(Vatican Radio) At his General Audience on Wednesday, Pope Francis resumed his catechesis on the Holy Mass.
The Mass, the Pope said, is prayer – or rather, it is “the prayer par excellence, the highest, the most sublime, and at the same time, the most ‘concrete’ … it is an encounter with the Lord.”
“But what is prayer, really?” Pope Francis asked. “it is first of all dialogue, a relationship with God.” Man, he continued, “was created as a being in personal relationship with God, who finds his full realization only in the encounter with His Creator.”
God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – is Himself “a perfect relationship of love that is unity.” Because we are created in “the image and likeness of God,” we too are called to enter into a perfect relationship of love. And it is the Mass, the Eucharist, that is “the privileged moment to be with Christ, and, through Him, with God and with our brothers.”
But dialogue also means knowing how to remain silent, in the presence of the other. The Holy Father emphasized the importance of moments of silence when we go to Mass – the liturgy, he said, is not a time for chatting, but a time to recollect ourselves, to prepare our hearts for the encounter with Jesus.
Jesus Himself often went off to “a place apart” in order to pray; and His disciples, seeing His intimate relationship with the Father, asked Him how to pray. “Jesus says that the first thing necessary for prayer” is to be able to call God “Father.” Pope Francis said, “If I cannot say ‘Father’ to God, I can’t pray. We have to learn to say ‘Father,’ that is, to put ourselves into His presence with filial confidence.”
In this sense, he continued, we must be like children, able to entrust ourselves entirely to God, as children do with their parents. And, like children, we must also have a sense of wonder, we must “allow ourselves to be surprised.” When we speak to God in prayer, the Pope said, it is not talking to God “like parrots.” Instead it means “entrusting ourselves and opening our hearts to allow ourselves to wonder.” The encounter with God in Mass, he said, “is always a living encounter, it is not a meeting in a museum.”
Pope Francis recalled the Gospel account of Nicodemus’ meeting with Jesus. In their encounter, Jesus spoke about the need to be born again. But how is this possible, the Pope asked? “This is a fundamental question of our faith,” he said, “and this is the desire of every true believer: the desire to be reborn, the joy of beginning anew.” Pope Francis asked his audience, “Do we have this desire? Does each one of us have the desire to always be reborn in order to encounter the Lord? Do you have this desire?”
In fact, the Pope concluded, “the Lord surprises us by showing us that He loves us even in our weakness.” In the Mass, in our encounter with Jesus, “the Lord encounters our fragility in order to bring us back to our first calling: that of being in the image and likeness of God.” This, Pope Francis said, “is the environment of the Eucharist, this is the prayer.”