Audiences 2005-2013 14121

Wednesday, 14 December 2011 - The prayer of Jesus linked to His miraculous healing action

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today I would like to reflect with you on the prayer of Jesus linked to his miraculous healing action. Various situations are presented in the Gospels in which Jesus prays while he contemplates the beneficial and healing work of God the Father who acts through him. This is a form of prayer which, once again, demonstrates his unique relationship of knowledge and communion with the Father, while Jesus lets himself be involved with deep human participation in the hardships of his friends, for example, those of Lazarus and his family or of the many poor and sick people to whom he seeks to give practical help.

A significant case is the healing of the deaf mute (cf.
Mc 7,32-37). Mark the Evangelist’s account — that we have just heard — shows that Jesus’ healing action is connected with the intense relationship he had both with his neighbour — the sick man — and with the Father. The scene of the miracle is described carefully, in these words: “taking him aside from the multitude privately, he put his fingers into his ears, and he spat and touched his tongue; and looking up to heaven, he sighed, and said to him, ‘Ephphatha’, that is ‘Be opened’” (Mc 7,33-34).

Jesus wanted the healing to take place “aside from the multitude”. This does not seem to be due solely to the fact that the miracle must be kept hidden from people to prevent them from making any restrictive or distorted interpretation of the Person of Jesus. The decision to take the sick man aside ensures that at the moment of his healing Jesus and the deaf mute are on their own, brought together in a unique relationship. With a single gesture the Lord touches the sick man’s ears and tongue, that is, the specific sites of his infirmity. The intensity of Jesus’ attention is also demonstrated in the unusual treatment that was part of the healing. He uses his fingers and even his saliva. And the fact that the Evangelist records the original word spoken by the Lord, ‘Ephphatha’, in other words, “be opened”, highlights the unusual character of the scene.

The central point of this episode however is the fact that when Jesus, was about to work the healing, he directly sought his relationship with the Father. Indeed the account relates that “looking up to heaven, he sighed” (Mc 7,34). Jesus’ attention and treatment of the sick man are linked by a profound attitude of prayer addressed to God. Moreover, his sighing is described with a verb which, in the New Testament, indicates the aspiration to something good which is still lacking (cf. Rm 8,23).

Thus, as a whole, the narrative shows that it was his human involvement with the sick man that prompted Jesus to pray. His unique relationship with the Father and his identity as the Only Begotten Son surface once again. God’s healing and beneficial action become present in him, through his Person. It is not by chance that the people’s last remark after the miracle has been performed is reminiscent of the evaluation of the Creation at the beginning of the Book of Genesis: “He has done all things well” (Mc 7,37). Prayer clearly entered the healing action of Jesus as he looked up to heaven. The power that healed the deaf mute was certainly elicited by compassion for him but came from recourse to the Father. These two relationships interact: the human relationship of compassion with the man enters into the relationship with God, and thus becomes healing.

In the Johannine narrative of the raising of Lazarus this same dynamic is testified by an even greater proof (cf. Jn 11,1-44) Here too are interwoven, on the one hand, Jesus’ bond with a friend and with his suffering and, on the other, his filial relationship with the Father. Jesus’ human participation in Lazarus’ case has some special features. His friendship with Lazarus is repeatedly mentioned throughout the account, as well as his relationship with Martha and Mary, the sisters of Lazarus. Jesus himself says: “our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I go to awake him out of sleep” (Jn 11,11).

Jesus’ sincere affection for his friend is also highlighted by Lazarus’ sisters, as well as by the Jews (cf. Jn 11,3 Jn 11,36). It is expressed in Jesus’ deep distress at seeing the grief of Martha and Mary and of all Lazarus’ friends and he finds relief by bursting into tears — so profoundly human — on approaching the tomb: “When Jesus saw her [Martha] weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled; and he said, ‘Where have you laid him?’. They said to him, ‘Lord, come and see’. Jesus wept” (Jn 11,33-35).

