Pope Benedict on Prayer – Prayer in the Book of Revelation: ” God is not indifferent to our prayers”

VATICAN CITY, SEPT. 12, 2012 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today in Paul VI Hall at the general audience. The Holy Father today continued his reflection on prayer in the book of Revelation.

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Dear brothers and sisters,

Last Wednesday I spoke about prayer in the first part of Revelation. Today we move on to the second part of the book; and whereas in the first part, prayer is oriented toward the Church’s inner life, in the second, attention is given to the entire world; the Church, in fact, journeys through history; she is part of it, in accordance with God’s plan.

The assembly that listened to John’s message presented by the reader rediscovered its duty to cooperate in the expansion of the Kingdom of God, as “priests of God and of Christ” (Revelation 20:6; cf. 1:5; 5:10) and it opens out to the world of men. And here, in the dialectical relationship that exists between them, two ways of living emerge: the first we may define as the “system of Christ,” to which the assembly is happy to belong; and the second, the “worldly systems opposed to the kingdom and the covenant and activated through the influence of the Evil One,” who by deceiving men wills to establish a world opposed to the one willed by Christ and by God (cf. Pontifical Biblical Commission, The Bible and Morality, Biblical Roots of Christian Conduct, 70).

The assembly must therefore know how to interpret in depth the history it is living, by learning to discern events with faith in order to cooperate by its action in the growth of the Kingdom of God. And this work of interpretation and discernment, as well as action, is linked to prayer.

First, after the insistent appeal of Christ, who in the first part of Revelation said seven times: “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the Church” (cf. Revelation 2:7,11,17,29; 3:6,13,22), the assembly is invited to ascend to Heaven, to look upon reality through God’s eyes; and here we discover three symbols, reference points from which we may begin to interpret history: the throne of God, the Lamb and the book (cf. Revelation4:1 – 5:14).

The first symbol is the throne, upon which there is seated a person John does not describe, for he surpasses every human representation. He is only able to note the sense of beauty and joy he experiences in His presence. This mysterious figure is God, God Almighty who did not remain enclosed within His heaven but who drew close to man, entering into a covenant with him; God who makes his voice — symbolized by thunder and lightning — heard in history, in a mysterious but real way. There are various elements that appear around the throne of God, such as the twenty-four elders and the four living creatures that unceasingly render praise to the one Lord of history.

The first symbol, then, is the throne. The second symbol is the book, which contains the plan of God for events and for men. It is hermetically sealed with seven seals, and no one is able to read it. Faced with man’s inability to scrutinize the plan of God, John experiences a deep sadness, which causes him to weep. But there is a remedy for man’s dismay before the mystery of history: there is one who is able to open the book and shed light on it.

And here the third symbol appears: Christ, the Lamb immolated in the sacrifice of the Cross, but who stands as a sign of his Resurrection. And it is the Lamb, Christ who died and rose, who gradually opens the seals and unveils the plan of God, the deep meaning of history.

What do these symbols tell us? They remind us of the path to knowing how to interpret the facts of history and of our own lives. By raising our gaze to God’s heaven in a constant relationship with Christ, by opening our hearts and our minds to him in personal and communal prayer, we learn to see things in a new way and to grasp their truest meaning. Prayer is like an open window that allows us to keep our gaze turned toward God, not only for the purpose of reminding us of the goal toward which we are directed, but also to allow the will of God to illumine our earthly journey and to help us to live it with intensity and commitment.

How does the Lord guide the Christian community to a deeper reading of history? First and foremost, by inviting it to consider with realism the present moment we are living. Therefore, the Lamb opens the four first seals of the book, and the Church sees the world in which it is inserted, a world in which various negative elements exist. There the evils that man commits, such as violence, which comes from the desire to possess, to prevail against one another to the point of killing one another (second seal); or injustice, as men fail to respect the laws that are given them (third seal). To these are added the evils that man must undergo, such as death, hunger and sickness (fourth seal). Faced with these oftentimes dramatic realities, the ecclesial community is invited to never lose hope, to believe firmly that the apparent omnipotence of the Evil One collides with the true omnipotence, which is God’s.

