Wednesday, April 8, 2020

General Audience during Holy Week

This morning's General Audience began at 9:25am local time (3:25am EST) in the Library at the Vatican Apostolic Palace.

In his speech, on the eve of the Easter Triduum, the Pope focused his meditation on the Passion of Christ in this week of apprehension about the pandemic which has caused so much suffering in the world.

After summarizing his catechesis in various languages, the Holy Father offered greetings to the faithful.

The General Audience concluded with the recitation 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 this week of apprehension about the pandemic which has caused so much suffering in the world, among the many questions we are asking ourselves, there may also be questions about God: What is He doing in the face of our pain?  Where is He when everything goes wrong?  Why doesn't he solve these problems quickly?  These are questions that we are asking about God.

The story of the Passion of Jesus, which accompanies us in these holy days, helps us. Even there, in fact, many questions remain. After welcoming Jesus triumphantly into Jerusalem, the people wondered if he would finally free them from their enemies (cf Lk 24:21). They expected a powerful, triumphant Messiah with a sword. Instead a gentle and humble-hearted one arrived, one who calls us to conversion and mercy. And it was precisely the crowd, which had previously praised him, who shouted: Let him be crucified! (Mt 27.23). Those who followed him, who were confused and frightened, abandoned him. They thought: if this is the fate of Jesus, he cannot be the Messiah, because God is strong, God is invincible.

But, if we go on reading the story of the Passion, we find an amazing fact. When Jesus died, the Roman centurion who was not a believer - he was not a Jew but was a pagan - the one who had seen him suffer on the cross and heard him forgive everyone, who had witnessed his boundless love, confessed: Truly this man was the Son of God (Mk 15: 39). He said just the opposite of the others. He said that this man is God, that he is truly God.

We can ask ourselves today: what is the true face of God? Usually we project what we are into Him at maximum power: our success, our sense of justice, and also our outrage. But the Gospel tells us that God is not like that. He is different and we could never know him with our own strength. This is why he came close, came to meet us and revealed himself completely at Easter. And where did he make himself most fully known? On the cross. There we learn the features of the face of God. Let us not forget, brothers and sisters, that the cross is God's throne. It will do us good to look at the Crucifix in silence and to see who our Lord is: He did not point the finger at anyone, not even at those who were crucifying him; instead, he opened his arms wide to everyone; he did not crush us with his glory, but let himself be stripped for us; he does not love us in words, but gives us life in silence; he does not force us, but frees us; he does not treat us as strangers, but takes our evil upon himself, he takes our sins upon himself. And in order for us to do this, to free ourselves from prejudices about God, we must look at the Crucifix. And then we must open the gospel. In these days, while we are all in quarantine and at home, closed in, let us take these two things in hand: the Crucifix, let us look at it; and let us open the gospel. This will be for us - so to speak - like a great domestic liturgy, because in these days we cannot go to church. The Crucifix and the Gospel!

In the Gospel we read that when people went to Jesus to make him king, for example after the multiplication of the loaves, he left (cf Jn 6: 15). And when the devils wanted to reveal his divine majesty, He silenced them (cf Mk 1: 24-25). Why? Because Jesus does not want to be misunderstood, he does not want people to confuse the true God, who is humble love, with a false god, a worldly god who shows off and imposes himself by force. He is not an idol. It is God who became man, like each one of us, and he expresses himself as a man but with the strength of his divinity. Instead, when was the identity of Jesus solemnly proclaimed in the Gospel? When the centurion says, He really was the Son of God. This was said there, as soon as he had given his life on the cross, because we could no longer be wrong: we see there that God is omnipotent in love, and not in any other way. It is his nature, because he is made this way. He is love.

