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Wednesday, May 31, 2017

General Audience on abounding in hope

This morning's General Audience began at 9:20am (local time) 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.

In his speech, the Pope focused on the theme: The Holy Spirit makes us abound in hope (cf Rom 15:13-14).

After having summarized his catechesis in various languages, the Holy Father offered particular greetings to each group of pilgrims 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!

In the immensity of the Solemnity of Pentecost, we cannot neglect to speak about the relationship between Christian hope and the Holy Spirit.  The Spirit is the wind that drives us forward, that keeps us focused on the journey, that helps us to understand that we are pilgrims and strangers, and does not allow us to sit idle and to become a sedentary people.

The letter to the Hebrews compares hope to an anchor (cf Heb 6:18-19); and along with this image, we can add the image of a sail.  If the anchor gives a boat security and holds it anchored among the sea's waves, the sail keeps it journeying and advancing on the water.  Hope is truly like a sail; it harnesses the power of the Holy Spirit's wind and transforms it into a driving force to drive the boat, either away from or toward the shore.

The apostle Paul concludes his Letter to the Romans with the following wish: listen attentively, pay attention to this wish: May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit (Rom 15:13).  Let us reflect a bit on the content of this beautiful word.

The expression The God of hope does not mean only that God is the object of our hope, the One that we hope to join one day in eternal life; it also means that God is the One who already makes us hope, even makes us rejoice in hope (Rom 12:12); rejoice even now in hope, and not only to hope that one day we will rejoice.  This is a matter of the joy of hoping, not merely hoping to one day have joy.  As long as we have life, there is hope, says a popular saying; and the contrary is also true; as long as there is hope, there is life.  Men and women need hope in order to live and they need the Holy Spirit in order to hope.

Saint Paul - we heard his words - attributes to the Holy Spirit the capacity to even abound in hope.  Abounding in hope means never becoming discouraged; it means hoping against all hope (Rom 4:18), hoping even when there is every human reason not to hope, as was the case for Abraham when God asked him to sacrifice his only son Isaac, and as it was, even more so the case, for the Virgin Mary who stood at the foot of Jesus' cross.

The Holy Spirit makes this invincible hope possible by giving us the interior witness that we are children of God and his heirs (cf Rom 8:16).  How could He who gave us his only Son not give us every other thing together with Him? (cf Rom 8:32).  Hope - brothers and sisters - does not disappoint, because God's love was poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us (Rom 5:5).  Therefore, we are not disappointed because we have the Holy Spirit within us who spurs us onward, always!  This is the reason why hope does not disappoint.

There is more: the Holy spirit makes us not only capable of hope, but he also makes us sowers of hope, so that we - like him and thanks to him - are paracletes, consolers and defenders of our brothers, sowers of hope.  A Christian can sow bitterness, can so perplexity, and these are not Christians; those who do this are not good Christians.  Sow hope: sow the oil of hope, sow the perfume of hope and not the vinegar of bitterness and of dis-hope (despair).  The Blessed Cardinal Newman, in one of his speeches, said of the faithful: Educated by our own suffering, our own sorrow, indeed by our own sins, we have our minds and hearts exercised in every work of love extended toward those who are in need.  We will be - in the measure of our capability - consolers in the image of the Paraclete - the Holy Spirit - and in every sense that this word implies: advocates, helpers and bringers of comfort.  Our words and our counsel, our ways of doing things, our voices, our glances, will be gentle and tranquil (Parochial and plain Sermons, Vol V, London, 1870, pp. 300s).  And especially the poor, those who are excluded, those who are not loved and those who are in need of someone who will be for them a paraclete, a consoler and a defender, like the Holy Spirit is for every one of us, who are here in the Square, consolers and defenders.  We should do the same for those who are in need, for those who have been neglected by society, for those who are most in need, those who suffer the most.  Defenders and consolers!

The Holy Spirit feeds hope not only in the hearts of mankind, but also in all of creation.  The Apostle Paul says - this seems a bit strange, but it is true: that even creation is eagerly waiting for liberation and suffers as with the pains of child birth (cf Rom 8:20-22).  The energy that is capable of moving the world is not an anonymous and blind force, but the action of the Spirit of God which hovered over the waters (Gen 1:2) at the beginning of creation (Benedict XVI, Homily, 31 May 2009).  This too motivates us to respect creation: no one can criticize a painting without offending the artist who created it.

Brothers and sisters, may the coming feast of Penticost - which is the birthday of the Church - find us united in prayer, along with Mary, the Mother of Jesus and our mother.  And may the gift of the Holy Spirit make us abound in hope.  I will say something more: may it make it possible for us to shower hope on all those who are most in need, all those who have been abandoned and all those who are lacking what is necessary for life.  Thank you.

This catechesis was then summarized in various languages and the Holy Father offered particular 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 the groups from England, Belgium, Norway, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Taiwan, Vietnam, Hong Kong, Singapore, Korea, Tahiti, Uganda, Canada and the United States of America. I also greet the pilgrims who have come to take part in the Vigil of Pentecost on the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal. Upon all of you, and your families I invoke a rich outpouring of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. God bless you all!

The Holy Father also added a special greeting this morning in the Czech language, in which he recalled the 75th anniversary of the massacre of Lidice at the hands of the Nazi regime and encouraged the Czech faithful to rely on the intercession on the Virgin Mary, who is venerated in the icon of the Madonna of Lidice:

I cordially greet the faithful from the Czech Republic, in particular those who are participating in the national pilgrimage being led by Cardinal Dominik Duka, Archbishop of Prague on the occasion of the 75th anniversary of the Lidice massacre, under the Nazi regime.  Dear friends, trust in the intercession of the Holy Virgin, who you venerate in the icon of the Madonna of Lidice.  May she help you to be courageous witnesses of Christ's Resurrection, even in moments of difficulty or trial.  I send my blessing to all of you!
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