Audiences 2005-2013 15022


Dear Brothers and Sisters,

At our school of prayer last Wednesday I spoke of Jesus’ prayer on the Cross, taken from Psalm 22[21]: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”. I would now like to continue to meditate on the prayer of Jesus on the Cross in the imminence of death. Today, I would like to reflect on the account we find in St Luke’s Gospel. The Evangelist has passed down to us three words spoken by Jesus on the Cross, two of which — the first and the third— are prayers explicitly addressed to the Father. The second, instead, consists of the promise made to the so-called “good thief”, crucified with him; indeed, in response to the thief’s entreaty, Jesus reassures him: “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise” (
Lc 23,43).

Thus in Luke’s narrative the two prayers that the dying Jesus addresses to the Father and his openness to the supplication addressed to him by the repentant sinner are evocatively interwoven. Jesus calls on the Father and at the same time listens to the prayer of this man who is often called latro poenitens, “the repentant thief”.

Let us reflect on these three prayers of Jesus. He prays the first one immediately after being nailed to the Cross, while the soldiers are dividing his garments between them as a wretched reward for their service. In a certain sense the process of the Crucifixion ends with this action. St Luke writes: “When they came to the place which is called The Skull, there they crucified him, and the criminals, one on the right and one on the left. And Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do’. And they cast lots and to divide his garments” (Lc 23,33-34).

The first prayer that Jesus addresses to the Father is a prayer of intercession; he asks for forgiveness for his executioners. By so doing, Jesus is doing in person what he had taught in the Sermon on the Mount when he said: “I say to you that hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you” (Lc 6,27); and he had also promised to those who are able to forgive: “your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High” (v. 35). Now, from the Cross he not only pardons his executioners but he addresses the Father directly, interceding for them.

Jesus’ attitude finds a moving “imitation” in the account of the stoning of St Stephen, the first martyr. Indeed Stephen, now nearing his end, “knelt down and cried with a loud voice, ‘Lord, do not hold this sin against them’. And when he had said this, he fell asleep” (Ac 7,60): these were his last words. The comparison between Jesus’ prayer for forgiveness and that of the protomartyr is significant. St Stephen turns to the Risen Lord and requests that his killing — an action described clearly by the words “this sin” — not be held against those who stoned him.

Jesus on the Cross addresses the Father and not only asks forgiveness for those who crucify him but also offers an interpretation of what is happening. According to what he says, in fact, the men who are crucifying him “know not what they do” (Lc 23,34). He therefore postulates ignorance, “not knowing”, as a reason for his request for the Father’s forgiveness, because it leaves the door open to conversion, as, moreover, happens in the words that the centurion was to speak at Jesus’ death: “Certainly this man was innocent” (v. 47), he was the Son of God. “It remains a source of comfort for all times and for all people that both in the case of those who genuinely did not know (his executioners) and in the case of those who did know (the people who condemned him), the Lord makes ignorance the motive for his plea for forgiveness: he sees it as a door that can open us to conversion” (Jesus of Nazareth, II, [San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2011], p. 208).

The second word spoken by Jesus on the Cross recorded by St Luke is a word of hope, it is his answer to the prayer of one of the two men crucified with him. The good thief comes to his senses before Jesus and repents, he realizes he is facing the Son of God who makes the very Face of God visible, and begs him; “Jesus, remember me when you come in your kingly power” (v. 42). The Lord’s answer to this prayer goes far beyond the request: in fact he says: “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise” (v. 43). Jesus knows that he is entering into direct communion with the Father and reopening to man the way to God’s paradise. Thus, with this response, he gives the firm hope that God’s goodness can also touch us, even at the very last moment of life, and that sincere prayer, even after a wrong life, encounters the open arms of the good Father who awaits the return of his son.

However, let us consider the last words of Jesus dying. The Evangelists tells us: “it was now about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour, while the sun’s light failed; and the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Then Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, ‘Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!’. And having said this he breathed his last” (vv. 44-46).

