Prayer is a refuge and protection against the evil of the world, Pope Francis said in his general audience address today.
Speaking via livestream from his library in the apostolic palace, the pope illustrated this point with several stories from Genesis, including those of Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, and Noah.
“Reading these stories, one gets the impression that prayer is both the embankment and the refuge of man before the flood of evil that grows in the world,” he said May 27. “On closer inspection, we also pray to be saved from ourselves.”
“God’s plan for humanity is good, but in our daily life we experience the presence of evil: it is an everyday experience.”
Continuing his cycle of catechesis on prayer, Francis noted that the righteous person’s prayer turns them away from, not toward, violence. “In fact, prayer, when it is authentic, is free from instincts of violence and is a gaze turned toward God,” he said.
He quoted from paragraph 2569 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which says “this quality of prayer is lived by a multitude of righteous in all religions.”
“Prayer,” he argued, “cultivates flowerbeds of rebirth in places where man’s hatred has only been able to enlarge the desert.”
In his address, Pope Francis also reflected on the lessons humanity can take from the stories in Genesis, starting with Adam and Eve.
“The first chapters of the Book of Genesis describe the progressive expansion of sin in human affairs,” he said.
Adam and Eve, yielding to the devil’s temptation, begin to doubt the benevolent intentions of God. They have delusions of omnipotence, the pope said. But what happens instead is their eyes are opened and they discover they are naked, they have nothing. The tempter “pays badly,” he underlined.
Turning to Cain and Abel, Francis asserted that with the next human generation, “evil becomes even more disruptive.”
Cain becomes infested with the “worm of envy” toward his brother Abel. Cain does not get command of the evil which grows in his heart, “and so, the story of the first brotherhood ends with a murder,” the pope said.
“I think, today, about human fraternity,” he added. “Wars everywhere.”
Pope Francis described what followed Cain’s evil action, explaining that from his lineage, “evil spreads like wildfire, until it occupies the whole picture.”
There is the need for a new beginning, a new creation, which will have its fulfillment in Jesus Christ, he noted. “Yet, in these first pages of the Bible, another story is written, less conspicuous, much more humble and devoted, which represents the redemption of hope.”
“Even if almost everyone behaves in a brutal way, making hatred and conquest the great engine of human affairs, there are people capable of praying to God with sincerity, capable of writing man’s destiny in a different way,” he said.
He pointed to the birth of Adam and Eve’s third son, Seth, who later had his own son, named Enos, meaning “mortal.”
In Genesis, it is written that from the birth of Enos, “people began to invoke the name of the Lord.” Enos also had a cousin, Enoch, who is a person who “walks with God,” according to Scripture.
“And finally there is the story of Noah, a righteous man who ‘walked with God,’ before whom God holds back his purpose of erasing humanity,” Francis said.
“And prayer is powerful,” he underlined, “because it attracts the power of God and the power of God always gives life: always.”
“This is why the lordship of God passes through the chain of these men and women, often misunderstood or marginalized in the world,” he said.
These men and women are not headline-makers, according to the pope, “but the world lives and grows thanks to the strength of God that these servants of his draw with their prayer.”
“The path of God in the history of God passed through them: it passed through a ‘remnant’ of humanity that did not conform to the law of the fittest, but asked God to perform his miracles, and above all to transform our heart of stone in the heart of flesh,” he concluded.
At the end of the general audience, in his greeting to Italian-speaking pilgrims, Pope Francis recalled that May 29 is the memorial of St. Pope Paul VI, who was canonized in 2018.
“May the example of this Bishop of Rome, who has reached the heights of holiness, encourage each one of us to embrace the Gospel ideals,” he urged.