And the first seal the Lamb opens contains precisely this message. John narrates: “And I saw, and behold, a white horse, and its rider had a bow; and a crown was given to him, and he went out conquering and to conquer” (Revelation 6:2). The power of God has entered into the history of man, [a power] which is not only capable of offsetting evil, but even of conquering it. The color white recalls the Resurrection: God drew so near to us that he descended into the darkness of death in order to illumine it with the splendor of his divine life: he took the world’s evil upon himself in order to purify it with the fire of his love.

How do we grow in this Christian understanding of reality? Revelation tells us that prayer nourishes this vision of light and profound hope in each one of us and in our communities: it invites us to not allow ourselves to be overcome by evil, but to overcome evil with good, to look to the Crucified and Risen Christ, who associates us in his victory. The Church lives in history, she is not closed in on herself; but rather, she courageously faces her journey amid difficulties and suffering, by forcefully affirming that ultimately, evil does not conquer the good, darkness does not dim the splendor of God.

This is an important point for us; as Christians we can never be pessimists; we know well that along life’s journey we often encounter violence, falsehood, hate and persecution, but this does not discourage us. Above all, prayer teaches us to see the signs of God, of his presence and action; indeed, to be lights of goodness that spread hope and point out that the victory is God’s.

Read morePope Benedict on Prayer – Prayer in the Book of Revelation: ” God is not indifferent to our prayers”

Pope Benedict on Prayer – Prayer in the Book of Revelation: “prayer is, above all, a listening to God Who speaks.

Vatican City, 5 September 2012 (VIS)

 – Benedict XVI today resumed his general audiences in the Vatican, having held them at Castelgandolfo during the month of August. Meeting with faithful in the Paul VI Hall he turned his attention to prayer in the Book of Revelation which, he explained, “presents us with the living breathing prayer of the Christian assembly, gathered together ‘on the Lord’s day'”.
Revelation, Pope Benedict went on, “is a difficult book, but one of great richness. … In it a reader presents the assembly with a message entrusted by God to John the Evangelist. … From the dialogue between them a symphony of prayer arises which is then developed in many different forms up until the conclusion”.
The first part of Revelation presents us with the assembly in prayer in three successive phases. The first of these highlights how “prayer is, above all, a listening to God Who speaks. Engulfed as we are by so many words we are little used to listening, and especially to adopting an interior and exterior attitude of silence so as to attend to what the Lord wishes to say to us. These verses also teach us that our prayers, often merely prayers of request, must in fact be first and foremost prayers of praise to God for His love, for the gift of Jesus Christ which brought us strength, hope and salvation. … God, Who reveals Himself as the beginning and the end of the story, welcomes and takes to heart the assembly’s request”.
This first phase also includes another important element. “Constant prayer revives in us a sense of the Lord’s presence in our life and history. His presence supports us, guides us and gives us great hope. … Prayer, even that pronounced in the most extreme solitude, is never a form of isolation and it is never sterile, it is a vital lymph which nourishes an increasingly committed and coherent Christian existence”.
In the second phase of the prayer of the assembly “the relationship with Jesus Christ is developed further. The Lord makes Himself visible, He speaks and acts, and the community, increasingly close to Him, listens, reacts and accepts”.
In the third phase “the Church in prayer, accepting the word of the Lord, is transformed. … The assembly listens to the message, and receives a stimulus for repentance, conversion, perseverance, growth in love and guidance for the journey”.

“The Revelation”, Benedict XVI concluded, “presents us with a community gathered in prayer, because it is in prayer that we gain an increasing awareness of Jesus’ presence with us and within us. The more and the better we prayer with constancy and intensity, the more we are assimilated to Him, and the more He enters into our lives to guide them and give them joy and peace. And the more we know, love and follow Jesus, the more we feel the need to dwell in prayer with Him, receiving serenity, hope and strength for our lives”.

Faith Check 2 – Primacy of Peter

Primacy of Peter

On this faith check let’s talk about our first pope, St. Peter.  I remember well a conversation I once had with a Protestant pastor who told me that if Peter were truly the first pope, he thought he’d see him exercising his papacy more in the Bible.

