On hope that doesn’t disappoint

Pope Francis gives us wonderful thoughts about hope today in his General Audience.  If you don’t have time to read the whole thing, at least read the last paragraph.

The Holy Father’s Catechesis

Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!

As children we are taught that it is not a good thing to boast. In my land, we call those who boast “peacocks.” And that is right, because to boast of what one is or of what one has, in addition to being a certain pride, also betrays a lack of respect in relations with others, especially towards those who are more unfortunate than us. In this passage of the Letter to the Romans, the Apostle Paul surprises us, in as much as for a good two times he exhorts us to boast. Hence, of what is it right to boast? — because if he exhorts us to boast, it is right to boast of something. And how is it possible to do this without offending, others, without excluding anyone?

In the first case, we are invited to boast of the abundance of grace of which we are pervaded in Jesus Christ, through faith. Paul wants to make us understand that, if we learn to read everything in the light of the Holy Spirit, we realize that everything is grace! Everything is gift! In fact, if we pay attention, to act – in history as well as in our life – it is not only us but first of all God <who acts>. He is the absolute protagonist, who creates everything as a gift of love, who weaves the plot of his plan of salvation and who brings it to fulfilment for us in His Son Jesus. We are asked to acknowledge all this, to receive it with gratitude and to make it become a motive of praise, of blessing and of great joy. If we do this, we are in peace with God and we experience freedom. And this peace is then extended to all environments and to all relations of our life: we are in peace with ourselves, we are in peace with the family, with our community, at work and with the persons we meet every day on our path.

However, Paul exhorts us to boast also in tribulations. This is not easy to understand. This is more difficult for us and it might seem to have nothing to do with the condition of peace just described. Instead, it constitutes the most authentic, the truest presupposition. In fact, the peace that the Lord offers and guarantees to us is not understood as the absence of worries, disappointments, failings, of motives of suffering. If it were so, should we succeed in being in peace that moment would soon end and we would fall inevitably into dejection. Instead, the peace that flows from faith is a gift: it is the grace of experiencing that God loves us and is always beside us; He does not leave us alone not even for an instant of our life. And, as the Apostle states, this generates patience, because we know that, also in the harshest and most distressing moments, the mercy and goodness of the Lord are greater than anything and nothing will tear us from His hands and from communion with Him.

See then why Christian hope is solid, see that it does not disappoint. It never disappoints. Hope does not disappoint! It is not founded on what we can do or be, and even less so on what we can believe. Its foundation, that is, the foundation of Christian hope is what is most faithful and certain that can be, namely the love that God Himself has for each one of us. It is easy to say: God loves us. We all say it. But think a moment: is every one of us capable of saying: I am certain that God loves me? It is not so easy to say it, but it is true. It is a good exercise to say to oneself: God loves me. This is the root of our security, the root of hope. And the Lord has effused His Spirit abundantly in our hearts as maker and guarantor, precisely so that it can nourish faith within us and keep this hope alive. And this certainty: God loves me. “But in this awful moment?” – God loves me. “And <He loves> me who have done this bad and evil thing?” – God loves me. No one takes this certainty away. And we should repeat it as a prayer: God loves me. I am certain that God loves me. I am certain that God loves me. Now we understand why the Apostle Paul exhorts us to boast always of all this. I boast of the love of God because He loves me. The hope we have been given does not separate us from others, and even less so does it lead us to discredit and marginalize them. Instead, it is an extraordinary gift of which we are called to make ourselves “channels” for all, with humility and simplicity. And then our greatest boast will be that of having as Father a God who does not have preferences, who does not exclude anyone, but who opens His house to all human beings, beginning with the least and the estranged, so that as His children we learn to console and support one another. And do not forget: hope does not disappoint.

[Original text: Italian]  [Translation by Virginia M. Forrester]

“We need witnesses to hope . . .”