This bond of friendship and Jesus’ participation and distress at the sorrow of Lazarus’ relatives and acquaintances, is connected throughout the narrative to a continuous, intense relationship with the Father. The event, from the outset, is interpreted by Jesus in relation to his own identity and mission and to the glorification that awaits him. In fact on hearing of Lazarus’ illness he commented: “The illness is not unto death; it is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified by means of it” (Jn 11,4).

Jesus also hears the news of his friend’s death with deep human sadness but always with a clear reference to his relationship with God and with the mission that God has entrusted to him; he says: “Lazarus is dead; and for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe” (Jn 11,14-15). The moment of Jesus’ explicit prayer to the Father at the tomb was the natural outlet for all that had happened, which took place in the double key of his friendship with Lazarus and his filial relationship with God.

Here too, the two relationships go hand in hand. “And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, ‘Father, I thank you that you have heard me’” (Jn 11,41): it was a eucharist.The sentence shows that Jesus did not cease, even for an instant, his prayer of petition for Lazarus’ life. This prayer continued, indeed, it reinforced his ties with his friend and, at the same time strengthened Jesus’ decision to remain in communion with the Father’s will, with his plan of love in which Lazarus’ illness and death were to be considered as a place for the manifestation of God’s glory.

Dear brothers and sisters, in reading this account each one of us is called to understand that in our prayers of petition to the Lord we must not expect an immediate fulfilment of what we ask, of our own will. Rather, we must entrust ourselves to the Father’s will, interpreting every event in the perspective of his glory, of his plan of love, which to our eyes is often mysterious. For this reason we too must join in our prayers, petitions, praise and thanksgiving, even when it seems to us that God is not responding to our real expectations.

Abandoning ourselves to God’s love which always precedes and accompanies us is one of the basic attitudes for our dialogue with him. On Jesus’ prayer in the account of the raising of Lazarus the Catechism of the Catholic Church comments: “Jesus' prayer, characterized by thanksgiving, reveals to us how to ask: before the gift is given, Jesus commits himself to the One who in giving gives himself. The Giver is more precious than the gift; he is the ‘treasure’; in him abides his Son's heart; the gift is given ‘as well’ (cf. Mt 6,21)” (CEC 2604). To me this seems very important: before the gift is given, committing ourselves to the One who gives. The Giver is more precious than the gift. For us too, therefore, over and above what God bestows on us when we call on him, the greatest gift that he can give us is his friendship, his presence and his love. He is the precious treasure to ask for and to preserve for ever.

The prayer that Jesus prays as the rock was rolled away from the entrance to Lazarus’ tomb thus has a special and unexpected development. In fact, after thanking God the Father, he adds: “I knew that you hear me always, but I have said this on account of the people standing by, that they may believe that you sent me” (Jn 11,42). With his prayer Jesus wanted to lead people back to faith, to total trust in God and in his will. And he wanted to show that this God who so loved man and the world that he gave his Only Begotten Son (cf. Jn 3,16). He is the God of Life, the God who brings hope and can reverse humanly impossible situations. Therefore a believer’s trusting prayer is a living testimony of God’s presence in the world, of his concern for humankind, of his action with a view to bringing about his plan of salvation.

Jesus’ two prayers on which we have meditated just now and which accompany the healing of the deaf mute and the raising of Lazarus, reveal that the deep connection between the love of God and love of one’s neighbour must also come into our own prayer.

In Jesus, true God and true man, attention to others, especially if they are needy and suffering, compassion at the sight of the sorrow of a family who were his friends, led him to address the Father in that fundamental relationship which directed his entire life. However, the opposite is also true: communion with the Father, constant dialogue with him, spurred Jesus to be uniquely attentive to practical human situations so as to bring God’s comfort and love to them. Human relationships lead us toward the relationship with God, and the relationship with God leads us back to our neighbour.

Dear brothers and sisters, our prayer opens the door to God who teaches us to come out of ourselves constantly, to make us capable of being close to others to bring them comfort, hope and light, especially at moments of trial. May the Lord grant us to be capable of increasingly more intense prayer, in order to strengthen our personal relationship with God the Father, to open our heart to the needs of those beside us and to feel the beauty of being “sons in the Son”, together with a great many brothers and sisters. Many thanks.