Peter was no ordinary apostle.  Peter’s name appears more than all of the other apostles combined and in every list of the apostles’ names, Peter comes first, while Judas Iscariot is last.  Peter pays the temple tax on behalf of Jesus and the apostles in Matthew 17.1

In the Acts of the Apostles, Peter is the one chosen by God to take the Gospel first to the Jews in Acts 2,2 to the Samaritans in Acts 8 3 and to the Gentiles in Acts 10.4 Peter performs the first miracle in Acts 3,5 pronounces judgment on Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5 6 and gives the decisive teaching at the Council of Jerusalem in Acts 15. 7

Every team needs a coach and every company needs a CEO.  Yes, Jesus is our King, but he also left Peter to be the head pastor of his flock on earth.

1 – vv. 24-27

2 – 2:14-40

3 – 8:14-24

4 – 10:1ff

5 – 3:1-10

6 – 5:1-6

7 – 15:7ff


 

Faith Check 1 – The Keys of the Kingdom

Keys of the Kingdom

Many of our separated brothers and sisters ask where we find a “pope” in the Bible.  One example is in St. Matthew 16, where Jesus says to Peter, “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven.”1

In the ancient world, kingdoms would have a leader underneath the king who was responsible for the administration of the government—we might call them the prime ministers.  We find an example of this in Isaiah 22,2 when God declares that Shebna, the Prime Minister of Israel, will be deposed for his sins and replaced by Eliakim, whom God says will be a father to Israel and will carry the key of the house of David—“what he opens none shall shut; and what he shuts none shall open.”

When Jesus gave Peter the keys in Matthew 16, the apostles already understood their significance.  Peter was to be their leader, the prime minister that will shepherd Christ’s Church.  “Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”3

What a gift we have in Pope Benedict, who still carries the keys today.

1 –  Mt. 16:19

2 –  see Is. 22: 20-25

3 –  Mt. 16:19

 

Pope Benedict on Prayer 19 – The Prayer of Jesus at the Last Supper

 VATICAN CITY, 11 JAN 2012 (VIS)

Jesus’ prayer during the Last Supper was the theme of Benedict XVI’s catechesis during his general audience, which was held this morning in the Paul VI Hall in the presence of 4,000 faithful.

The Pope explained how the emotional backdrop to the Last Supper, in which Jesus bade farewell to His friends, was the immanence of His approaching death. Moreover, in the days in which He was preparing to leave His disciples, the life of the Jewish people was marked by the approaching Passover, the commemoration of the liberation of Israel from Egypt.”It was in this context that the Last Supper took place”, the Holy Father said, “but with an important novelty”. Jesus “wanted the Supper with His disciples to be something special, different from other gatherings. It was His Supper, in which He gave something completely new: Himself. Thus Jesus celebrated the Passover as an anticipation of His Cross and Resurrection”.

The essence of the Last Supper lay in “the gestures of breaking and distributing the bread, and sharing the cup of wine, with the words that accompanied them and the context of prayer in which they took place. This was the institution of the Eucharist: the great prayer of Jesus and the Church”. The words the Evangelists use to describe that moment “recall the Jewish ‘berakha’; that is, the great prayer of thanksgiving and blessing which, in the tradition of Israel, is used to inaugurate important ceremonies. … That prayer of praise and thanks rises up to God and returns as a blessing. … The words of the institution of the Eucharist were pronounced in this context of prayer. The praise and thanksgiving of the ‘berakha’ became blessing and transformed the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Jesus”.

Jesus’ gestures were the traditional gestures of hospitality which a host would extend to his guests, but in the Last Supper they acquired a more profound significance, Pope Benedict explained. Christ provided “a visible sign of welcome to the table upon which God gives Himself. In the bread and the wine, Jesus offered and communicated His own Self”. Aware of His approaching death, “He offered in advance the life that would shortly be taken from Him, thus transforming His violent death into a free act of the giving of Self, for others and to others. The violence He suffered became an active, free and redemptive sacrifice”.