“In a culture often dominated by technology, sadness and loneliness appear to be on the rise, not least among young people.  The future seems prey to an uncertainty that does not make for stability.  This often gives rise to depression, sadness and boredom, which can gradually lead to despair.  We need witnesses to hope and true joy if we are to dispel the illusions that promise quick and easy happiness through artificial paradises.  The profound sense of emptiness felt by so many people can be overcome by the hope we bear in our hearts and by the joy that it gives.  We need to acknowledge the joy that rises up in a heart touched by mercy.  Let us keep in mind, then, the words of the Apostle: ‘Rejoice in the Lord always’.  (Pope Francis)

“You are saved when the Lord looks for you.”

“Some believe that faith and salvation come with our effort to look for, to seek the Lord.  Whereas, it’s the opposite: you are saved when the Lord looks for you, when He looks at you and you let yourself be looked at and sought for.  The Lord will look for you first.  And when you find him, you understand that he was waiting there looking at you.  He was expecting you from beforehand.

“This is salvation.  And you let yourself be loved.  Salvation is precisely this meeting where he works first.  If this meeting does not take place, we are not saved.”

Pope Francis

” . . . or even just the desire . . .”

I just started reading Pope Francis’ book, The Name of God is Mercy, and I’m already hooked.  Here’s a little bit from the “To the Reader” section by the editor, Andrea Tornielli.  He’s describing Pope Francis’ comments on part of the first draft.

Pope_Francis_greets_pilgrims_in_St_Peters_Square_before_the_Wed_general_audience_on_April_16_2014_Credit_Daniel_Ibanez_CNA.jpg“We discussed the difficulties of acknowledging ourselves as sinners, and in the first draft, I wrote that Francis asserted, ‘The medicine is there, the healing is there–if only we take a small step toward God.’ After reading the text, he called me and asked me to add ‘or even just the desire to take that step.’  It was a phrase that I had clumsily left out of my summary.  This addition, or rather, the proper restoration of the complete text, reveals the vast heart of the shepherd who seeks to align himself with the merciful hear of God and leaves nothing untried in reaching out to sinners.  He overlooks no possibility, no matter how small, in attempting to give the gift of forgiveness.  God awaits us with open arms; we need only take a step toward him like the Prodigal Son.  But if, weak as we are, we don’t have the strength to take that step, just the desire to take it is enough.  It’s already enough of a start for grace to work and mercy to be granted in accordance with the experience of a Church that does not see itself as a customs office but as an agent that seeks out every single possible way to forgive.”

Tender words

Spoken by Pope Francis in his address to the U.S. Bishops on September 23, 2015:

Whenever a hand reaches out to do good or to show the love of Christ, to dry a tear or bring comfort to the lonely, to show the way to one who is lost or to console a broken heart, to help the fallen or to teach those thirsting for the truth, to forgive or to offer a new start in God . . . know that the Pope is at your side and supports you.   He puts his hand on your own, a hand wrinkled with age, but by God’s grace still able to support you.

He tells us: “Come out!”

lazarus“Before the sealed tomb of his friend Lazarus, Jesus “cried with a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come out.’ The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with bandages, and his face wrapped with a cloth” (11:43-44). This commanding cry is addressed to every man, because we are all marked for death, all of us; it is the voice of he who is the Lord of life and desires that all “have it in abundance” (John 10:10). Christ has not resigned himself to the tombs that we have created with our choices of evil and death, with our mistakes, with our sins. He does not resign himself to this! He invites us, he almost commands us, to come out of the tombs in which our sins have buried us. He insistently calls us out of the darkness of the prison in which we have shut ourselves, contenting ourselves with a false, egoistic and mediocre life. “Come out!” he tells us, “Come out!” It is a beautiful invitation to true freedom, to let ourselves be seized by these words of Jesus that he repeats to each one of us today. It is an invitation to remove the “burial shroud,” the burial shroud of pride. Pride makes us slaves, slaves to ourselves, slaves of many idols, of many things. Our resurrection begins here: when we decide to obey this command of Jesus, going out into the light, into life; when the masks fall from our face – often we are masked by sin, the masks must fall! – and we rediscover the courage of our true face, created in the image and likeness of God.” (Pope Francis)