To special groups:

I offer a warm welcome to all the English-speaking visitors present, including the groups from Vietnam, Nigeria and the United States. As we prepare to celebrate the Saviour’s birth at Christmas, I cordially invoke upon you and your families his abundant blessings of joy and peace!

I greet and thank all those who have sponsored, funded and undertaken the restoration of the famous sculpture called “The Resurrection” by Maestro Pericle Fazzini, which the Servant of God Paul VI commissioned for this Hall and which you can see in front of you. After a period of painstaking labour, today we have the joy of admiring this work of art and faith in all its original splendour.

Lastly, my thoughts turn to the young people, the sick and the newlyweds.I hope that you, dear young people, will prepare your hearts to welcome Jesus who saves us with the power of his love. Dear sick people who are feeling increasingly the burden of the Cross, may the forthcoming Christmas celebrations bring you serenity and comfort. And may you, dear newlyweds, grow increasingly in that love which Jesus came to bring us in his Nativity.

Paul VI Audience Hall

Wednesday, 21 December 2011 - Holy Christmas

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I am glad to welcome you at the General Audience a few days before the celebration of the Lord’s Birth. The greeting on everyone’s lips in these days is “Happy Christmas! Best wishes for the Christmas festivities!”. Let us ensure that in today’s society too the exchange of good wishes does not lose its profound religious value and that the feast is not emptied by the exterior aspects which pluck at our heartstrings. The external signs are of course beautiful and important, as long as they do not distract us but rather help us to live Christmas in its truest sense, as sacred and Christian, so that our joy too may not be superficial but profound.

With the Christmas liturgy the Church ushers us into the great Mystery of the Incarnation. Christmas, in fact, is not merely an anniversary of Jesus’ Birth; it is also this, but it is more, it is celebrating a mystery that has marked and continues to mark human history. God himself came to dwell among us (cf.
Jn 1,14), he made himself one of us. It is a mystery that concerns our faith and our life; a mystery that we actually experience in the liturgical celebrations, and, in particular, in Holy Mass. Some people might ask themselves: how is it possible for me to experience this event today that happened so long ago? How can I participate fruitfully in the Birth of the Son of God that occurred more than 2,000 years ago?

In Holy Mass on Christmas Night we shall repeat these words in the refrain of the Responsorial Psalm: “Today is born our Saviour, Christ the Lord”. This adverb of time, “today”, recurs several times throughout the Christmas celebrations and is applied to the event of the Birth of Jesus and to the salvation that the Incarnation of the Son of God comes to bring us. In the liturgy this event goes beyond the limits of time and space and becomes real, becomes present; its effect endures, even with the passing of days, years and centuries. In pointing out that Jesus is born “today”, the liturgy is not using a meaningless sentence but stresses that this Birth invests and permeates the whole of history and that today too it remains a reality we can attain in the liturgy itself.

For us believers the celebration of Christmas renews our certainty that God is really present with us, still “flesh” and not far away: although he is with the Father he is close to us. In the Child born in Bethlehem God came close to man: we can still encounter him now, in a “today” on which the sun never sets.

I would like to insist on this point because people of today, people of the “tangible”, of what can be experienced empirically, are finding it ever harder to open their horizons and enter the world of God. Of course, humanity’s redemption happened at a precise and identifiable moment in history: in the manifestation of Jesus of Nazareth; but Jesus is the Son of God, he is God himself, who not only has spoken to man, showed him miraculous signs and guided him throughout the history of salvation, but also became man and remains man.

The Eternal One entered the limits of time and space to make the encounter with him possible “today”. The liturgical texts of Christmas help us to understand that the events of salvation brought about by Christ are always up to date and concern every person and all people. When in the liturgical celebrations we hear or proclaim: “today is born our Saviour”, we are not using an empty, conventional expression. Rather, we mean that God is offering to us “today”, now, to me, to each one of us, the possibility of recognizing and welcoming him, as did the shepherds in Bethlehem, so that he may also be born in our lives and renew, illuminate and transform them by his Grace and by his Presence.

