VATICAN CITY (CNS) — When Christians address God as “our Father” they acknowledge that God created and loves them, but they also recognize that all people are their brothers and sisters, Pope Francis said.
“We have a Father who is very close to us, who embraces us,” the pope said June 20 during the homily at his early morning Mass in the chapel of the Domus Sanctae Marthae, where he lives.
Commenting on the Gospel of Matthew’s presentation of the Lord’s Prayer, Pope Francis said it begins with a recognition of the God who created each person, loves each one and knows what each one needs.
“To whom do I pray? To ‘almighty God’? No, he is too far away” and remote, the pope said. And the nebulous “cosmic God” who seems so popular today is not personal enough.
“You must pray to the Father. ‘Father’ is a strong word,” the pope said. “You must pray to one who generated you and gave you life.”
At the same time, he said, Christians don’t say “my Father,” but “our Father because I am not an only child, none of us is.”
Pope Francis said people cannot think they are coming honestly to God in prayer and addressing him truly as “our Father” if they are angry or are holding grudges against someone.
“If I am not at peace with my brothers,” he said, “I cannot say ‘Father’ to him.”
In the day’s Gospel selection, the passage includes the Lord’s Prayer, but concludes with Jesus telling the disciples: “If you forgive others their transgressions, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your transgressions.”
Pope Francis said he knew people were thinking, “It’s so hard to forgive others” and to let go of the desire to get even.
However, “you cannot pray with enemies in your heart,” the pope said. “Jesus has promised us the Holy Spirit. He will teach is, from within, from the heart, how to say ‘Father’ and how to say ‘our.'”