Today we conclude the series of catecheses on the “Our Father.” We can say that Christian prayer is born of the audacity to call God with the name of “Father.” It’s not so much a formula as it is a filial intimacy, in which we are introduced by grace: Jesus is the Revealer of the Father and He grants us familiarity with Him. “He doesn’t leave us a formula to repeat mechanically. As with any vocal prayer, it’s through the Word of God that the Holy Spirit teaches God’s children to pray to their Father” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2766). Jesus himself used different expressions to pray to the Father. If we read the Gospels attentively, we discover that these expressions of prayer that appear on Jesus’ lips recall the text of the “Our Father.”
On the night of Gethsemane, Jesus prays this way: “Abba! Father! All things are possible to Thee; remove this cup from me; yet not what I will, but what Thou wilt” (Mark 14:36). We have already recalled this text of Mark’s Gospel. How can we not recognize in this prayer, though brief, a trace of the “Our Father”? Amid the darkness, Jesus invoked God with the name of “Abba,” with filial trust and, although feeling fear and anguish, asks that His will be done. In other passages of the Gospel, Jesus stresses to His disciples that they must cultivate a spirit of prayer. Prayer must be insistent, and it must include above all remembrance of brothers, especially when we experience difficult relations with them. Jesus says: “And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against any one; so that your Father also who is in Heaven may forgive you your trespasses” (Mark 11:25). How can we not recognize in these expressions the assonance with the “Our Father”? And the examples could be numerous.
We don’t find the text of the “Our Father” in Saint Paul’s writings, but its presence emerges in that stupendous synthesis where the Christian’s invocation is condensed in one word: “Abba!” (Cf. Romans 8:15; Galatians 4:6).
In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus satisfies fully the disciples’ request who, seeing Him often going apart and immersing Himself in prayer, one day decide to ask Him: “Lord, teach us to pray, as John — the Baptist — taught his disciples” (11:1). And then the Master taught them the prayer to the Father.
Considering the New Testament as a whole, seeing clearly is that the first protagonist of every Christian prayer is the Holy Spirit, who breathes in the heart of the disciple. The Spirit makes us able to pray as children of God, which we really are by Baptism. The Spirit makes us pray in the “furrow” that Jesus has dug for us. This is the mystery of Christian prayer: by grace we are attracted in that dialogue of love of the Most Holy Trinity.
Jesus prays thus. Sometimes He used expressions that are certainly very far from the text of the “Our Father.” We think of the initial words of Psalm 22, which Jesus pronounces on the cross: “My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46). Can the heavenly Father forsake His Son? Certainly not. Yet love for us, sinners, lead Jesus to this point: to the point of experiencing God’s abandonment, His distance. However, in the anguished cry there also remains the “My God, my God.” In that “my” is the nucleus of the relationship with the Father, there is the nucleus of faith and of prayer.
See why, a Christian can pray from this nucleus in every situation. He can assume all the prayers of the Bible, of the Psalms especially; but he can also pray with many expressions that in millennia of history welled from men’s heart. And we never cease to tell the Father about our brothers and sisters in humanity, so that none of them, the poor especially, is without a consolation and a portion of love.
At the end of this catechesis, we can repeat that prayer of Jesus: “I thank Thee, Father, Lord of Heaven and earth, that Thou hast hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to babes” (Luke 10:21).
I greet the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors taking part in today’s Audience, especially those from England, Belgium, Tanzania, New Zealand, China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam, Canada and the United States of America. In the joy of the Risen Christ, I invoke upon you and your families the loving mercy of God our Father. May the Lord bless you all!