Pope Francis gave this advice during this morning’s General Audience in the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall, as he continued his series of catecheses on the theme of Christian hope.
Francis drew inspiration from the figure of Rachel, the wife of Jacob, who died giving birth to her second child. The Pontiff recalled how the prophet Jeremiah evoked her tears those of a mother who cannot be consoled as she weeps for her children, to describe the sorrow of the Chosen People at the time of the Exile.
“Anyone familiar with the grief of a mother who has lost a child knows the power of this image.”
Faced with tragedy of the loss of a child, the Pope acknowledged, a mother often is unable to accept words or gestures of consolation, which will always be inadequate.
Sometimes Silence or Caress Is Better Than Words
This refusal of Rachel, who does not want to be consoled, teaches us also how much delicacy is required in face of others’ sorrow. To speak of hope to one who is desperate, the Pope pointed out, requires sharing his despair.
“And if I cannot say such words ,” the Pontiff stressed, “then silence is better — a caress, a gesture and no words.”
In response to Rachel’s tears, God offers a word of consolation by promising new life in the return of the exiles. Because of the mother’s weeping, there is hope again for the children, who will live again.
Hope Generated From Tears
The Lord responds with a promise that can now be for her a motive for true consolation: the people will be able to return from exile and live freely their relation with God.
“The tears generated hope. And this is not easy to understand, but it is true. Many times in our life tears sow hope; they are seeds of hope.”
Why do Children Suffer?
As we know, the Jesuit Pope added, Jeremiah’s prophecy was later taken up by the evangelist Matthew and applied to the massacre of the innocents.
“When someone turns to me,” Francis recalled, “and asks me difficult questions, for instance: ‘Tell me, Father, why do children suffer?’ I truly do not know what to answer. I just say: ‘Look at the Crucified: God has given us His Son, He suffered, and perhaps you will find an answer there.'”
“But answers from here [he points to his head], there are none.”
“Only by looking at God’s love that gives His Son, who offers His life for us, can some way of consolation be indicated. And because of this we say that the Son of God entered in the pain of men.”
“And on the Cross, it is He, the dying Son, who gives new fecundity to His Mother, entrusting her to the disciple John and rendering her Mother of the believing people.” Here, the Jesuit explained, death is conquered, and thus Jeremiah’s prophecy reaches fulfillment.
Mary’s tears, as those of Rachel, generated hope and new life, Francis noted, saying in Mary, standing at the foot of the Cross, the prophecy is truly fulfilled.
“Our Lady’s tears for the death of her Son bear fruit in new hope and new life for all those who, through faith, become her children in the body of the Risen Christ, which is the Church.”
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