Therefore, while Christmas commemorates the Birth of Jesus in the flesh from the Virgin Mary — and many liturgical texts bring one episode or another to life before our eyes — it is an effective event for us. Pope St Leo the Great, in presenting the profound meaning of the Feast of Christmas invited his faithful with these words: “Let us be glad in the Lord, dearly-beloved, and rejoice with spiritual joy that there has dawned for us the day of ever-new redemption, of ancient preparation, of eternal bliss. For as the year rolls round, there recurs for us the commemoration of our salvation, which promised from the beginning, accomplished in the fullness of time will endure for ever” (Sermo 22, In Nativitate Domini, 2, 1: PL 54, 193).

And, St Leo the Great also said in another of his Christmas sermons: “Today the Maker of the world was born of a Virgin’s womb, and he, who made all natures, became Son of her, whom he created. Today the Word of God appeared clothed in flesh, and that which had never been visible to human eyes began to be tangible to our hands as well. Today the shepherds learned from angels’ voices that the Saviour was born in the substance of our flesh and soul” (Sermo 26, In Nativitate Domini, 6, 1: PL 54, 213).

There is a second aspect that I would like to mention briefly: the event of Bethlehem must be considered in the light of the Paschal Mystery; they are both part of Christ’s one work of redemption. Jesus’ Incarnation and Birth are already an invitation to us to direct our gaze to his death and his Resurrection. Christmas and Easter are both feasts of redemption. Easter celebrates it as a victory over sin and death; it marks the final moment when the glory of the Man-God shines out like the light of day. Christmas celebrates it as God’s entry into history, his becoming man in order to restore mankind to God. It marks, so to speak, the initial moment when we see the first gleam of dawn.

However just as daybreak precedes and heralds the light of the day, so Christmas already proclaims the Cross and the glory of the Resurrection. And the two seasons of the year in which the two great feasts are placed, at least in some parts of the world, can help us understand this aspect. Indeed, whereas Easter comes at the beginning of Spring, when the sun dispels the thick, cold fog and renews the face of the earth, Christmas falls at the very beginning of Winter, when the sun’s light and warmth do not succeed in reawakening nature, enveloped in the cold beneath whose pall life is nevertheless pulsating and the victory of the sun and its warmth begins again.

The Church Fathers always interpreted Christ’s Birth in the light of the whole redemptive work which culminates in the Paschal Mystery. The Incarnation of the Son of God not only appears as the beginning and condition for salvation, but as the very presence of the Mystery of our salvation: God is made man, he is born an infant, like us, he takes our flesh to conquer death and sin.

Two important texts of St Basil illustrate this clearly. St Basil said to the faithful: “God takes flesh precisely in order to destroy death that is concealed in it. Just as antidotes to poison neutralize its effects as soon as they are ingested and as the shadows in a house are dispelled by sunlight, so death that held sway over human nature was destroyed by God’s presence. But just as ice in water remains solid as long as night lasts and darkness prevails, it quickly melts in the heat of the sun, so death, that reigned until Christ’s coming, as soon as God the Saviour’s grace appeared and the sun of justice arouse, unable to coexist with life, ‘is swallowed up in victory’ (1Co 15,54)” (Homily on the Birth of Christ, 2: PG 31,1461).

In another text St Basil again formulates this invitation: “Let us celebrate the salvation of the world, the birth of the human race. Today, Adam’s sin has been pardoned. Now we can no longer say “you are dust, and to dust you shall return” (Gn 3,19) but: united to him who came from heaven, you will be admitted to heaven (Homily on the Birth of Christ, 6: PG 31,1473).

In Christmas we find the tenderness and love of God who stoops to our limitations, to our weaknesses, to our sins, and who bends down even to us. St Paul declares that Jesus Christ, “who, though he was in the form of God... emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men” (Ph 2,6-7).

