Pope's teachings

The poor, prayer and Mary

Three themes can represent the Pope's teachings in these weeks that prepare us for Christmas: the poor, prayer and Mary. Francis' preaching is inserted in the events we are living and nourishes the Christian life with what we need most. 

Ramiro Pellitero-November 2, 2020-Reading time: 5 minutes

On Sunday, November 15, the Pope celebrated the IV World Day of the Poor, which this year had as its theme: Stretch out your hand to the poor (cf. Si 7:32).

An everlasting return

His preaching centered on the parable of the talents (cf. Mt 25 14ff.). Each talent corresponded to the wages of about twenty years of work, then enough for a lifetime. All of us," Francis pointed out, "have above all great wealth: what we areWe have it to serve and to "do good" to others, and not so much to "be good" for ourselves. And we have him to serve and to "do good" to others, and not so much to "be good" ourselves.

Secondly, he observed that the servants who "served" are called "faithful" four times, because risked. Loyalty implies taking risks, not playing defensively, perhaps merely clinging to norms or rules that guarantee not to make mistakes. So thought the idler who was called "bad" by his master, simply for having taken refuge in his passivity.

Third point: at least that servant should have given the talent to the lenders, to recover it later with interest. And for us, the Pope observes, the lenders are the poor. And so he synthesizes the Christian message on this point in a pedagogical way: showing that, if we attend to them, we gain: "The poor are at the center of the Gospel; the Gospel cannot be understood without the poor. The poor have the same personality as Jesus, who, being rich, stripped himself of everything, became poor, became sin, the ugliest poverty. The poor guarantee us an eternal income and already now allow us to enrich ourselves in love. [The greatest poverty to fight against is our poverty of love"..

As Christmas approaches, it invites us not to ask ourselves "what can I buy or have"but "what can I give to others"to be like Jesus and thus serve the will of God. In the end, it seems as if Francis wanted to take another metaphor appropriate to our pandemic situation, which forces us to wear a mask. He takes the phrase of St. John Chrysostom when he says that after death "all take off the mask of wealth and poverty and leave this world. And they are judged only by their works, some truly rich, others poor.". That will be our true reality then, we will be rich for what we have served; and, if not, we will be very poor. Poor in true humanity and in true love.

The need for and strength of prayer

In his Wednesday catechesis, Francis reflected on the psalms on two days. First (cfr. 14-X-2020) he presented them as a school of prayer, because they are the word of God that shows us how we can speak to him. The psalms spring from the daily life of believers, from their joys and sorrows, doubts, hopes and bitterness. And from there - by telling the Lord what we are and what happens to us - they teach us to refer all things to him, as Jesus did with God the Father.

At the same time (cf. 21-X-2020), by praying the psalms we learn to respect God and others. They teach us that prayer is not a painkiller, but a great school of personal responsibility. Both when we pray them individually and when we pray them in the temple, the psalms are a great school of personal responsibility. "open the horizon to God's gaze on history.". And they also take up the cry of the needy, of the humble, of the poor. This, he adds, is important because it is necessary to reject the practical atheism that hides behind indifference or hatred of others, because it is tantamount to not recognizing the human person as the image of God.

Later the Pope presented Jesus as man of prayer (cf. October 28, 2020), who leads our prayer and includes us in his mission. He is also our prayer teacher (4-XI-2020), because prayer is the rudder of the road, it is listening and meeting with God. "Prayer has the power to transform into good what in life would otherwise be condemnation; prayer has the power to open a great horizon to the mind and to enlarge the heart.". Personal prayer is "an art" in solitude, which helps us to abandon ourselves into God's hands.

We need prayer because it gives us strength and oxygen for our life, which come to us through the presence of the Holy Spirit. Like that of Jesus, our prayer must be persevering and continuous, tenacious, courageous and humble (cf. 11-XI-2020); even when we feel nothing, even, as it happened in the lives of many saints, in the midst of "the night of faith and the silence of God"..

The prayer of Jesus, always accompanied by the action of the Holy Spirit, is the living foundation of our prayer. Jesus, as St. Augustine says and as the Catechism of the Catholic Church says, "He prays for us as our priest; He prays in us as our head; to Him our prayer is addressed as to our God. Let us, therefore, recognize in Him our voices; and His voice in us." (n. 2616). A subject that was very dear to Benedict XVI.

Maria, on the other hand, is woman of prayer (cfr. 18-XI-2020). She has been praying since she was young, without wanting to be autonomous: "She waits for God to take the reins of her path and guide her where He wills. She is docile, and with her availability she predisposes the great events that involve God in the world.". She, with her fiat (let it be done), manifests its permanent openness to God's will. Our prayer should also be like this: simple, trusting, available: "Lord, whatever You will, whenever You will, and however You will." She does so until the cross and after the cross, as Mother of the nascent Church. It is her silent presence as mother and disciple. Everything that happens passes through the "sieve" of prayer in her heart, which is, therefore, like a pearl of incomparable splendor.

Rediscovering Mary's heart

The Lord gave us Mary as our mother from the cross (cf. Jn 19:27), when he was giving us his life and his Spirit (cf. Address at the Pontifical Theological Faculty "Marianum" in Rome, 24-XI-2020). "And he did not let his work be accomplished without giving us Our Lady, because he wants us to walk in life with a mother, even more, with the best of mothers." (cf. Evangelii gaudium, 285).

This is why the Church and also our Earth, says Francis, need to rediscover the maternal heart of Mary. All of us "We need motherhood, that which generates and regenerates life with tenderness, because only gift, care and sharing keep the human family together. Let us think of the world without mothers: it has no future." (cf. encyclical Fratelli tutti, 278).

It is interesting to know that perhaps the most ancient Mariological datum in the New Testament is the statement that the Savior "born of woman" (Gal 4:4). "In the Gospel." -The Pope remarked. "Mary is the woman, the new Eve, who from Cana to Calvary intervenes for our salvation (cf. Jn 2:4; 19:26)." Finally, she is also the woman clothed with the sun who takes care of Jesus' offspring (cfr. Rev. 12,17). And Francis deduces: "Just as the mother makes of the Church a family, the woman makes of us a people.". Francis underlined the role of women, essential to the history of salvation, and therefore essential for the Church and the world. Nevertheless, he exclaimed, "how many women do not receive the dignity due to them!".

That is why the Church, the world and also theology need his wit and his style. And as far as Mariology, that "can contribute to bring to culture, also through art and poetry, the beauty that humanizes and instills hope."also "is called to seek more dignified spaces for women in the Church, starting from the common baptismal dignity.".

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