By Sr Bernadette Mary Reis, fsp
Pope Francis chose three words from the biblical texts proclaimed during Saturday’s liturgy and expanded on them in his homily. These words are: prayer, littleness, and wisdom.
The Gospel text from Matthew 11:25 presents Jesus praying. “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth.” Pope Francis describes his prayer as one that flowed spontaneously and was not optional. The Lord regularly went off by himself in solitary places to pray because “dialogue with the Father was a priority.”
Jesus’ disciples asked the Lord to teach them how to pray (Lk 11:1) because they saw that his prayer was natural and important for him. The Pope tells us, “If we want to imitate Jesus, we can also begin where he began, that is, from prayer.”
This leads the Pope to ask a question: “Do we Christians pray enough?” Instead of making so many excuses and forgetting “the better part” (Lk 10:42), we should remember that without the Lord we can do nothing (cf Jn 15:5). Pope Francis reminds us that Padre Pio used to recommend: “Pray often, my children, pray always, never get tired of praying” (words from the Second International Congress of the Prayer Groups, 5 May 1966).
Jesus Teaches us how to Pray
Jesus “does not say ‘I need this and that,’ but ‘I praise you.’ The Father cannot be known unless we open ourselves to praise, unless time is dedicated to him alone, unless we adore.” In personal contact, in silence before the Lord, we can enter into communion with him, Pope Francis explains.
Prayer can begin with a request, but needs to move to praise, to adoration, to remaining with God in order to bring the world to him. Pope Francis asks us who will entrust people to the Lord unless we do? This is why Padre Pio founded the prayer groups to whom he said, “It is prayer, this united strength of all good souls, that moves the world, that renews consciences … that heals the sick, that sanctifies labor, that elevates health care, that gives moral strength… that spreads the smile and blessing of God on the fainthearted and the weak” (words from the Second International Congress of the Prayer Groups, 5 May, 1966).
It is those who are little, whose hearts are humble, open, poor and needy who feel the need to pray, Pope Francis says, moving on to the second word. “The heart of these little ones is like an antenna that captures God’s signal.” Referring to the Casa Sollievo della Sofferenza (the House for the Relief of Suffering), Padre Pio used to call it the “temple of prayer and science,” Pope Francis says. He continued saying that “Jesus is found in those who are sick. And the loving care of those who bend over the wounds of their neighbor is the way of encountering him.”
The third word, wisdom, comes from the first reading taken from Jeremiah 9,22: “Let not the wise boast of his wisdom, nor the strong boast of his strength.” Pope Francis explains that “Charity animated by faith is the only wise and invincible arm because it has the power of disarming the strength of those who do evil.” Like Jesus, Padre Pio battled wisely against evil his entire life—“humbly, obediently, with the cross, offering the pain out of love.” Everyone knows this and admires Padre Pio for this, Pope Francis says, but how many imitate him in this way? “Many people are ready to click ‘like’ on the pages of the great saints, but who does what they do? Because the Christian life is not an ‘I like,’ but an ‘I give.’ ”
Padre Pio decided to give himself to others especially as a Confessor. It is in the Sacrament of Reconciliation that we “begin to live a wise life … that is where the healing of the heart begins,” Pope Francis says. And it is to this Sacrament that Padre Pio invites us to return today. “Where are you going?” Padre Pio asks. “To Jesus or to your own sadness? Where are you going back to? To him who saves you or to your own dejection, your own regrets, your own sins? Come, the Lord is waiting for you. Take courage, there is no reason, no matter how grave, that would exclude you from his mercy” (Padre Pio quoted by Pope Francis).