Pope: prayer is the first step of discernment
Francis at the general audience in St Peter's Square: "The saints teach us to address God with simplicity and familiarity, not by reciting words like a parrot. By being with Him we will recognise what really counts in our lives". Again a thought for the tormented people of Ukraine.
Vatican City (AsiaNews) - Prayer is the "first constitutive element" of discernment Pope Francis said this morning in St Peter's Square as he resumed his cycle of catechesis dedicated to this dimension of Christian life at the general audience, in front of groups of pilgrims who had come from various parts of the world.
"To know what is going on inside of us," he explained, "we must discern where feelings and ideas come from, where they lead, to what decision". But in this "prayer is an indispensable help, especially when it involves the affections, allowing us to address God with simplicity and familiarity, as one would speak to a friend. It is knowing how to go beyond thoughts, to enter into intimacy with the Lord, with an affectionate spontaneity. The secret of the life of the saints is familiarity and trust with God, which grows in them and makes it ever easier to recognise what is pleasing to Him. True prayer,' he emphasised, 'is familiarity and confidence with God, it is not reciting prayers like a parrot.
This helps to understand that discernment "is not chemically a pure method, it does not claim absolute certainty, because it concerns life, and life is not always logical, it has many aspects that cannot be enclosed in a single category of thought". Significantly,' Francis recalled, 'the first miracle performed by Jesus in Mark's Gospel is an exorcism (Mk. 1:21-28), in which he frees a man from a false idea of God: the possessed man saying "You have come to ruin us" raises the doubt that it is God who does not want our happiness.
"Many, even Christians," the pope commented, "think the same thing: they doubt that God wants our happiness; some fear that taking his proposal seriously means ruining our lives, mortifying our desires, our strongest aspirations. Even within us sometimes peeps the idea "that God asks too much of us". Instead, "the sign of the encounter with the Lord is joy. Sadness, or fear, are signs of distance from Him", as happens to the rich young man in the Gospel episode.
"Discerning is not easy," Francis went on to add, "because appearances deceive, but familiarity with God can melt away doubts and fears in a gentle way, making our lives ever more receptive to his 'gentle light', according to the beautiful expression of St John Henry Newman. The saints shine with reflected light and show in the simple gestures of their day the loving presence of God, who makes the impossible possible".
"It is said that two spouses who have lived together for so long loving each other," said the Pontiff, "end up resembling each other. Something similar can be said of affective prayer: in a gradual but effective way it makes us more and more capable of recognising what counts by connaturality, as something that springs from the depths of our being. This,' he concluded, 'is the relationship we must have in prayer: a smile, a simple gesture and not reciting words that do not reach the heart. Speak to Jesus as one friend speaks to another friend. It is a grace we must ask for one another: to see Jesus as our greatest friend, our faithful friend, who does not blackmail, above all who never abandons us, even when we turn away from Him. He remains at the door of the heart".
In his greetings to the faithful, Francis then returned, as he does every week, to the Ukrainian people, so cruelly tried. "This morning," he added, "I was able to speak with Cardinal Krajewski who was returning from Ukraine and he told me terrible things. Let us think of Ukraine and pray for this tormented people'.
Lastly, citing the feast of the archangels Michael, Gabriel and Raphael, which falls tomorrow, he hoped that everyone would allow themselves to be guided by them to "recognise and follow the voice of the inner Master, who speaks in the secret of the conscience".