“In contemplating Jesus’ words and gestures that night, we can clearly see that it was in His intimate and constant relationship with the Father that He accomplished the gesture of leaving to His followers, and to all of us, the Sacrament of love”, said the Pope. During the Last Supper Jesus also prayed for His disciples, who likewise had to suffer harsh trials. With that prayer “He supported them in their weakness, their difficulty in understanding that the way of God had to pass through the Paschal mystery of death and resurrection, which was anticipated in the offer of bread and wine. The Eucharist is the food of pilgrims, a source of strength also for those who are tired, weary and disoriented”.

Benedict XVI went on: “By participating in the Eucharist we have an extraordinary experience of the prayer which Jesus made, and continues to make for us all, that the evil we encounter in our lives may not triumph, and that the transforming power of Christ’s death and resurrection may act within each of us. In the Eucharist the Church responds to Jesus’ command to ‘do this in remembrance of me’, she repeats the prayer of thanksgiving and blessing and, therewith, the words of transubstantiation of the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of the Lord. Our Eucharistic celebrations draw us into that moment of prayer, uniting us ever and anew to the prayer of Jesus”.

“Let us ask the Lord that, after due preparation also with the Sacrament of Penance, our participation in the Eucharist, which is indispensable for Christian life, may always remain the apex of all our prayers”, the Pope concluded. “Let us ask that, profoundly united in His offering to the Father, we too can transform our crosses into a free and responsible sacrifice of love, for God and for our fellows”.

At the end of his catechesis the Holy Father delivered greetings in a number of languages to the pilgrims present in the Paul VI Hall, inviting them to participate with

“faith and devotion” in the Eucharist which, he said, is indispensable for Christian life as well as being the school and culmination of prayer. Addressing young people, the sick and newlyweds, he pointed our that last Sunday’s Solemnity of the Baptism of the Lord is an occasion to reflect upon our own Baptism. “

Dear young people”, the Pope exclaimed, “live your membership of the Church, the family of Christ, joyfully. Dear sick people, may the grace of Baptism ease your sufferings and encourage you to offer them to Christ for the salvation of humanity. And you, dear newlyweds, … base your marriage on the faith which you received as a gift on the day of your Baptism”.
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Read morePope Benedict on Prayer 19 – The Prayer of Jesus at the Last Supper

Pope Benedict on Prayer 18 – The Holy Family is the model for the School of Prayer

VATICAN CITY, 28 DEC 2011 (VIS) – Prayer in the Holy Family of Nazareth was the theme of Benedict XVI’s catechesis during today’s general audience, which was held in the Paul VI Hall in the presence of 7,000 pilgrims.

“The house of Nazareth”, the Pope explained, “is a school of prayer where we learn to listen, to meditate, to penetrate the deepest meaning of the manifestation of the Son of God, drawing our example from Mary, Joseph and Jesus”.

“Mary is the peerless model for the contemplation of Christ”, he said. She “lived with her eyes on Christ and treasured His every word. … Luke the Evangelist makes Mary’s heart known to us, her faith, her hope, her obedience, her interior life and prayer, her free adherence to Christ. All of these came from the gift of the Holy Spirit, which descended upon her just as it descended upon the Apostles according to Christ’s promise. This image of Mary makes her a model for all believers”.

Mary’s capacity to live by the gaze of God is “contagious”, the Holy Father went on. “The first to experience this was St. Joseph. … With Mary, and later with Jesus, he began a new rapport with God, he began to accept Him into his life, to enter into His plan of salvation, to do His will”.

Although the Gospel has not preserved any of Joseph’s words, “his is a silent but faithful presence, constant and active. … Joseph fulfilled his paternal role in all aspects”. In this context, the Pope explained how Joseph had educated Jesus to pray, taking Him to the synagogue on Saturdays and guiding domestic prayer in the morning and evening. “Thus, in the rhythm of the days spent in Nazareth, between Joseph’s humble dwelling and his workshop, Jesus learned to alternate pray and work, also offering up to God the fatigue by which they earned the bread the family needed”.

Benedict XVI then turned his attention to the pilgrimage of Mary, Joseph and Jesus to the Temple in Jerusalem, as narrated in the Gospel of St. Luke. “The Jewish family, like the Christian family, prays in the intimacy of the home, but it also prays together in the community recognising itself as part of the pilgrim People of God”, he said.

