On Wednesday Pope Francis said that one of the greatest mysteries of the Christian faith is that we have a God we are taught to call ‘Father’ – a father who never leaves us and who we can call on in prayer at any moment.
“The entire mystery of Christian prayer is summed up here, in this word: to have the courage to call God by the name of Father,” the Pope said June 7.
He pointed to Chapter 11 of the Gospel of Luke, in which the evangelist provides a somewhat shortened version of the “Our Father” prayer Jesus taught his disciples to pray, and which begins with the simple invocation: “Father.”
The fatherhood of God, which Francis called “the source of our hope,” formed the basis of his general audience catechesis. Addressing crowds gathered in St. Peter’s Square, the Pope immediately recalled the parable of the “merciful father,” also known as the Prodigal Son.
The father in this story, he said, does not punish his son for his arrogance, but still gives him his share of the inheritance, later welcoming him back home even after he had squandered it.
“The father does not apply the criteria of human justice,” the Pope said, “but first he feels the need to forgive, and with his embrace makes the child understand that in all that long absence he missed him; he is painfully missed by his father’s love.”
“God is Father, Jesus says, but not in the human way, because there is no father in this world who would behave like the protagonist of this parable,” the Pope said, adding “What an unfathomable mystery is a God that nourishes this kind of love towards his children!”
However, despite this familiarity, to call God by the name of “Father” is not necessarily something we merit or understand, he said. In fact, sometimes it seems like we should use only the highest titles to address God, because it would be more respectful of his divinity.
“Instead, invoking him as ‘Father’ puts us in a relationship of trust with Him, as a child who turns to his dad, knowing he is loved and cared for by him,” Francis said, adding that despite the grand mystery and greatness of God, which can often make us feel small, we are not afraid.
This concept isn’t easy “to welcome in our human soul,” he said, noting that even the women who after the Resurrection first found the angel and the empty tomb of Jesus ran away, “because they were filled with fright and astonishment.”
“But Jesus reveals to us that God is a good Father, and He tells us, ‘Do not be afraid,’” Francis said, adding that perhaps this is the reason the Apostle Paul doesn’t translate into Greek the Aramaic word, “abba.”
This phrase, he said, is “a term more intimate than ‘father,’” and is sometimes translated as “papa” or “daddy.”
Going on, Pope Francis said the Gospel reveals to us that no matter what, God the Father is there for us. When we need help, Jesus tells us to turn to the Father with confidence, never closing ourselves off, or becoming resigned, he said.
“All of our necessities, from the most obvious and every day – such as food, health and work, to being forgiven and sustained in temptations – are not the mirror of our solitude: there is a Father who is always there looking with love, and who surely does not abandon us,” he said.
The Pope concluded by making a proposal to the crowd before leading them in praying the ‘Our Father.’
“Each of us has so many problems and needs,” he said. “Let us think a little, in silence, about these problems and these needs. And all together, with confidence and hope, we pray, Our Father…”