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Pope calls prayer 'first task in life'

In Mass at St. Martha's, Francis contrasts justice with prayer

08 October, 14:52
Pope calls prayer 'first task in life' (ANSA) - Vatican City, October 8 - Pope Francis called prayer "the first task in life" on Tuesday at a Mass in Saint Martha's House, the Vatican guesthouse used as a residence by the pope.

"The first task in life is prayer", not "parroting" but "that which is done with the heart," the pope said according to Vatican Radio, which released excerpts of the pontiff's sermon.

Whoever knows how to pray is not an "avenger", but knows how to forgive, "to open the door to God" and to "make miracles", the pope said.

The pope spoke of the story of Martha and Mary, which appears in the gospel of Luke, in which Martha complains to Jesus that her sister Mary is too busy praying to help prepare meals. Jesus responds that Mary had chosen the better task.

"In Martha's eyes, prayer was lost time" whereas "we know that prayer makes miracles", the pope said.

The pope compared Martha to the biblical prophet Jonah, saying: "they had an identical incapacity - they did not know how to pray".

After delivering God's message to the inhabitants of Ninevah that the city would be destroyed for its wickedness, he sought escape and to save himself, whereas Ninevah's king and inhabitants repented and prayed for forgiveness.

The pope said Jonah's mistake was the same as Martha's, to look at the situation as a question of justice, of tit for tat. Jonah "in his heart said, 'They deserve it. They're getting what is coming to them'", the pope recounted.

"He prophesied but did not pray. He did not ask the Lord to forgive them," the pope said.

Not praying, the pope said, amounts to "closing the doors on the Lord" who knows "how to rearrange things".