Certain aspects of this narrative differ from the scene as described in Mark and in Matthew. The three hours of darkness in Mark are not described, whereas in Matthew they are linked with a series of different apocalyptic events such as the quaking of the earth, the opening of the tombs, the dead who are raised (cf. Mt 27,51-53). In Luke, the hours of darkness are caused by the eclipse of the sun, but the veil of the temple is torn at that moment. In this way Luke’s account presents two signs, in a certain way parallel, in the heavens and in the temple. The heavens lose their light, the earth sinks while in the temple, a place of God’s presence, the curtain that protects the sanctuary is rent in two. Jesus’ death is characterized explicitly as a cosmic and a liturgical event; in particular, it marks the beginning of a new form of worship, in a temple not built by men because it is the very Body of Jesus who died and rose which gathers peoples together and unites them in the sacrament of his Body and his Blood.

At this moment of suffering Jesus’ prayer, “Father into your hands I commit my spirit”, is a loud cry of supreme and total entrustment to God. This prayer expresses the full awareness that he had not been abandoned. The initial invocation — “Father” — recalls his first declaration as a 12-year-old boy. At that time he had stayed for three days in the Temple of Jerusalem, whose veil was now torn in two. And when his parents had told him of their anxiety, he had answered: “How is it that you sought me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” (Lc 2,49).

From the beginning to the end, what fully determines Jesus’ feelings, words and actions, is his unique relationship with the Father. On the Cross he lives to the full, in love, this filial relationship he has with God which gives life to his prayer.

The words spoken by Jesus after his invocation, “Father”, borrow a sentence from Psalm 31[30]: “into your hand I commit my spirit” (Ps 31,6 [30]). Yet these words are not a mere citation but rather express a firm decision: Jesus “delivers” himself to the Father in an act of total abandonment. These words are a prayer of “entrustment” total trust in God’s love. Jesus’ prayer as he faces death is dramatic as it is for every human being but, at the same time, it is imbued with that deep calmness that is born from trust in the Father and from the desire to commend oneself totally to him.

In Gethsemane, when he had begun his final struggle and his most intense prayer and was about to be “delivered into the hands of men” (Lc 9,44), his sweat had become “like great drops of blood falling down upon the ground” (Lc 22,44). Nevertheless his heart was fully obedient to the Father’s will, and because of this “an angel from heaven” came to strengthen him (cf. Lc 22,42-43). Now, in his last moments, Jesus turns to the Father, telling him into whose hands he really commits his whole life.

Before starting out on his journey towards Jerusalem, Jesus had insisted to his disciples: “Let these words sink into your ears; for the Son of man is to be delivered into the hands of men” (Lc 9,44).

Now that life is about to depart from him, he seals his last decision in prayer: Jesus let himself be delivered “into the hands of men”, but it is into the hands of the Father that he places his spirit; thus — as the Evangelist John affirms — all was finished, the supreme act of love was carried to the end, to the limit and beyond the limit.

Dear brothers and sisters, the words of Jesus on the Cross at the last moments of his earthly life offer us demanding instructions for our prayers, but they also open us to serene trust and firm hope. Jesus, who asks the Father to forgive those who are crucifying him, invites us to take the difficult step of also praying for those who wrong us, who have injured us, ever able to forgive, so that God’s light may illuminate their hearts; and he invites us to live in our prayers the same attitude of mercy and love with which God treats us; “forgive us our trespasses and forgive those who trespass against us”, we say every day in the Lord’s prayer.

At the same time, Jesus, who at the supreme moment of death entrusts himself totally to the hands of God the Father, communicates to us the certainty that, however harsh the trial, however difficult the problems, however acute the suffering may be, we shall never fall from God’s hands, those hands that created us, that sustain us and that accompany us on our way through life, because they are guided by an infinite and faithful love. Many thanks.