Jesus’ first words – “Why were you searching for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house” – pronounced when Mary and Joseph found Him sitting among the teachers in the Temple, are a key to understanding Christian prayer. “From that moment, the life of the Holy Family became even richer in prayer, because the profound significance of the relationship with God the Father began to spread from the Heart of the boy (then adolescent, then young man) Jesus to the hearts of Mary and Joseph. The Family of Nazareth was the first model of the Church in which, in the presence of Jesus and thanks to His mediation, a filial rapport with God came to transform even interpersonal relations”.

“The Holy Family”, Benedict XVI concluded, “is an icon of the domestic Church, which is called to pray together. The family is the first school of prayer where, from their infancy, children learn to perceive God thanks to the teaching and example of their parents. An authentically Christian education cannot neglect the experience of prayer. If we do not learn to pray in the family, it will be difficult to fill this gap later. I would, then, like to invite people to rediscover the beauty of praying together as a family, following the school of the Holy Family of Nazareth”.
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Pope Benedict on Prayer 15 – Jesus’ Prayer – “ Listening, meditating and remaining in silence before the Lord is an art”.”


VATICAN CITY, 30 NOV 2011 (VIS) – This morning’s general audience was celebrated in the Paul VI Hall in the presence of 5,500 faithful. Having recently completed a series of catecheses dedicated to prayer in the Old Testament, the Pope today began a new cycle on the subject of the prayer of Christ which, he said, was “like a hidden canal irrigating His life, relationships and actions, and guiding Him with increasing firmness to the total gift of self, in keeping with the loving plan of God the Father”.

One particularly significant moment of prayer followed the Baptism of Jesus in the Jordan. This, the Pope noted, poses a query as to why Jesus, Who was without sin, should have chosen to submit Himself to John’s Baptism of penance and conversion. John the Baptist himself raised the question, saying “I need to be baptised by you, and do you come to me?”. The Holy Father explained how “by emerging Himself in the Jordan River, Jesus … expressed His solidarity with people who recognise their sins, who chose to repent and change their lives. He helps us to understand that being part of the people of God means entering into a new life, a life in conformity with God. By this gesture Jesus anticipated the cross, beginning His active life by taking the place of sinners, bearing the weight of the sin of all humankind on His shoulders”.

By praying after His Baptism, Jesus demonstrates His intimate bond with the Father, “experiencing His paternity and apprehending the demanding beauty of His love. Speaking to God, Jesus receives confirmation of His mission”, with the words that resound from on high: “This is my son, the Beloved” and with the descent of the Holy Spirit upon Him. “Through prayer”, the Pope said, “Jesus lives in uninterrupted contact with the Father in order to achieve His project of love for mankind”. It is in this profound union with the Father that Jesus made the move for the hidden life of Nazareth to His public ministry.

Read morePope Benedict on Prayer 15 – Jesus’ Prayer – “ Listening, meditating and remaining in silence before the Lord is an art”.”

Pope Benedict on Prayer 13 – Psalm 119: “Open to hope and permeated with faith”


VATICAN CITY, 9 NOV 2011 (VIS) –

In his general audience this morning Benedict XVI focused his catechesis on Psalm 119, the longest of the Psalms, constructed as an acrostic in which each stanza begins with one of the twenty-two letters of the Hebrew alphabet. Its subject matter is “the Torah of the Lord; that is, His Law, a term which in its broadest and most complete definition comprehends teaching, instruction and life guidance. The Torah is revelation, it is the Word of God which is addressed to man and which arouses his response of faithful obedience and generous love”, the Pope said.

“The Psalmist’s faithfulness arises from listening to the Word, from keeping it in his heart, meditating upon it and loving it, like Mary who ‘treasured in her heart’ the words addressed to her, the marvellous events in which God revealed Himself and asked for her response of faith”, he explained. The Psalmist describes those who walk in the Law of the Lord as blessed, and indeed “Mary is blessed because she bore the Saviour in her womb, but above all because she accepted God’s annunciation and treasured His Word attentively and lovingly”.
Psalm 119 is constructed around this Word of life and blessing. Its central theme is the Word and the Law, and its verses are replete with synonyms thereof such as “precepts, decrees, promises”, associated with verbs such as “to know, to love, to meditate, to live”, the Holy Father explained. “The entire alphabet features in the twenty-two verses of the Psalm, as does the entire vocabulary of the believer’s relationship of trust with God. We find praise, thanksgiving and trust, but also supplication and lamentation; however, all of them are pervaded by the certainty of divine grace and the power of the Word of God. Even those verses most marked by suffering and darkness remain open to hope and are permeated with faith”.

