I recently read a small book by Pope Francis. It is a commentary on the ‘Our Father’ entitled ‘Our Father: Reflections on the Lord’s Prayer’ (Rider/Random House Publications, 2018).
Like so many of his exhortations Pope Francis’ short commentary on the ‘Our Father’ connects these holy words from Jesus with the lived life of the believer. It is the simplicity of the connections which arrest the reader’s attention. It is possible to call his commentary a kind of parable, in that it challenges the reader to take a position, to commit to a response.
The majesty of God, and his ineffable graciousness are the focus of the first movement of the prayer. It affirms the reality of God. So much of the world lives in ignorance of God, in either a real atheism, or a de-facto atheism, whereby people have inherited a religion but live with little reference to its codes. To pray is to acknowledge God. The prayer which Jesus taught his disciples is not addressed to my Father, but to Our Father, which means we are already involved with one another when we are involved with God.
Jesus indicates that God is personal: you can get no more personal than Daddy, or Abba in Aramaic. We may be embarrassed by the phrase ‘Daddy’, but this is as good as it gets. We are rescued from being orphaned in the world, that sense of not having anyone to belong to, to feel isolated and alone. Pope Francis continues with reflections on each of the phrases of the Our Father, and returns many times to the central theme of compassion.
The style of his catechesis is a dialogue with a prison Chaplain, Fr. Marco Pozzo, and the book closes with extremely touching accounts of his dealings with two prisoners, Marzio and Enrico which revisit the theme of Fatherhood.
The Our Father is the prayer Jesus gave his disciples. It is summary of a way of seeing the world, and so a way of living. It is a prayer not just to be recited, but to be lived.