Dads who are absent from their family make it more difficult for their children to understand God as a loving Father, Pope Benedict XVI said on May 23.
“Perhaps modern man does not perceive the beauty, grandeur and profound consolation contained in the word ‘Father,’ with which we can turn to God in prayer, because the father figure is often not sufficiently present in today’s world and is often not a sufficiently positive presence in everyday life,” the Pope said in his weekly general audience address.
He underscored that the “the problem of a father not present in the life of the child is a big problem of our time” because it can become difficult for those children “to understand in its depth what it means to us that God is Father.”
In the U.S., over one-third of all children live apart from their biological fathers.
The Pope delivered his remarks to more than 20,000 pilgrims in St. Peter’s Square. His reflections, which today focused on two passages from St. Paul on the Holy Spirit enabling people to call upon God with the intimate term ‘Abba,’ continued his series on the role of prayer in the story of salvation.
In his Letter to the Galatians, St. Paul wrote, “As proof that you are children, God sent the spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying out, ‘Abba, Father!’” St. Paul also wrote to the Romans, “You did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you received a spirit of adoption, through which we cry, ‘Abba, Father!’”
Pope Benedict noted that the familial Aramaic word “Abba” is also used by Jesus “even at the most dramatic moment of his earthly life,” thus demonstrating that he “never lost faith in the Father and always invoked him with the intimacy of a beloved son.”
Similarly, through baptism, every Christian also becomes a beloved son or daughter of God, “sharing by adoption in the eternal sonship of Jesus.”
In the selected passages, the Pope explained, St. Paul also demonstrates that “Christian prayer is never unidirectional, from us to God.”
Instead, it is “an expression of a reciprocal relationship in which it is always God who acts first.”
Therefore, whenever we address the Father in prayer, even silently or privately, we are never alone, since “we are within the great prayer of the Church, we are part of a great symphony which the Christian community in all places and times raises to God,” he said.
It is this “prayer guided by the Spirit” that causes Christians to cry out, “Abba! Father!” both “with Christ and in Christ,” Pope Benedict taught.
“It makes us part of the great mosaic of the family of God, in which everyone has an important place and role, profoundly united to all things.”
The Pope concluded his address by suggesting to pilgrims that they should “learn to appreciate the beauty of being friends, or rather children, of God” and to invoke God the Father in prayer “with the confidence and trust of a child addressing his parents who love him.”
He then led those present in the sung recitation Our Father in Latin before imparting his apostolic blessing.