Let us look at the Bethlehem Grotto: God humbled himself to the point of being laid in a manger, already a prelude to the humbling of himself in the hour of his passion. The culmination of the love story between God and man passes through the manger in Bethlehem and the tomb in Jerusalem.

Dear brothers and sisters, let us experience Christmas that is now at hand with joy. Let us experience this wondrous event: the Son of God is born again “today”, God is truly close to each one of us and wants to meet us, he wants to bring us to him. He is the true light that dispels and dissolves the shadows that envelop our life and humanity. Let us experience the Nativity of the Lord contemplating the path of the immense love of God who lifts us up to him through the Mystery of the Incarnation, passion death and resurrection of his Son; for, as St Augustine said, “In [Christ] the divinity of the Only Begotten One was made to share in our mortality, that we might share in his immortality” (Epistola 187, 6. 20: PL 33, 839-840).

Above all let us contemplate and live this Mystery in the celebration of the Eucharist, the heart of Holy Christmas; in it Jesus becomes present in a real way, the true Bread come down from heaven, the true Lamb immolated for our salvation.

I wish all of you and your families a truly Christian celebration of Christmas so that the exchange of greetings on that day may also be an expression of the joy of knowing that God is close to us and wants to accompany us on our journey through life. Many thanks.

To special groups:

I greet all the English-speaking visitors present, including the pilgrimage groups from Singapore and the United States. My special greetings and good wishes go to the Tenth World Congress of the International Association of Maternal and Neonatal Health. My greeting also goes to the primary school children from Korea. I welcome the alumni of the Pontifical North American College who are celebrating their fiftieth anniversary of ordination, and the students of Holy Spirit Seminary in Brisbane, Australia. Upon all of you and your families I invoke God’s abundant blessings. Merry Christmas!

I address a special greeting to the young people, the sick and the newlyweds.Dear young people, especially you, students at the Braucci di Caivano Secondary School, may you draw close to the mystery of Bethlehem with the same sentiments of faith as those of the Virgin Mary; may you be granted, dear sick people, to draw from the Crib that joy and deep peace that Jesus comes to bring to the world; and may you, dear newlyweds, contemplate with perseverance the example of the Holy Family of Nazareth to impress the virtues practised in it on your journey of family life on which you have just set out.

In reciprocating your greetings, I wish everyone a Holy Christmas filled with every good thing.

Paul VI Audience Hall

Wednesday, 28 December 2011 - The Prayer and the Holy Family of Nazareth

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today’s meeting is taking place in the atmosphere of Christmas, imbued with deep joy at the Birth of the Saviour. We have just celebrated this Mystery whose echo ripples through the Liturgy of all these days. It is a Mystery of Light that all people in every era can relive with faith and prayer. It is through prayer itself that we become capable of drawing close to God with intimacy and depth.

Therefore, bearing in mind the theme of prayer that I am developing in the Catecheses in this period, I would therefore like to invite you to reflect today on the way that prayer was part of the life of the Holy Family of Nazareth. Indeed, the house of Nazareth is a school of prayer where one learns to listen, meditate on and penetrate the profound meaning of the manifestation of the Son of God, following the example of Mary, Joseph and Jesus.

The Discourse of the Servant of God Paul VI during his Visit to Nazareth is memorable. The Pope said that at the school of the Holy Family we “understand why we must maintain a spiritual discipline, if we wish to follow the teaching of the Gospel and become disciples of Christ”. He added: “In the first place it teaches us silence. Oh! If only esteem for silence, a wonderful and indispensable spiritual atmosphere, could be reborn within us! Whereas we are deafened by the din, the noise and discordant voices in the frenetic, turbulent life of our time. O silence of Nazareth! Teach us to be steadfast in good thoughts, attentive to our inner life, ready to hear God’s hidden inspiration clearly and the exhortations of true teachers” (Discourse in Nazareth, 5 January 1964).