The Law of God, which is “the centre of life”, must be “listened to with obedience but not servility, with filial trust and awareness. To listen to the Word is to have a personal encounter with the Lord of life. … The fulfilment of the Law is to follow Jesus”. Thus Psalm 119 “guides us towards the Gospel”, the Pope explained.

In this context he focused particularly on verse 57: “The Lord is my portion; I promise to keep your words”.

“The term ‘portion'”, he explained, “evokes the partition of the Promised Land among the tribes of Israel, when the Levites were given no part of the territory because their ‘portion’ was the Lord Himself. … These verses are also important for us today, especially for priests, who are called to live from the Lord and from His Word alone, with no other guarantees, no other wealth, and having Him as their one source of true life. It is in this light that we can understand the free choice of celibacy for the Kingdom of heaven, which must be rediscovered in all its beauty and power.
“These verses are also important for the faithful, the People of God who belong only to Him”, the Pope added in conclusion. “They are called to experience the radical nature of the Gospel, to be witnesses of the life brought by Christ, the new and definitive ‘High Priest’ Who offered Himself in sacrifice for the salvation of the world. The Lord and His Word are our ‘land’ in which to live in communion and joy”.

IP#43 Dr. Matthew Bunson – John Paul II’s Book of Saints on Inside the Pages

Matthew and Margaret Bunson did an incredible job of chronicling all those holy men and women who were brought Matthew-Bunsonforward by our late great Holy Father, Pope John Paul II. The only thing that even comes close to reading this great book is hearing Dr. Matthew Bunson talk about those tremendous Blesseds and Saints.  “John Paul II’s Book of Saints” is truly a treasury of sanctity!

He was known as the saint-making Pope, and he reinvigorated the world’s devotion to saints. John Paul II, himself a candidate for sainthood, left a treasury of ideals and hope for the future in these “examples of courage and coherence.” He offered us these real lives lived in extraordinary ways as ones to identify with, aspire to, and ask for intercession.

Check it out here

Our Holy Father has a “spiritual weapon” and he’s not afraid to use it (and he wants all of us to use it too…The Holy Rosary!) – Discerning Hearts

Vatican City, Oct 6, 2010 / 03:54 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Anticipating Thursday’s celebration of the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary, the Holy Father called on the faithful to make an effort to rediscover the prayer. He urged Christians to seek intercession, protection and personal encounter with Christ through the “simple but efficient prayer,” especially during the Marian month of October.

Greeting the faithful in 10 different languages during Wednesday’s general audience, the Holy Father spoke of the Rosary as “a particular prayer of the Church and a spiritual weapon for each of us.”

He prayed that the meditation of Jesus and Mary’s life through the Rosary might be, “for all of us, light on the evangelical path of spiritual renewal and conversion of heart.”

Speaking in Portuguese, but referring to all people, he invited families to join together with the Virgin Mary so as to cooperate fully with the salvific designs of God. In Croatian, he said to ask for her intercession and protection for each person and family, exhorting prayers also for vocations to the priesthood and religious life.

In still other languages, he asked that the faithful “rediscover the value” of the “simple but efficient prayer” of the Rosary “as a way for a personal encounter with Christ.”

“October,” he said in the Italian greeting that concluded his public words on Wednesday, “is the month of the Holy Rosary, which invites us to value this prayer so dear to the tradition of the Christian people.”

Addressing some of the special guests at the audience, he said, “I invite you, dear young people, to make of the Rosary your daily prayer. I encourage you, dear sick, to grow, thanks to the recitation of the Rosary, in the trusting abandonment to the hands of God. I exhort you, dear newlyweds, to make of the Rosary a constant contemplation of the mysteries of Christ.” CNA

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