To special groups:

I welcome the priests taking part in the Institute for Continuing Theological Education at the Pontifical North American College. My greeting also goes to the pilgrims from the Archdiocese of Toronto, as well as to the many diocesan, parish and school groups present at today’s Audience, especially the students of Our Lady’s High School in Motherwell, Scotland. Upon all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors, including those from England, Ireland, Norway and the United States, I cordially invoke God’s blessings!

I address a cordial welcome to the Italian-speaking pilgrims. Welcome! In particular I greet you, faithful of the diocese of Pozzuoli, accompanied by your Pastor, Bishop Gennaro Pascarella, and, while I thank you for the witness of your faith, I express the hope that your parish communities and the various ecclesial institutions may always be places of spiritual formation and authentic brotherhood.

I greet Cardinal Stanislaw Rylko, and the other authorities with the Delegation which has come to present to me the reproduction of the Holy Door of St Peter’s Basilica that will be displayed in the Bl. John Paul II Museum in Wadowice.

I greet with affection the representatives of the Italian National Association of Large Families. In today’s social context, family nucleuses with many children bear witness to faith, courage and optimism, because without children there can be no future! I hope that appropriate social and legal legislation will be further encouraged in order to protect and sustain the larger families, because these families constitute a treasure and a hope for the entire country.

Lastly, I greet the young people, the sick and the newlyweds.Yesterday we celebrated the Feast of Sts Cyril and Methodius, who were the first to disseminate the faith among the Slav peoples. May their testimony help you too to be apostles of the Gospel, to be a leaven of authentic renewal in your own personal, family and social life.

Paul VI Audience Hall

Wednesday, 22 February 2012 Ash Wednesday


Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In this Catechesis, I would like to reflect briefly upon the season of Lent which begins today with the Ash Wednesday Liturgy. It is a 40-day journey that will bring us to the Easter Triduum — the memorial of the Lord’s Passion, death and Resurrection, the heart of the mystery of our salvation. In the first centuries of the Church’s life this was the time when those who had heard and received the proclamation of Christ set out, step by step, on their journey of faith and conversion in order to receive the sacrament of Baptism. For the catechumens — namely, those who wished to become Christian and to be incorporated into Christ and into the Church — it was a matter of drawing closer to the living God and an initiation to faith which was to take place gradually, through inner transformation.

Subsequently, penitents and then all the faithful were also asked to make this journey of spiritual renewal and increasingly to conform their lives to Christ’s. The participation of the whole community in the various stages of the Lenten journey emphasizes an important dimension of Christian spirituality: Christ’s death and Resurrection does not bring the redemption of a few but of all. For this reason everyone, both those who were making a journey of faith as catechumens to receive Baptism and those who had drifted away from God and from the community of faith and were seeking reconciliation, as well as those who were living their faith in full communion with the Church, knew that the season which precedes Easter is a time of metanoia; that is, of a change of heart, of repentance; it is the season that identifies our human life and the whole of history as a process of conversion that starts now, to encounter the Lord at the end of time.

Using an expression that has become characteristic in the liturgy, the Church calls the season we have entered today “Quadragesima”, namely, a 40-day period and, with a clear reference to Sacred Scripture, in this way introduces us into a precise spiritual context. In fact, 40 is the symbolic number with which both the Old and the New Testaments represent the salient moments in the experience of faith of the People of God.

It is a number that stands for the time of waiting, of purification, of the return to the Lord, of the knowledge that God keeps his promises. This number does not represent an exact chronological period, marked by the sum of its days. Rather, it suggests patient perseverance, a long trial, a sufficient length of time in which to perceive God’s works, a time within which one must resolve to assume one’s responsibilities with no further postponement. It is the time for mature decisions.

The number 40 first appears in the story of Noah. Because of the flood this righteous man spends 40 days and 40 nights in the Ark, with his family and with the animals that God had told him to take with him. And he waits another 40 days, after the flood, before touching dry land, saved from destruction (cf.
Gn 7,4).

