By Cindy Wooden
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Praying in the midst of suffering, Christians must remember how God has loved them all their lives and will rescue them, Pope Benedict XVI said.
Holding his weekly general audience Sept. 14 in the Vatican audience hall, Pope Benedict continued teaching about prayer and used Psalm 22, “one of the most prayed and studied psalms,” as an example of how to cry out to the Lord from a basic position of trust.
The pope returned to the Vatican by helicopter from Castel Gandolfo to hold the audience with about 8,000 pilgrims and visitors — too many to be accommodated at the papal summer villa, but few enough to fit in the air-conditioned audience hall.
In Psalm 22, he said, “despite the presence of suffering, the psalmist recognizes God’s closeness and a divine love that is so radical” that he still can say, “Since my mother bore me, you are my God.”
The psalm alternates between “the agonizing reality of the present moment and the consoling memory of the past,” when the psalmist knew God was near and saw God at work in his life, the pope said.
Pope Benedict said the psalm, which the Gospels of Matthew and Mark have Jesus praying on the cross, does not paint a picture of a grumbling believer, but of one who is truly suffering deeply, yet hanging on to trust and hope in God’s promise of salvation.
“God cannot contradict himself, and so the prayer goes back to describing the painful situation of the one praying in order to convince God to have pity and intervene as he always did in the past,” the pope said.
And, then, the psalmist makes his final plea to God, recognizing God as his strength and asking him to be near and to rescue him.
“This is a cry that opens the heavens because it proclaims a faith, a certainty that goes beyond all doubt, all darkness and all desolation,” the pope said. “And the lament is transformed, giving way to praise.”
Pope Benedict told those gathered in the audience hall that, even when God seems absent or silent, they, too, must learn to remember God’s fidelity and to trust that Christ has ensured that suffering and death will not have the last word.
“In this way, placing all our trust and hope in God the father, even in anguish we, too, can pray with faith, and our cry for help will be transformed into a song of praise,” he said.
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Editor’s Note: The text of the pope’s audience remarks in English is posted online at www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/audiences/2011/documents/hf_ben-xvi_aud_20110914_en.html.
The text of the pope’s audience remarks in Spanish is posted online at www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/audiences/2011/documents/hf_ben-xvi_aud_20110914_sp.html.
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