When we pray “Our Father who art in heaven,” we aren’t expressing that God is distant or removed from us, Pope Francis explains. Instead, we’re affirming that God’s love is other, well beyond anything that we could experience from even the most loving of fathers on earth.
The love of the Father in heaven is “a tireless love, a love that will always remain” while being a love that “is always within reach,” he said.
“So, do not be afraid!” the Holy Father encouraged. “None of us is alone. If even by misfortune your earthly father were to forget about you, and you resented him, the fundamental experience of Christian faith would not be denied to you: that of knowing that you are a beloved son of God, and that there is nothing in life that can extinguish His impassioned love for you.”
These reflections were part of Pope Francis’ ongoing catechesis on the Our Father, which he continued in the Wednesday audience.
The pope said that every Christian prayer must begin with an “entering into the mystery” of God’s paternity.
“Either you enter into the mystery, in the awareness that God is your Father, or you do not pray,” he said.
However, he clarified, we have to purify the image we have of fatherhood, no matter what our own experience with the figures of our parents was.
“None of us has had perfect parents, no one; just as we, in turn, will never be perfect parents or pastors. We all have flaws, all of us,” he said.
Francis pointed out that loving human relationships are always lived “in terms of our limits and also of our selfishness.”
So human love is often contaminated with the desire to possess or manipulate, he noted, and declarations of love easily transform into sentiments of hostility.
This is why, when we speak about God as a “father,” while we think of the image of our parents, especially if they have loved us, at the same time we must go beyond. Because God’s love is that of the Father “who is in heaven,” according to the expression that Jesus invites us to use. It is the total love that we in this life taste only in an imperfect way. Men and women are eternally mendicants of love – we are mendicants of love, we need love – we seek a place where we can finally be loved, but we do not find it. How many disappointed friendships and how many disappointed loves are there in our world; so many!
The pope reflected that we all have the experience of the weakness of our love. “Desiring to love, we then come up against our limits … incapable of maintaining a promise that in the days of grace seemed easy to fulfil.”
However, there exists another love, that of the Father “who is in heaven.” No one must doubt that they are the recipient of this love. He loves us. “He loves me,” we can say. If not even our father and mother loved us … there is a God in heaven Who loves us like no one on this earth has ever done or will ever be able to do. God’s love is constant. … If all our earthly loves were to disintegrate and nothing were to remain in our hands but dust, there is always for all of us, the ardent, the unique and faithful love of God. In the hunger for love we all feel, let us not seek something that does not exist … The conversion of Saint Augustine, for example, took place along this path: This young and brilliant rhetorician simply sought among creatures something that no creature could give him, until one day he had the courage to look up. And on that day he knew God. God Who loves.
Pope asks: What is the word missing from the Our Father?