Then, the next stage: Moses remains in the Lord’s presence on Mount Sinai for 40 days and 40 nights to receive the Law. He fasts throughout this period (cf. Ex Ex 24,18). The journey of the Jewish people from Egypt to the Promised Land lasts for 40 years, an appropriate span of time to experience God’s faithfulness.

“You shall remember all the way which the Lord your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness … your clothing did not wear out upon you, and your foot did not swell, these forty years”, Moses says in Deuteronomy at the end of the 40 years’ migration (Dt 8,2 Dt 8,4). The years of peace that Israel enjoys under the Judges are 40 (cf. Jg 3,11 Jg 3,30); but once this time has passed, forgetfulness of God’s gifts and the return to sin creep in.

The Prophet Elijah takes 40 days to reach Mount Horeb, the mountain where he encounters God (cf. 1R 19,8). For 40 days the inhabitants of Ninevah do penance in order to obtain God’s forgiveness (cf. Jon Jon 3,4). Forty is also the number of years of the reigns of Saul (cf. Ac 13,21), of David (cf. 2S 5,4-5) and of Solomon (cf. 1R 11,42), the first three kings of Israel.

The Psalms also reflect on the biblical significance of the 40 years; for example, Psalm 95[94], a passage of which we have just heard: “O that today you would hearken to his voice! Harden not your hearts, as at Meribah, as on the day at Massah in the wilderness, when your fathers tested me, and put me to the proof, though they had seen my work. For forty years I loathed that generation and said, ‘They are a people who err in heart, and they do not regard my ways’” (vv. 7c-10).

In the New Testament, before beginning his public ministry, Jesus withdraws into the wilderness for 40 days, neither eating nor drinking (cf. Mt 4,2); his nourishment is the Word of God, which he uses as a weapon to triumph over the devil. Jesus’ temptations recall those that the Jewish people faced in the desert, but which they were unable to overcome. It is for 40 days that the Risen Jesus instructs his disciples before ascending into Heaven and sending the Holy Spirit (cf. Ac 1,3).

This recurring number of 40 describes a spiritual context which is still timely and applicable, and the Church, precisely by means of the days of the Lenten season, wishes to preserve their enduring value and show us their effectiveness. The purpose of the Christian liturgy of Lent is to encourage a journey of spiritual renewal in the light of this long biblical experience and, especially, to learn to imitate Jesus, who by spending 40 days in the wilderness taught how to overcome temptation with the word of God.

The 40 years that Israel spent wandering through the wilderness reveal ambivalent attitudes and situations. On the one hand they are the season of the first love with God and between God and his people, when he speaks to their hearts, continuously pointing out to them the path to follow. God had, as it were, made his dwelling place in Israel’s midst, he went before his people in a cloud or in a pillar of fire; he provided food for them every day by bringing down manna from heaven and making water flow from the rock. The years that Israel spent in the wilderness can thus be seen as the time of God’s predilection, the time when the People adhered to him: a time of first love.

On the other hand, the Bible also shows another image of Israel’s wanderings in the wilderness: the time of the greatest temptations and dangers too, when Israel mutters against its God and, feeling the need to worship a God who is closer and more tangible, would like to return to paganism and build its own idols. It is also the time of rebellion against the great and invisible God.

In Jesus’ earthly pilgrimage we are surprised to discover this ambivalence, a time of special closeness to God — a time of first love — and a time of temptation — the temptation to return to paganism, but of course without any compromise with sin. After his Baptism of penance in the Jordan, when he takes upon himself the destiny of the Servant of God who renounces himself, lives for others and puts himself among sinners to take the sin of the world upon himself, Jesus goes into the wilderness and remains there for 40 days in profound union with the Father, thereby repeating Israel’s history, with all those cadences of 40 days or years which I have mentioned. This dynamic is a constant in the earthly life of Jesus, who always seeks moments of solitude in order to pray to his Father and to remain in intimate communion, in intimate solitude with him, in an exclusive communion with him, and then to return to the people. However in this period of “wilderness” and of his special encounter with the Father, Jesus is exposed to danger and is assaulted by the temptation and seduction of the Evil One, who proposes a different messianic path to him, far from God’s plan because it passes through power, success and domination rather than the total gift of himself on the Cross. This is the alternative: a messianism of power, of success, or a messianism of love, of the gift of self.

