pope Francis said at the general audience Wednesday.
Speaking via livestream due to the coronavirus crisis, the pope said May 13 that thanks to Jesus, Christians can approach God without fear, addressing him as “Father.”
“Christianity has banished from the bond with God any ‘feudal’ relationship. In the heritage of our faith there are no expressions such as subjection, slavery or vassalage; rather words such as covenant, friendship, promise, communion, closeness,” he said.
In his address from the library of the Apostolic Palace, the pope continued his cycle of catechesis on prayer, which he began last week.
He noted that prayer is practiced by “people of every religion, and probably also to those who profess none.” It is born in what spiritual writers call “the heart,” our innermost being.
“To pray, then, in us is not something peripheral. It is not some secondary and marginal faculty of ours, but it is the most intimate mystery of ourselves. It is this mystery that prays,” he said.
Prayer, he continued, leads us beyond ourselves. It is the voice of an “I” searching for a “You”.
He said: “The prayer of the Christian is born instead from a revelation: the ‘You’ has not remained shrouded in mystery, but has entered into a relationship with us. Christianity is the religion that continuously celebrates the ‘manifestation’ of God, that is, his epiphany.”
He reflected on Jesus’ speech to his disciples at the Last Supper in which he addresses them as “friends,” saying: “It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name he may give you” (John 15:16).
The pope commented: “But this is a blank cheque: ‘Whatever you ask of my Father in my name, I give you’!”
“God is the friend, the ally, the bridegroom. In prayer, one can establish a relationship of confidence with Him, so much so that in the ‘Our Father’ Jesus taught us to ask Him a series of questions,” he said.
“We can ask God everything, everything; explain everything, tell everything. It does not matter if in our relationship with God we feel at fault: we are not good friends, we are not grateful children, we are not faithful spouses. He continues to love us.”
He noted that Jesus showed this definitively at the Last Supper when he said “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which will be shed for you” (Luke 22:20).
“In that gesture Jesus anticipates in the Upper Room the mystery of the Cross. God is a faithful ally: if men stop loving, He continues to love, even if love leads him to Calvary. God is always close to the door of our heart and waits for us to open it to him,” he said.
“And sometimes he knocks on the heart, but he is not intrusive: he waits. God’s patience with us is the patience of a father, of one who loves us so much. I’d say, it’s the patience of a father and a mother together. Always close to our heart, and when he knocks, he does it with tenderness and with a lot of love.”
He concluded: “Let's all try praying like this, entering into the mystery of the Covenant. To put ourselves in prayer in God's merciful arms, to feel enveloped by that mystery of happiness which is the Trinitarian life, to feel like guests who did not deserve so much honor. And to repeat to God, in the amazement of prayer: is it possible that you know only love?”
“He does not know hate. He is hated, but He does not know hate. He knows only love. This is the God we pray to. This is the incandescent core of all Christian prayer. The God of love, our Father who awaits and accompanies us.”
In his greetings to different language groups after his catechesis, the pope noted that May 13 is the feast of Our Lady of Fatima, as well as the anniversary of the attempted assassination of St. John Paul II in St. Peter’s Square in 1981.
Addressing Polish Catholics, he said: “In our prayer we ask God, through the intercession of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, for peace for the world, the end of the pandemic, the spirit of penance and our conversion.”