You may object: "What am I to do with such a weak God, one who dies? I would prefer a strong god, a powerful God! But you know, the power of this world passes, while love remains. Only love retains the life we have, because it embraces our frailties and transforms them. It is the love of God who healed our sin at Easter with his forgiveness, which made death a passage of life, which changed our fear into trust, our anguish into hope. Easter tells us that God can turn everything toward goodness. That with him we can truly trust that everything will be fine. And this is not an illusion, because the death and resurrection of Jesus is not an illusion: it was a truth! That's why we are told on Easter morning: Don't be afraid! (cf Mt 28: 5). And our distressing questions about evil do not disappear suddenly, but we find in the Risen One the solid foundation that allows us not to sink.

Dear brothers and sisters, Jesus has changed history by making himself close to us and has done it, although we are still marked by evil, we have a history of salvation. By offering his life on the cross, Jesus also conquered death. From the open heart of the Crucifix, the love of God reaches each of us. We can change our stories by approaching him, accepting the salvation he offers us. Brothers and sisters, let us open our whole hearts in prayer, this week, these days: with the Crucified One and with the Gospel. Don't forget: the Crucifix and the Gospel. The domestic liturgy will be this. Let us open our hearts wide in prayer, let his gaze rest on us and we will understand that we are not alone, but that we are loved, because the Lord does not abandon us and he never forgets us. And with these thoughts, I wish you a Holy Week and a Holy Easter.
Testo originale nella lingua italiana

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The Holy Father's catechesis was then summarized in various languages and His Holiness offered greetings to each group of those who were watching.  To French-speaking viewers, he said:

Frères et sœurs, Jésus a changé l’histoire marquée par le mal en une histoire de salut. Avec son cœur ouvert de Crucifié, il rejoint chacun de nous dans ces moments d’angoisses, de difficultés et de souffrance. En cette Semaine Sainte, qu’au milieu des drames et des épreuves que nous vivons, nos cœurs s’établissent fermement dans le Christ mort et ressuscité.

Brothers and sisters, Jesus changed our history which was marked by evil into a history of salvation.  With his open and crucified heart, he reaches each one of us in these moments of anxiety, difficulty and suffering.  During this Holy Week, in the midst of the dramas and the tests that we are experiencing, may our hearts be firmly established in the crucified and risen Christ.

To English-speaking viewers, he said:

I greet the English-speaking faithful joining us through the media. May this Holy Week lead us to celebrate the resurrection of the Lord Jesus with hearts purified and renewed by the grace of the Holy Spirit. May God bless you!

To German-speaking viewers, he said:

Von Herzen grüße ich die Brüder und Schwestern deutscher Sprache. Mögen uns auch Fragen und Sorgen beängstigen, so haben wir doch die Zuversicht: Durch sein Leiden und Auferstehen hat der Herr die Geschichte, trotz allem Bösen, zu einer Geschichte des Heils gemacht. Nie sind wir allein, sondern stets von Gott geliebt. Ich wünsche euch gesegnete österliche Tage.

I warmly greet the brothers and sisters of the German language. Many questions and worries frighten us, but we have confidence: through his suffering and resurrection, the Lord has made history a story of salvation, despite all evil. We are never alone, but always loved by God. I wish you blessed Easter days.

To Spanish-speaking viewers, he said:

Saludo cordialmente a los fieles de lengua española que siguen esta catequesis a través de los medios de comunicación social. En estos días santos en que conmemoramos la Pasión del Señor Jesús, que con su cruz ha vencido a la muerte y nos ha dado vida, pidámosle con fe que convierta nuestro miedo en confianza, nuestra angustia en esperanza y nos haga experimentar la cercanía de su amor infinito. Que el Crucificado nos conceda ser cada vez más hermanos y nos sostenga con su presencia. Que Dios los bendiga.

I cordially greet the Spanish-speaking faithful who are following this catechesis through the media. In these holy days when we commemorate the Passion of the Lord Jesus, who with his cross has conquered death and given us life, we ask him in faith to turn our fear into trust, our anguish into hope and help us experience the closeness of his infinite love. May the Crucified Christ grant us to be more and more brothers and sustain us with his presence. God bless you.

To Portuguese-speaking viewers, he said:

Queridos fiéis de língua portuguesa, de coração vos saúdo, desejando-vos um Tríduo Pascal verdadeiramente santo que vos ajude a viver a Páscoa, cheios de alegria, consolação e, sobretudo, esperança, certos de que a Ressurreição de Cristo é também a nossa vitória. Boa Páscoa!