This situation of ambivalence also describes the condition of the Church journeying through the “wilderness” of the world and of history. In this “desert” we believers certainly have the opportunity for a profound experience of God who strengthens the spirit, confirms faith, nourishes hope and awakens charity; an experience that enables us to share in Christ’s victory over sin and death through his sacrifice of love on the Cross. However the “wilderness” is also a negative aspect of the reality that surrounds us: aridity, the poverty of words of life and of values, secularism and cultural materialism, which shut people into the worldly horizons of existence, removing them from all reference to transcendence.

This is also the environment in which the sky above us is dark, because it is covered with the clouds of selfishness, misunderstanding and deceit. In spite of this, for the Church today the time spent in the wilderness may be turned into a time of grace, for we have the certainty that God can make the living water that quenches thirst and brings refreshment gush from even the hardest rock.

Dear brothers and sisters, in these 40 days that will bring us to the Resurrection at Easter, we can find fresh courage for accepting with patience and faith every situation of difficulty, affliction and trial in the knowledge that from the darkness the Lord will cause a new day to dawn. And if we are faithful to Jesus, following him on the Way of the Cross, the clear world of God, the world of light, truth and joy will be, as it were, restored to us. It will be the new dawn, created by God himself. A good Lenten journey to you all!

To special groups:

I greet all the English-speaking visitors present at today’s Audience, especially those from England, Belgium, Norway, Canada and the United States. I offer a special welcome to the faithful of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham on the occasion of their pilgrimage to the See of Peter. I greet the pilgrim group from the Diocese of Antwerp, and I thank the choirs for their praise of God in song. With prayerful good wishes for a spiritually fruitful Lent, I invoke upon all of you God’s abundant blessings!

Lastly I greet the young people, the sick and the newlyweds. Lent is a favourable time for intensifying your spiritual life; may the practice of fasting help you, dear young people, to acquire ever greater self-control. May prayer be for you, dear sick people, the way to entrust your sufferings to God and to feel him always close to you; lastly, may works of mercy help you, dear newlyweds, while living your married life, to open it to the needs of your brothers and sisters. A good Lent to you all!

Saint Peter's Square

Wednesday, 7 March 2012


Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In the preceding series of Catecheses I have spoken of Jesus’ prayer and I would not like to conclude this reflection without briefly considering the topic of Jesus’ silence, so important in his relationship with God.

In the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Verbum Domini, I spoke of the role that silence plays in Jesus’ life, especially on Golgotha: “here we find ourselves before ‘the word of the cross’ (cf.
1Co 1,18). The word is muted; it becomes mortal silence, for it has ‘spoken’ exhaustively, holding back nothing of what it had to tell us” (n. 12). Before this silence of the Cross, St Maximus the Confessor puts this phrase on the lips of the Mother of God: “Wordless is the Word of the Father, who made every creature which speaks, lifeless are the eyes of the one at whose word and whose nod all living things move!” (Life of Mary, n. 89: Testi mariani del primo millennio, 2, Rome, 1989, p. 253).

The Cross of Christ does not only demonstrate Jesus’ silence as his last word to the Father but reveals that God also speaks through silence: “the silence of God, the experience of the distance of the almighty Father, is a decisive stage in the earthly journey of the Son of God, the Incarnate Word. Hanging from the wood of the cross, he lamented the suffering caused by that silence: ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ (Mc 15,34 Mt 27,46). Advancing in obedience to his very last breath, in the obscurity of death, Jesus called upon the Father. He commended himself to him at the moment of passage, through death, to eternal life: ‘Father, into your hands I commend my spirit’ (Lc 23,46)” (Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Verbum Domini, n. 21).

