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Wednesday, February 15, 2017

General Audience on hope that does not deceive

This morning's General Audience began at 9:20am in the Paul VI Hall where the Holy Father, Pope Francis met with groups of pilgrims and the faithful from Italy and from every corner of the world.

In his speech, the Pope continued the new cycle of catecheses on the theme of Christian hope, adding his meditation on the theme: Hope does not deceive.

After having summarized his catechesis in various languages, the Holy Father addressed particular greetings to each group of the faithful in attendance.

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!

From the time of our childhood, we are taught that it is not nice to boast.  In my homeland, we call people who boast peacocks.  And it is fitting, because boasting about something that we've done or something that we have, in addition to showing our pride, also betrays a certain lack of respect for others, especially toward those who are less fortunate than we are.  In this passage from the Letter to the Romans however, the Apostle Paul surprises us, because on two separate occasions he encourages us to boast.  Are there certain cases then when it is right to boast?  Because if he encourages us to boast, there must be something worth boasting about.  How can we do this without offending anyone, without excluding anyone?

In the first case, we are invited to boast about the abundance of grace with which we are imbued in Jesus Christ, by means of faith.  Paul wants us to understand that, if we learn how to read everything in the light of the Holy Spirit, we realize that everything is grace!  Everything is a gift!  If we pay attention, and act - in history as well as in our own lives - there is not only us, but first and foremost God is at work.  And He is the absolute hero, who creates everything as a gift of love, who weaves the drama of his plan of salvation and who brings it to completion in us, through his Son Jesus.  We must recognize all this, welcome it with gratitude and allow it to become a reason for giving praise, blessing and a source of great joy.  If we do this, we are at peace with God and we experience freedom.  And this peace then extends to all areas of our lives, to every relationship we have: we are at peace with ourselves, we are at peace with our families, with our communities, with our work and with the people we meet every day on our journey.

But Paul also encourages us to boast of our trials.  This is not easy to understand.  This may be more difficult to understand and might seem to have nothing to do with the condition of peace that has just been described.  However, it is the most authentic, the most real presupposition.  In fact, the peace that is offered and which the Lord guarantees should not be understood as the absence of preoccupations, disappointments, failures or the cause for suffering.  If this were the case, then were we to succeed in finding peace, such a time would quickly come to an end and we would inevitably fall into discomfort.  The peace that comes from faith is instead a gift: it is the grace of hoping that the Lord loves us and that he is always beside us; he never leaves us alone, not even for a moment of our lives.  And the Apostle affirms that this in itself brings us peace, for we know that, even in the most difficult and disturbing moments of our lives, mercy and the abundance of the Lord are greater than anything else and nothing will ever separate us from his hands and from sharing communion with Him.

This is the reason why Christian hope is so solid, the reason why it does not deceive.  It never deceives.  Hope does not deceive!  It is not founded on anything that we can do or be, and even less on that in which we can believe.  Its foundation, the foundation of Christian hope, is based on the fact that there will always be faith and this faith will always be sure; it is nourished by the love that God himself has for each one of us.  It is easy to say: God loves us.  We all say this.  But think about it for a little while: every one of us can say: am I sure that God loves me?  It is not so easy to say this.  But it is true.  This is a good exercise, to say to ourselves: God loves me.  This is the root of our surety, the root of our hope.  And the Lord has poured the Spirit into our hearts in great abundance - the Spirit who is the love of God - as a craftsman, a guarantor, precisely so that he can nourish faith within us and keep the gift of hope alive.  This is sure: God loves me.  But in this difficult moment? - God loves me.  And me, who has done this terrible ugly thing? - God loves me.  This is something sure, that can never be taken away from us.  We must repeat it like a prayer: God loves me.  I am sure that God loves me.  I am sure that God loves me.

Now we understand why the Apostle Paul encourages us to boast always in all of this.  I boast in the love of God, because he loves me.  The hope that has been given to us does not separate us from others, nor does it lead us to discredit or marginalize them.  Rather it is an extraordinary gift and we are called to become channels of this love, with humility and simplicity, for the sake of others.  Our greatest boast is that we have God as our Father, God who has no favorites, who excludes no one, but who opens his house to every human being, beginning with the smallest ones and those who are furthest away, so that as his children, we might learn to console one another and to support one another.  Let us never forget this: hope does not deceive.

The Holy Father's catechesis was then summarized in various languages and he offered greetings to each group of the faithful 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, Denmark and the United States of America. Upon all of you, I invoke the grace of the Lord Jesus, that you may a sign of Christian hope in your homes and communities. May God bless you!
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