We can draw various ideas for prayer and for the relationship with God and with the Holy Family from the Gospel narratives of the infancy of Jesus. We can begin with the episode of the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple. St Luke tells how “when the time came for their purification according to the law of Moses”, Mary and Joseph “brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord” (
Lc 2,22). Like every Jewish family that observed the law, Jesus’ parents went to the Temple to consecrate their first-born son to God and to make the sacrificial offering. Motivated by their fidelity to the precepts of the Law, they set out from Bethlehem and went to Jerusalem with Jesus who was only 40 days old. Instead of a year-old lamb they presented the offering of simple families, namely, two turtle doves. The Holy Family’s pilgrimage was one of faith, of the offering of gifts — a symbol of prayer — and of the encounter with the Lord whom Mary and Joseph already perceived in their Son Jesus.

Mary was a peerless model of contemplation of Christ. The face of the Son belonged to her in a special way because he had been knit together in her womb and had taken a human likeness from her. No one has contemplated Jesus as diligently as Mary. The gaze of her heart was already focused on him at the moment of the Annunciation, when she conceived him through the action of the Holy Spirit; in the following months she gradually became aware of his presence, until, on the day of his birth, her eyes could look with motherly tenderness upon the face of her son as she wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in the manger.

Memories of Jesus, imprinted on her mind and on her heart, marked every instant of Mary’s existence. She lived with her eyes fixed on Christ and cherished his every word. St Luke says: “Mary kept all these things, pondering them in her heart” (Lc 2,19) and thus describes Mary’s approach to the Mystery of the Incarnation which was to extend throughout her life: keeping these things, pondering on them in her heart. Luke is the Evangelist who acquaints us with Mary’s heart, with her faith (cf. Lc 1,45), her hope and her obedience (cf. Lc 1,38) and, especially, with her interiority and prayer (cf. Lc 1,46-56), her free adherence to Christ (cf. Lc 1,55).

And all this proceeded from the gift of the Holy Spirit who overshadowed her (cf. Lc 1,35), as he was to come down on the Apostles in accordance with Christ’s promise (cf. Ac 1,8). This image of Mary which St Luke gives us presents Our Lady as a model for every believer who cherishes and compares Jesus’ words with his actions, a comparison which is always progress in the knowledge of Jesus. After Bl. Pope John Paul II’s example (cf. Apostolic Letter Rosarium Virginis Mariae) we can say that the prayer of the Rosary is modelled precisely on Mary, because it consists in contemplating the mysteries of Christ in spiritual union with the Mother of the Lord.

Mary’s ability to live by God’s gaze, is so to speak, contagious. The first to experience this was St Joseph. His humble and sincere love for his betrothed and his decision to join his life to Mary’s attracted and introduced him, “a just man”, (Mt 1,19), to a special intimacy with God. Indeed, with Mary and later, especially, with Jesus, he began a new way of relating to God, accepting him in his life, entering his project of salvation and doing his will. After trustfully complying with the Angel’s instructions “Do not fear to take Mary your wife” (Mt 1,20) — he took Mary to him and shared his life with her; he truly gave the whole of himself to Mary and to Jesus and this led him to perfect his response to the vocation he had received.

As we know, the Gospel has not recorded any of Joseph’s words: his is a silent and faithful, patient and hard-working presence. We may imagine that he too, like his wife and in close harmony with her, lived the years of Jesus’ childhood and adolescence savouring, as it were, his presence in their family.

Joseph fulfilled every aspect of his paternal role. He must certainly have taught Jesus to pray, together with Mary. In particular Joseph himself must have taken Jesus to the Synagogue for the rites of the Sabbath, as well as to Jerusalem for the great feasts of the people of Israel. Joseph, in accordance with the Jewish tradition, would have led the prayers at home both every day — in the morning, in the evening, at meals — and on the principal religious feasts. In the rhythm of the days he spent at Nazareth, in the simple home and in Joseph’s workshop, Jesus learned to alternate prayer and work, as well as to offer God his labour in earning the bread the family needed.