Jesus’ experience on the cross profoundly reveals the situation of the person praying and the culmination of his prayer: having heard and recognized the word of God, we must also come to terms with the silence of God, an important expression of the same divine Word.

The dynamic of words and silence which marks Jesus’ prayer throughout his earthly existence, especially on the cross, also touches our own prayer life in two directions.

The first is the one that concerns the acceptance of the word of God. Inward and outward silence are necessary if we are to be able to hear this word. And in our time this point is particularly difficult for us. In fact, ours is an era that does not encourage recollection; indeed, one sometimes gets the impression that people are frightened of being cut off, even for an instant, from the torrent of words and images that mark and fill the day.

It was for this reason that in the above mentioned Exhortation Verbum Domini I recalled our need to learn the value of silence: “Rediscovering the centrality of God’s word in the life of the Church also means rediscovering a sense of recollection and inner repose. The great patristic tradition teaches us that the mysteries of Christ all involve silence. Only in silence can the word of God find a home in us, as it did in Mary, woman of the word and, inseparably, woman of silence” (n. 66). This principle — that without silence one does not hear, does not listen, does not receive a word — applies especially to personal prayer as well as to our liturgies: to facilitate authentic listening, they must also be rich in moments of silence and of non-verbal reception.

St Augustine’s observation is still valid: Verbo crescente, verba deficiunt “when the word of God increases, the words of men fail” (cf. Sermo 288, 5: pl 38, 1307; Sermo 120, 2: pl 38, 677). The Gospels often present Jesus, especially at times of crucial decisions, withdrawing to lonely places, away from the crowds and even from the disciples in order to pray in silence and to live his filial relationship with God. Silence can carve out an inner space in our very depths to enable God to dwell there, so that his word will remain within us and love for him take root in our minds and hearts and inspire our life. Hence the first direction: relearning silence, openness to listening, which opens us to the other, to the word of God.

However, there is also a second important connection between silence and prayer. Indeed it is not only our silence that disposes us to listen to the word of God; in our prayers we often find we are confronted by God’s silence, we feel, as it were, let down, it seems to us that God neither listens nor responds. Yet God’s silence, as happened to Jesus, does not indicate his absence. Christians know well that the Lord is present and listens, even in the darkness of pain, rejection and loneliness.

Jesus reassures his disciples and each one of us that God is well acquainted with our needs at every moment of our life. He teaches the disciples: “In praying do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him” (Mt 6,7-8): an attentive, silent and open heart is more important than many words. God knows us in our inmost depths, better than we ourselves, and loves us; and knowing this must suffice.

In the Bible Job’s experience is particularly significant in this regard. In a short time this man lost everything: relatives, possessions, friends and health. It truly seems that God’s attitude to him was one of abandonment, of total silence. Yet in his relationship with God, Job speaks to God, cries out to God; in his prayers, in spite of all, he keeps his faith intact, and in the end, discovers the value of his experience and of God’s silence. And thus he can finally conclude, addressing the Creator: “I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you” (Jb 42,5): almost all of us know God only through hearsay and the more open we are to his silence and to our own silence, the more we truly begin to know him.

This total trust that opens us to the profound encounter with God developed in silence. St Francis Xavier prayed to the Lord saying: I do not love you because you can give me paradise or condemn me to hell, but because you are my God. I love you because You are You.

As we reach the end of the reflections on Jesus’ prayer, certain teachings of the Catechism of the Catholic Church spring to mind: “The drama of prayer is fully revealed to us in the Word who became flesh and dwells among us. To seek to understand his prayer through what his witnesses proclaim to us in the Gospel is to approach the holy Lord Jesus as Moses approached the burning bush: first to contemplate him in prayer, then to hear how he teaches us to pray, in order to know how he hears our prayer” (n. 2598).

So, how does Jesus teach us to pray? We find a clear answer in the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church: “Jesus teaches us to pray not only with the Our Father” — certainly the high point of his instruction on how to pray — “but also when he prays. In this way he teaches us, in addition to the content, the dispositions necessary for every true prayer: purity of heart that seeks the Kingdom and forgives enemies, bold and filial faith that goes beyond what we feel and understand, and watchfulness that protects the disciple from temptation” (n. 544).

