ON JESUS' CRY OF EXULTATION
"We Too, By the Gift of His Spirit, Can Turn to God in Prayer With the Confidence of Children"
VATICAN CITY, DEC. 7, 2011 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the Italian-language address Benedict XVI gave during today's general audience. He continued with his reflection on Jesus' prayer.
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Dear brothers and sisters,
The Evangelists Matthew and Luke (cf. Matthew 11:25-30 and Luke 10:21-22) have bequeathed to us a “jewel” of Jesus’ prayer, which often is called the Cry of Exultation or the Cry of Messianic Exultation. It is a prayer of gratitude and of praise, as we just heard. In the original Greek of the Gospels, the word with which this hymn begins -- and which expresses Jesus’ attitude in addressing the Father -- is exomologoumai -- often translated as “I give praise” (Matthew 11:25 and Luke 10:21). But in the writings of the New Testament, this word indicates principally two things: the first is “to confess” -- as for example, John the Baptist asked those who went out to be baptized by him to confess their sins (cf. Matthew 3:6); and the second is “to be in agreement." Therefore, the expression with which Jesus begins His prayer contains His full confession of the Father’s action -- and with it, His being in total, conscious and joyous agreement with this way of acting -- with the Father’s plan. The Cry of Exultation is the apex of a journey of prayer in which Jesus’ profound and intimate communion with the life of the Father in the Holy Spirit clearly emerges and reveals His divine Sonship.
Jesus addresses God by calling Him “Father”. This word expresses Jesus’ awareness and certainty in being “the Son” in intimate and constant communion with Him, and this is the focus and source of all of Jesus’ prayer. We see this clearly in the hymn’s conclusion, which illumines the entire text. Jesus says: “All things have been delivered to me by my Father; and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, or who the Father is except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal Him” (Luke 10:22). Jesus affirms, therefore, that only “the Son” truly knows the Father.
Every knowing between persons -- we all experience this in our human relationships -- implies involvement, some interior bond between the one who knows and the one known, at a more or less profound level: We cannot know one another without a communion of being. In the Cry of Exultation -- as in all of His prayer -- Jesus shows that true knowledge of God presupposes communion with Him. It is only by being in communion with the other that I may begin to know him; and so it is with God: only if I am in true contact, if I am in communion with Him, may I also know Him. Therefore, true knowledge is reserved to the “Son,” the Only Begotten who is forever in the bosom of the Father (cf. John 1:18), in perfect unity with Him. Only the Son truly knows God, by being in an intimate communion of being -- only the Son can truly reveal who God is.
The name “Father” is followed by a second title, “Lord of heaven and earth.” With this expression, Jesus recapitulates the belief in Creation and echoes the first words of Sacred Scripture: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1). Praying, He recalls the great biblical narrative of the history of God’s love for man, which begins with the act of Creation. Jesus enters into this history of love -- He is its summit and fulfillment. In His experience of prayer, Sacred Scripture is illumined and comes alive in its fullest breadth: the announcement of the mystery of God and the response of man transformed. But in the expression “Lord of heaven and earth” we are able also to recognize how in Jesus -- the Revealer of the Father -- there is reopened to man the possibility of gaining access to God.
Let us now ask ourselves the question: To whom does the Son wish to reveal the mysteries of God? At the beginning of the hymn Jesus expresses His joy, for the Father’s Will is to keep these things hidden from the learned and the wise and to reveal them to the little ones (cf. Luke 10:21). In this expression of His prayer, Jesus reveals His communion with the decision of the Father, who reveals His mysteries to the simple of heart: the Son’s Will is one with the Father’s.
Divine revelation does not come to pass according to worldly logic, which says that it is the cultured and the powerful who possess important knowledge and who transmit it to simpler people, to the little ones. God used a wholly different way: The recipients of His communication were precisely the “little ones.” This is the Father’s Will, and the Son joyously shares it with Him. The Catechism of the Catholic Church says: “His exclamation, ‘Yes, Father!’ expresses the depth of His heart, His adherence to the Father's ‘good pleasure,’ echoing His mother's Fiat at the time of his conception and prefiguring what He will say to the Father in his agony. The whole prayer of Jesus is contained in this loving adherence of His human heart to the mystery of the will of the Father (Ephesians 1:9)” (2603).
