After a long summer break, punctuated by his trips to Madrid for World Youth Day and to his homeland of Germany, the Holy Father returned to the theme of Christian prayer in his general audience today.
He looked at Psalm 23, examining the reasons for the enduring popularity of this beautiful poem.
“‘The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want’. With its exquisite pastoral imagery this much-beloved Psalm speaks of the radical trust in God’s loving care which is an essential aspect of prayer.
“The powerful image of God as the Shepherd of Israel accompanied the whole religious history of the Chosen People, from the Exodus to the return to the Promised Land. It finds its ultimate expression and fulfilment in the coming of Jesus, the Good Shepherd, who gave his life for his sheep.”
It is one of the earliest images used to represent Jesus in art, as anyone who has been to the catacombs of Rome will know, but this simple representation and others like it, play a vital part in helping us to pray, as Celia Wolf-Devine points out in the CTS booklet New Companion to Prayer:
“The way we think about ourselves in relation to God structures our response to Him. Imaginative images help us grasp unseen realities. Jesus, himself, used analogies of this sort constantly. He speaks of vineyards, wine skins, mustard seeds, yeast, pearls, sheep and shepherds, but there are many other images we can use when praying that will facilitate an attitude of receptivity and trust. The Lord may inspire you with a special way, He wants you to think about your relationship to Him and what He wants from you, so be open to that.”
For Pope Benedict XVI the image of the Good Shepherd is one that ultimately brings us to Jesus’ greatest expression of love for us:
“His Body and Blood as a foretaste of the definitive messianic banquet which awaits us in heaven.”
New Companion to Prayer is available from the CTS priced £2.50
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