In going through the Gospels we have seen that concerning our prayers the Lord is conversation partner, friend, witness and teacher. The newness of our dialogue with God is revealed in Jesus: the filial prayer that the Father expects of his children. And we learn from Jesus that constant prayer helps us to interpret our life, make our decisions, recognize and accept our vocation, discover the talents that God has given us and do his will daily, the only way to fulfil our life.

Jesus’ prayer points out to us, all too often concerned with operational efficacy and the practical results we achieve, that we need to pause, to experience moments of intimacy with God, “detaching ourselves” from the everyday commotion in order to listen, to go to the “root” that sustains and nourishes life.

One of the most beautiful moments of Jesus’ prayer is precisely when — in order to deal with the illnesses, hardships and limitations of those who are conversing with him — he turns to the Father in prayer and thereby teaches those around him where to seek the source of hope and salvation.

I have already recalled as a moving example Jesus’ prayer at the tomb of Lazarus. The Evangelist John recounts: “So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, ‘Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 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’. When he had said this, he cried with a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come out’” (Jn 11,41-43).

However Jesus reaches the most profound depths in prayer to the Father at the moment of his Passion and his death when he says the extreme “yes” to God’s plan and shows how the human will finds its fulfilment precisely in full adherence to the divine will rather than in opposition to it.

In Jesus’ prayer, in his cry to the Father on the cross, are summed up “all the troubles, for all time, of humanity enslaved by sin and death, all the petitions and intercessions of salvation history.... Here the Father accepts them and, beyond all hope, answers them by raising his Son. Thus is fulfilled and brought to completion the drama of prayer in the economy of creation and salvation” (Catechism of the Catholic Church CEC 2606).

Dear brothers and sisters, let us trustingly ask the Lord to grant that we live the journey of our filial prayer learning daily from the Only-Begotten Son, who became man for our sake, what should be our way of addressing God.

St Paul’s words on Christian life in general also apply to our prayers: “I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rm 8,38-39).
* * *

Greeting of the Holy Father to the Armenian Synod:

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I would now like to greet, with brotherly affection, His Beatitude Nerses Bedros XIX Tarmouni, Patriarch of Cilicia for Armenian Catholics, and the Bishops gathered in Rome from various continents for the celebration of the Synod. I express to them my sincere gratitude for fidelity to the patrimony of their venerable Christian tradition and to the Successor of the Apostle Peter, faithfulness which they have always maintained throughout the innumerable trials of history. I accompany the Synod’s work with earnest prayer and with my Apostolic Blessing, hopeful that it will encourage ever greater communion and understanding among Pastors, so that they may guide the Armenian Catholics with renewed evangelical impetus on the path of a generous and joyful witness to Christ and to the Church. As I entrust the Armenian Synod to the motherly intercession of the Most Holy Mother of God, I extend my prayerful thought to the Regions of the Middle East, encouraging the Pastors and all the faithful to persevere with hope amid the grave suffering that afflicts these beloved peoples. May the Lord bless you. Thank you.

To special groups:

I welcome the many student groups present at today’s Audience, including those from the United States Coast Guard Academy, the Catholic University of America, Saint Mary’s Seminary and the Franciscan University of Steubenville. My greetings and prayerful good wishes also go to the participants in the Congress of the International Society of Plastic Regenerative Surgery. Upon all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors, including those from England, Denmark and the United States, I invoke God’s abundant blessings.

Lastly, my thoughts turn to the young people, the sick and the newlyweds.May the Lenten journey we are making lead you, dear young people, to maturity of faith in Christ; may it increase in you, dear sick people, hope in him, the One who always sustains us in trial; may he help you, dear newlyweds, to make your family life a mission of faithful and generous love.

Saint Peter's Square

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Audiences 2005-2013 15022