In the eighth meditation of the Lenten Spiritual Exercises in Ariccia, which Francis follows from the Vatican, the preacher, Father Pietro Bovati, deals with the theme “Intercession.” In his prayer, he says, the intercessor obtains the mercy of God and transmits it. He who has responsibility in the Church is called to “defend, promote and edify the little ones.”
Giada Aquilino – Vatican City
The more sin there is, the more the mercy of God multiplies: it is the reflection of Father Pietro Bovati, secretary of the Pontifical Biblical Commission, in the eighth meditation of the Spiritual Exercises in Ariccia for the Roman Curia, which Pope Francis follows from the House Santa Marta. The Jesuit, in the light of the Book of Exodus, the Gospel of Matthew and the prayer of the Psalms, on Thursday afternoon deals with the theme “Intercession”, understood as “that intervention of loving help” that is exercised towards people who “need forgiveness and reconciliation with God.”
The service of mercy
It is, explains the priest, of the “most spiritual ministry”, whether because it has as its object a need and purpose that “touch the heart”, “the secret of the person”, as because “more than any other” presupposes one true familiarity with God, “since it addresses those who are” spiritually in difficulty because they are in sin. ” The priests, Father Bovati recalls, are called to the “ministry of reconciliation”, exercising it in the Sacrament, which must be lived with “commitment, dedication and love.” The service of mercy, precise, also implies “the existence of an entire community”, “of anyone who in the Church in prayer” becomes “available for the prophetic exercise of reconciliation.” The Jesuit father invites us to examine chapter 32 of Exodus, verses 7-14, reiterating that sin “is only truly known in prayer, in the face-to-face encounter with the Lord”: it is looking at the face of God, listening to his voice, which is understood as “the gravity of sin”, as an act against God and against others. The sinner, moreover, “does not realize what he has done” by ignorance, superficiality or by “a terrible addiction to evil”, when he is “a prisoner of compulsive vices” that prevent “sensible decisions”.
The intercession prayer
Who prays, feeling precisely the “danger” of sin, perceives “looking and listening to God” the need that God Himself has to “make mercy.” It is by looking at the Lord that one feels “called to a love for the sinner seen with the eyes of God.” The prayer, “precisely because he looks at the face” of the Lord, is led to “identify” with the sinner, ending up “carrying upon himself the evil of others,” according to the example of Christ. “The prayer that makes us understand the seriousness of sin” and the “urgent duty” to help this sin “introduces, drives and promotes” a “special prayer towards the Lord,” that of intercession.
Offer our misery to God
In the biblical texts, the theologian explains, the prayer that the intercessor directs to God is a “request” for a “supplication” for the Lord to forgive. When examined more closely, every request to God seems “improper,” as if God had to do “what the prayer asks.” Or “impertinent,” because it seems “to suggest that the Lord does not remember the good that must be done.” But, observes the preacher, Scripture teaches that “God grants before the request reaches our lips,” because “He knows what we need.” However, we must ask – exhorts Father Bovati – because that is how we become aware of our needs We experience the need, we present our wounds, our sufferings, so that we may be granted to feel his compassion, to like his love, who listens and fulfills.
From anger to mercy
Intercession, therefore, “looks at the face of God” and witnesses a “change”: the passage from anger “to mercy”, to “tenderness”, so that one makes a “radical change” In one’s own heart The prayer of intercession – emphasizes Father Bovati – expresses a “progressive docility of the mediator in welcoming the infinite goodness of God.” And, accepting it in itself, it becomes “witness and instrument of that mercy”. Intercession, in short, sees “the emergence of God’s desire to save man”, so that in the world “everyone can be attracted by the light of mercy benefiting from the same forgiveness.”
A transmission of mercy
The intercessor “obtains mercy from God” in his prayer: from there he puts into practice a series of “actions”, “modalities”, “attitudes” and “operations” necessary “for sinners to access the gift of mercy divine. ” To illustrate the “concrete” process of the exercise of divine mercy “mediated by his minister” and “acted with forgiveness,” the preacher proposes Jesus’ speech in chapter 18 of the Gospel of Matthew. Part of the attention “to the little one”, that is, to the vulnerable, fragile, weak person, which should not be despised. “He who has responsibility in the Church” is called to have a “paternal attitude”, with attention to “who is smaller.” These days, Father Bovati reflects, in which the problem of child abuse, about fragile people, is more current than ever, the attention of “the greats”, called to “defend, promote and edify the little ones “. But also in the parable of the lost sheep, Jesus indicates” the loss of the active responsibility of the shepherd, of the great one who had to take care of the little one. “He missed the” vigilance “, the” personal care “, to “careful attention.” The “fragility of the child is combined with the carelessness of the pastor”, but this “does not determine the unhappy result of the parable, but is precisely the opportunity to activate the initiative of the pastor who will seek the lost sheep. “That is,” bring the sinner back. “
The search for the lost sheep, the preacher clarifies, is explained in the same Gospel passage, when Peter asks the Lord how many times he should forgive his brother in case of sin against him. Jesus – remember – brings up the responsibility of both the sinner and the offended. “The search for the brother who has gone astray is carried out, according to this text of Matthew, with the exercise of dialogue”, of speaking, of undertaking a “gradual process” that convinces the sinner from “personal conversation” to “implication” of the witnesses “, of” mediators who support the desire for reconciliation and favor it “, until the implication” of the whole community “. The objective achieved by the reconciliation mission – underlines the theologian – becomes visible in community prayer. El Salvador fulfills its mission precisely because pastors are “mediators”, “unite” the community.
Artisans of forgiveness
When the Apostle Peter asks: “How many times must I forgive my brother?” Jesus urges “not to get tired”, thus doing, in a certain sense, “permanent” the “ministry of reconciliation”. The number 70 times 7 is understood as “multiplication,” almost as if an “unimaginable overcoming” is opposed to each limit, “the more sin there is, the more mercy is multiplied.” Peter is in the Church the witness of this mercy. In fact, he remembers the sin of “denial”, his crying, his repentance “so that his experience becomes the emblem of the Church and of every Christian who has forgiven, becomes the architect of forgiveness.”