Hence derives the invocation we address to God in the Our Father: “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven”: Together with Christ and in Christ, we also ask to enter into harmony with the Father’s Will, and in this way we also become His children. Therefore, in this Cry of Exultation, Jesus expresses His Will to draw into His own filial knowledge of God all those whom the Father wishes to share in it; and those who welcome this gift are the “little ones.”
But what does it mean “to be little,” to be simple? What is the “littleness” that opens man to filial intimacy with God and to the welcoming of His Will? What must the fundamental attitude of our prayer be? Let us look to “The Sermon on the Mount,” where Jesus affirms: “Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8). It is purity of heart that allows us to recognize the face of God in Jesus Christ -- it is having a simple heart, like those of children -- free from the presumption of the one who is closed in on himself, who thinks he has no need of anyone -- not even God.
It is also interesting to note the circumstances in which Jesus breaks into this hymn to the Father. In Matthew’s Gospel narrative, it is joy in the fact that -- despite the opposition and refusal of many -- there are “little ones” who welcome His word and who open themselves to the gift of faith in Him. The Cry of Exultation, in fact, is preceded by the contrast between the praise of John the Baptist -- one of the “little ones” who recognized God acting in Christ Jesus (cf. Mathew 11:2-19) -- and the reproof for the incredulity of the lake cities “where most of His mighty works had been done” (cf. Matthew 11:20-24).
The exultation is seen by Matthew, therefore, in relation to the words with which Jesus notes the efficacy of His word and of His action: “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is he who takes no offense at me” (Matthew 11:4-6).
St. Luke also presents the Cry of Exultation in connection with a moment of development in the proclamation of the Gospel. Jesus sent out the “seventy-two disciples” (Luke 10:1), and they departed with a sense of fear over the possible failure of their mission. Luke also emphasizes the refusal encountered in the cities where the Lord had preached and accomplished mighty works. But the seventy-two disciples return full of joy, because their mission was successful; they witnessed that with the power of Jesus’ word, the evils of men are conquered. And Jesus shares their satisfaction: “in that same hour” -- in that moment -- He rejoiced.
There are still two elements I would like to emphasize. The Evangelist Luke introduces the prayer with the annotation: “Jesus rejoiced in the Holy Spirit” (Luke 10:21). Jesus rejoices from His inmost being, in what He holds most deeply: [His] unique communion of knowledge and love with the Father, the fullness of the Holy Spirit. In drawing us into His Sonship, Jesus invites us also to open ourselves to the light of the Holy Spirit, since -- as the Apostle Paul affirms -- “[We] do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words … according to the will of God” (Romans 8:26-27) and He reveals to us the Father’s love.
In Matthew’s Gospel -- following the Cry of Exultation -- we find one of Jesus’ most heartfelt appeals: “Come to me, all who are weary are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). Jesus asks us to go to Him, for He is true Wisdom -- to Him, for He is “gentle and humble of heart.” He offers us “His yoke” -- the road of the wisdom of the Gospel -- which is neither a doctrine to be learned nor an ethical system, but a Person to be followed: He Himself, the Only Begotten Son in perfect communion with the Father.
Dear brothers and sisters, we have experienced for a moment the riches of this prayer of Jesus. We too, by the gift of His Spirit, can turn to God in prayer with the confidence of children, calling upon Him with the name Father, “Abba.” But we must have the heart of the little ones, of the “poor in spirit” (Matthew 5:3) -- in order to recognize that we are not self-sufficient, that we are unable to build our lives alone, that we need God -- we need to encounter Him, to listen to Him, to speak to Him. Prayer opens us to receive the gift of God -- His Wisdom -- which is Jesus Himself, in order to accomplish the Father’s Will in our lives and thus to find rest amidst the hardships of our journey. Thank you.