Dear Portuguese-speaking faithful, I cordially greet you, wishing you a truly holy Easter Triduum that will help you to live Easter full of joy, consolation and, above all, hope, certain that the Resurrection of Christ is also our victory.  Happy Easter!

To Arabic-speaking viewers, he said:

حيِّي المؤمنينَ الناطقينَ باللغةِ العربية، أيّها الإخوةُ والأخواتُ الأعزاء، لا نزال نعيش لحظاتٍ قد يبدو فيها أنّ الله بعيدٌ عنّا. ولكنه موجود. الخلق نفسه مستمر. حبه تعالى نفسه مستمر. الله المحب دائمًا هو هو، ليس فقط قريبًا منّا بل هو فينا. لذلك لنُلقِ عليه همنا وخوفنا. لأنّ المؤمن مطمئن حتى في الشدّة ويثق أنّ كل شيء، مع الله، سيتحول إلى خيرنا. لا تخافوا! ليُبارِكْكُم الرّب جميعًا ويَحرُسْكُم دائمًا من كل شر!

I greet all Arabic-speaking believers; dear brothers and sisters, we still experience moments when God seems far away from us. But he does exist. Creation itself continues. Almighty love itself continues. He is still a loving God; He is not only close to us, but He is among us. So let us call to him and entrust to him all our anxiety and fear. Because the believer is reassured even in distress and believes that with God, everything will turn to our good; do not worry! May God bless you all and keep you safe from all evil!

To Polish-speaking viewers, he said:

Drodzy bracia i siostry, zbliżając się do świętego Triduum Paschalnego, prośmy Pana, aby otworzył nasze serca i wprowadził nas w tajemnicę Swojej miłości, jaką okazał nam umierając na krzyżu, aby uwolnić nas z mocy zła i śmierci i wprowadzić nas do nowego życia. W tych dniach, w których z powodu epidemii jesteśmy zalęknieni, pełni troski o naszych bliskich, zawierzmy siebie Chrystusowi, który jest Panem życia. Jego błogosławieństwo niech wam stale towarzyszy i będzie źródłem pokoju i nadziei!

Dear brothers and sisters, approaching the holy Paschal Triduum, let us ask the Lord to open our hearts and introduce us to the mystery of His love which He showed us by dying on the cross, to free us from the power of evil and death and to introduce us to a new life. In those days in which we are afraid because of the epidemic, caring for our loved ones, let us entrust ourselves to Christ who is the Lord of life. May his blessing accompany you constantly and be a source of peace and hope!

And to Italian-speaking viewers, he said:

Saluto cordialmente i fedeli di lingua italiana. Il mio pensiero va, in particolare, ai gruppi che avrebbero voluto essere presenti oggi. Tra questi, gli universitari di diversi Paesi che vivono virtualmente il raduno UNIV 2020. Cari studenti, auspico che questa Settimana Santa sia per tutti una provvida occasione per rafforzare il vostro rapporto personale con Gesù e la vostra fede in Lui crocifisso e risorto.

Saluto infine i giovani, i malati, gli anziani e gli sposi novelli. La Passione del Signore, culminante nel trionfo glorioso della Pasqua, costituisca per ciascuno di voi la sorgente di speranza e di conforto nei momenti della prova. A tutti la mia Benedizione.

I cordially greet the Italian-speaking faithful. My thoughts go, in particular, to the groups that would have liked to be present today. Among these, university students from different countries who are practically experiencing the UNIV 2020 gathering. Dear students, I hope that this Holy Week will be a provident occasion for everyone to strengthen your personal relationship with Jesus and your faith in him who was crucified and who is risen.

Lastly, I greet the young people, the sick, the elderly and the newlyweds. May the Passion of the Lord, culminating in the glorious triumph of Easter, constitute for each of you the source of hope and comfort in times of trial. I send my blessing to all of you.

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