And lastly, there is another episode that sees the Holy Family of Nazareth gathered together in an event of prayer. When Jesus was 12 years old, as we have heard, he went with his parents to the Temple of Jerusalem. This episode fits into the context of pilgrimage, as St Luke stresses: “His parents went to Jerusalem every year at the feast of the Passover. And when he was twelve years old, they went up according to custom” (Lc 2,41-42).

Pilgrimage is an expression of religious devotion that is nourished by and at the same time nourishes prayer. Here, it is the Passover pilgrimage, and the Evangelist points out to us that the family of Jesus made this pilgrimage every year in order to take part in the rites in the Holy City. Jewish families, like Christian families, pray in the intimacy of the home but they also pray together with the community, recognizing that they belong to the People of God, journeying on; and the pilgrimage expresses exactly this state of the People of God on the move. Easter is the centre and culmination of all this and involves both the family dimension and that of liturgical and public worship.

In the episode of the 12-year-old Jesus, the first words of Jesus are also recorded: “How is it that you sought me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” (Lc 2,49). After three days spent looking for him his parents found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions (cf. Lc 2,46). His answer to the question of why he had done this to his father and mother was that he had only done what the Son should do, that is, to be with his Father.

Thus he showed who is the true Father, what is the true home, and that he had done nothing unusual or disobedient. He had stayed where the Son ought to be, that is, with the Father, and he stressed who his Father was.

The term “Father” therefore dominates the tone of this answer and the Christological mystery appears in its entirety. Hence, this word unlocks the mystery, it is the key to the Mystery of Christ, who is the Son, and also the key to our mystery as Christians who are sons and daughters in the Son. At the same time Jesus teaches us to be children by being with the Father in prayer. The Christological mystery, the mystery of Christian existence, is closely linked to, founded on, prayer. Jesus was one day to teach his disciples to pray, telling them: when you pray say “Father”. And, naturally, do not just say the word say it with your life, learn to say it meaningfully with your life. “Father”; and in this way you will be true sons in the Son, true Christians.

It is important at this point, when Jesus was still fully integrated in the life of the Family of Nazareth, to note the resonance that hearing this word “Father” on Jesus’ lips must have had in the hearts of Mary and Joseph. It is also important to reveal, to emphasize, who the Father is, and, with his awareness, to hear this word on the lips of the Only-Begotten Son who, for this very reason, chose to stay on for three days in the Temple, which is the “Father’s house”.

We may imagine that from this time the life of the Holy Family must have been even fuller of prayer since from the heart of Jesus the boy — then an adolescent and a young man — this deep meaning of the relationship with God the Father would not cease to spread and to be echoed in the hearts of Mary and Joseph.

This episode shows us the real situation, the atmosphere of being with the Father. So it was that the Family of Nazareth became the first model of the Church in which, around the presence of Jesus and through his mediation, everyone experiences the filial relationship with God the Father which also transforms interpersonal, human relationships.

Dear friends, because of these different aspects that I have outlined briefly in the light of the Gospel, the Holy Family is the icon of the domestic Church, called to pray together. The family is the domestic Church and must be the first school of prayer. It is in the family that children, from the tenderest age, can learn to perceive the meaning of God, also thanks to the teaching and example of their parents: to live in an atmosphere marked by God’s presence. An authentically Christian education cannot dispense with the experience of prayer. If one does not learn how to pray in the family it will later be difficult to bridge this gap. And so I would like to address to you the invitation to pray together as a family at the school of the Holy Family of Nazareth and thereby really to become of one heart and soul, a true family. Many thanks.

To special groups:

I offer a warm welcome to the students and teachers from the Oak International Academies. Upon all the English-speaking visitors present, including the pilgrimage groups from Ireland, and the United States, I cordially invoke an abundance of joy and peace in Christ our Newborn Saviour!

Paul VI Audience Hall

Wednesday, 4 January 2012: Nativity of the Lord: Mystery of Joy and Light

Audiences 2005-2013 14121