When I Pray 'Father', It Gets to Roots of My Christian Identity, Says Pope
Author: Kathleen Naab | Source: ZENIT (https://zenit.org)
(ZENIT, Vatican City, June 16, 2016).- The Gospel of today’s Mass recounts Jesus teaching his disciples the “Our Father” prayer, and Pope Francis’ reflections on this prayer this morning during his homily at Casa Santa Marta are a good preparation for this weekend’s celebration of Father’s Day in many countries.
According to Vatican Radio, the Pope noted that Jesus always used the word “Father” in the most important or challenging moments of his life, saying our Father “knows the things we need, before we even ask Him.” He is a Father who listens to us in secret just like Jesus advised us to pray in secret.
“It’s through this Father that we receive our identity as children. And when I say ‘Father’ this goes right to the roots of my identity: my Christian identity is to be his child and this is a grace of the Holy Spirit. Nobody can say ‘Father’ without the grace of the Spirit. ‘Father’ is the word that Jesus used in the most important moments: when he was full of joy, or emotion: ‘Father, I bless you for revealing these things to little children.’ Or weeping, in front of the tomb of his friend Lazarus: ‘Father, I thank you for hearing my prayer,’ or else at the end, in the final moments of his life, right at the very end.”
The Holy Father reflected that “unless we feel that we are his children [and] without considering ourselves as his children, without saying ‘Father,’ our prayer is a pagan one, it’s just a prayer of words.”
The Pontiff said that this prayer taught by Jesus should be the cornerstone of our prayer life.
If we are not able to begin our prayer with this word, he warned, “our prayer will go nowhere.”
“’Father.’ It’s about feeling that our Father is looking at me, feeling that this word ‘Father’ is not a waste of time like the words in the prayers of pagans: it’s a call to Him who gave me my identity as his child. This is the dimension of Christian prayer – ‘Father’ and we can pray to all the saints, the angels, we can go on processions, pilgrimages … all of this is wonderful but we must always begin (our prayers) with ‘Father’ and be aware that we are his children and that we have a Father who loves us and who knows all our needs. This is that dimension,” the Pope said.
Brothers and sisters
Francis said that the part of the prayer about forgiving trespasses springs from this same certainty, since we are all brothers and sisters of the same family.
Rather than behaving like Cain who hated his own brother, he said, it’s so important for us to forgive, to forget offences against us, that healthy attitude of saying ‘let’s forget this’ and not harbour feelings of rancour, resentment or a desire for revenge.
“It’s good for us to sometimes examine our own consciences on this point,” he said. “For me, is God my Father? Do I feel that He is my Father? And if I don’t feel that, let me ask the Holy Spirit to teach me to feel that way. And am I able to forget offences, to forgive, to let go of it, and if not, let us ask the Father: ‘these people too are your children, they did something horrible to me … can you help me to forgive them?’ Let us carry out this examination of our consciences and it will do us a lot of good, good, good. ‘Father’ and ‘our’: give us our identity as his children and give us a family to journey with during our lives.”