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“VATICAN CITY — When we pray the “Our Father,” we ought to sense our heavenly Father looking at us, Pope Francis said on Thursday morning at Holy Mass in the Chapel of Santa Marta. For saying the “Our Father” as Jesus taught us is the cornerstone of Christian prayer.
Jesus is always turned to the Father
Commenting on the Gospel of Jesus teaching his disciples the “Our Father” (Mt 6:7-15), the Pope reflected on the value and meaning of prayer in the Christian life.
Jesus always used the word “Father” in the most important or challenging moments of his life, the Pope noted. And he told his disciples that the Father “knows the things we need, before we even ask Him.” God is a Father who listens to us in secret. That is why Jesus tells us to go to into the inner room of our heart, and pray to Him in secret.
“It is 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.”
Pope Francis went on to stress how the word “Father” was the one most used by Jesus in the most important or challenging moments of his life. He warned that “unless we feel that we are his children, without considering ourselves as his children, without saying ‘Father,’ our prayer is a pagan one, it’s just a prayer of words.”
The “Our Father” is our cornerstone in prayer
The Pope also said the “Our Father” prayer is the cornerstone of a Christian’s prayer life. If we are not able to begin our prayer with this word, he warned, “our prayer will go nowhere.”
“Father. It is about feeling our Father 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.”
Turning next to the part of the “Our Father” prayer where Jesus refers to forgiving those who “trespass against us” just as God forgives us, Pope Francis explains that this prayer conveys the sense of us being brothers and sisters, and part of one family. Rather than behaving like Cain who hated his own brother, he said, it is so important for us to forgive, to forget offences against us, that healthy attitude of saying ‘let us forget this’ and not harbor feelings of rancor, resentment or a desire for revenge.
The Pope concluded, saying that one of the best prayers is to ask God to forgive everyone, and to forget their sins. “It is good for us to sometimes examine our own conscience on this point. 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.”