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Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Catechesis on the power of hope to save us

This morning's General Audience began at 9:30am in Saint Peter's Square where the Holy Father, Pope Francis met with groups of pilgrims and the faithful from Italy and from every corner of the world.

During his speech, the Pope continued his cycle of catecheses on the theme of Christian hope, adding his meditation on the theme: In hope, we find that we are all saved (cf Rm 8:19-27).

After having summarized his catechesis in various languages, the Holy Father addressed particular greetings to each group of the faithful in attendance.  He then issued a call for prayer concerning the serious situation in South Sudan.

The General Audience concluded with the chanting of the Pater Noster and the Apostolic blessing.

Catechesis of the Holy Father, Pope Francis
for the General Audience

Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!

At times, we are tempted to think that creation is our property, a possession that we can use as we please and for which we need not account to anyone.  In the passage from the Letter to the Romans (Rm 8:19-27) which we have just heard, the Apostle Paul recalls however that creation is a marvellous gift which God has placed in our hands, so that we can enter into relationship with Him and so that we can recognize there the imprint of his loving plan; day after day, we are called to work toward the implementation of this plan.

However, when we allow ourselves to be driven by egoism, human beings end up ruining even the most beautiful things that have been entrusted to us.  The same is true for creation.  Let us think for instance about water.  Water is a beautiful thing and it is so very important; water gives us life, it helps us in many ways but in order to exploit minerals, we contaminate water, we spoil creation and even destroy it.  This is only one example.  There are many others.  With the tragic experience of sin, our communion with God has been broken, we have wounded the original communion we enjoyed with everything around us and we ended up corrupting creation, making it a slave, submissive to our frailty.  Unfortunately, the consequence of all this is dramatically appearing before our eyes, day after day.  When we break communion with God, man loses his own original beauty and ends up disfiguring everything else around him; where once  everything belonged to our Father, the Creator and was given out of his infinite love, it now bears the sad and desolate marks of pride and human greed.  Human pride, which takes advantage of creation, ends up destroying it.

But the Lord does not leave us alone and even when the outlook is bleak, he gives us a new perspective of freedom, universal salvation.  That's what Paul joyfully points out inviting us to listen to the cries of all creation.  If we pay attention, in fact, everything around us is groaning: creation itself is groaning, we human beings are groaning and the Spirit within us is groaning, within our hearts.  Now, these groans are not a sterile lament, inconsolable, but - as the Apostle points out - they are the groans as of a woman in labour; they are the groans of someone who is suffering, but one who is ready to come into the light of a new life.  And in our case, it is truly this way.  We are still struggling with the consequences of our sins and everything around us still bears the marks of our efforts and our shortcomings, our closures within ourselves.  At the same time, however, we know that we have been saved by the Lord and already, we have been given to contemplate and to anticipate within ourselves and in the world around us, signs of a new creation, signs of the Resurrection, signs of Easter.

This is the content of our hope.  Christians do not live outside of the world; we are able to recognize signs of evil, of egoism and of sin in our lives and in our surroundings.  We stand in solidarity with those who suffer, with those who weep, with those who are marginalized, with those who feel desperate ... However, at the same time, Christians have learned to read everything with the ears of Easter, with the ears of the Risen Christ.  This is how we know that we are living in a time of waiting, a time of longing that reaches beyond the present, a time of fulfillment.  In hope, we know that with his mercy, the Lord wants to permanently heal wounded and humiliated hearts and all that man has disfigured as a result of his impiety, and that in this way, He recreates a new world and a new humanity, reconciled at last in his love.

How often are we Christians tempted by disappointment, pessimism ... At times, we indulge in useless lamenting, or we remain speechless and do not even know what to ask, what to expect ... Once again however, we find solace in the Holy Spirit, the breath of our hope, which keeps the groaning and the expectations of our hearts alive.  The Spirit sees beyond the negative appearances of the present and reveals to us even now, the new heavens and the new earth that the Lord is preparing for all humanity.

The Holy Father's catechesis was then summarized in various languages, and He offered greetings to each group of pilgrims in attendance.  To English-speaking pilgrims, he said:

I greet the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors taking part in today’s Audience, particularly those from England, Ireland, Norway, India and the United States of America. Upon all of you, I invoke the gifts of mercy and peace, and I pray to the Lord that they may help you to care for creation and one another. May God bless you!

Following the greetings offered to groups of pilgrims in attendance, at the conclusion of the General Audience, the Holy Father made the following appeal:

Of particular concern is the painful news that continues to emerge from the martyred South Sudan, where a fratricidal conflict has now been united with a grave food crisis in the region of the Horn of Africa, condemning millions of people to death by starvation, among which are many children.  In this moment, it is more necessary than ever before that we all commit ourselves to not be content with making declarations, but rather that we render concrete food assistance and allow such assistance to reach the people who are suffering.  May the Lord support these brothers of ours, as well as all those who are working to help them.
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