Here below is the full text of Pope Francis’ weekly general audience, given today in St. Peter’s Square.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Today we want to ask ourselves: in the end, what will the People of God be? What will become of each one of us? What must we expect? The Apostle Paul encouraged the Christians of the community of Thessalonica, who asked themselves these same questions, and he concluded: “”And so we shall always be with the Lord!” (1 Thessalonians 4:17).
It is emblematic in the Book of Revelation how John, taking up the intuition of the prophets, described the last, definitive dimension in terms of the “new Jerusalem, coming down out of Heaven from God, prepared a s a bride adorned for her husband” (Revelation 21:2). See what we await! And see, now, who the Church is: she is the People of God that follows the Lord Jesus and which prepares herself, day after day for the encounter with Him, as a bride with her husband. And it is not just a way of speaking: they will be true and proper nuptials! Yes, because Christ, becoming man like us and making us all one with Him, with his Death and His Resurrection has truly wedded us and has made us his Bride. And this is nothing other than the fulfilment of the design of communion and love woven by God in the course of the whole of history.
There is another element, however, which comforts us ultimately and which opens our heart: John tells us that in the Church, Bride of Christ, the “new Jerusalem” is rendered visible. This means that the Church, in addition to being Bride, is called to become a City, symbol par excellence of human coexistence and relationship. How lovely, then, it is to be able to contemplate already, according to another much more thought-provoking image of Revelation, all peoples and all nations gathered together in this city, as in a dwelling, “the dwelling of God” (cf. Revelation 21:3)! And in this glorious framework, there will no longer be isolation, prevarications and distinctions of any sort – of a social, ethnic or religious nature – but we shall all be one in Christ.
In the presence of this unheard of and wonderful scenario, our hearts cannot but feel confirmed strongly in hope. See, Christian hope is not simply a desire, a wish: for a Christian, hope is expectation, fervent, passionate expectation for the final and definitive fulfilment of a mystery, the mystery of God’s love, in which we are reborn and in which we already live. And it is the expectation of someone who is about to arrive: it is Christ the Lord who makes Himself ever closer to us, day after day, and who comes to introduce us finally into the fullness of His communion and of His peace. The Church now has the task to keep alight and well visible the lamp of hope, so that it can continue to shine as the sure sign of salvation and be able to illumine, for the whole of humanity, the path that leads to the encounter with the merciful face of God.
Dear brothers and sisters, see then what we expect: Jesus’ return! The Church-Bride awaits her spouse! We must ask ourselves, however, with much sincerity: are we truly luminous and credible witnesses of this hope? Do our communities still live in the sign of hope of the Lord Jesus and in the warm expectation of His coming, or do they seem tired, sluggish, under the weight of toil and resignation? Do we also run the risk of exhausting the oil of faith, of joy? Let us be careful!
We invoke the Virgin Mary, Mother of hope and Queen of Heaven, to keep us always in an attitude of listening and of expectation, so that already now we can be permeated with the love of Christ and take part one day in the joy without end, in full communion with God.
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Dear Brothers and Sisters: In our catechesis on the Church, we now consider the object of our Christian hope, the fulfilment of God’s promises in the coming of Christ at the end of time. Saint John speaks of this joyful encounter between the Lord and his people using the image of “the new Jerusalem, coming down from heaven, prepared as a bride adorned to meet her husband” (cf. Rev 21:2). This spousal imagery contains a profound truth: by taking on our flesh, Jesus united humanity to himself, and at his coming we will see the consummation of this mystic marriage in the wedding feast of heaven. The vision of the new Jerusalem also reminds us that the Church is meant in God’s plan to be a City in which all men and women live at last in harmony and blessed peace. Christian hope, then, is our joyful expectation of the Lord’s coming and the fulfilment of his saving plan for the human family. In every generation the Church holds high the lamp of this hope before the world. Today let us ask whether our lamps are alight with the oil of faith, and to what extent we live as credible and joy-filled witnesses to our hope in God’s promises.
Comments to English-Speaking Pilgrims
I greet the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors taking part in today’s Audience, including the various groups from England, Scotland, Ireland, Norway, Denmark, Ghana, India, Japan, Thailand, Australia and the United States of America. In a particular way, my greeting goes to the Irish National Pilgrimage commemorating the fourteenth centenary of the death of Saint Columban. Upon all of you, and your families, I invoke joy and peace in the Lord Jesus. God bless you all!
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Comments to Italian-Speaking Pilgrims
A cordial welcome goes to the Italian-speaking pilgrims. In particular, I greet the participants in the 4thCongress of the Ratzinger-Benedict XVI Foundation, which will take place in Medellin, exhorting them to study courses that build peace and promote the dignity of the human person. I greet the students of the Caboto Institute, on the anniversary of its foundation, accompanied by the Archbishop of Gaeta, Monsignor Fabio D’Onorio; the Union of the Pro loco of Italy; the Italian Surgery Society; the FIRMO Foundation of Florence. In addition, I greet the “Social Centers – Elderly Committees” of Bologna, that of the “wives of Italian doctors” and “Parents Always,” as well as the participants in the International Festival of the Circus of Latina. May the visit to the tombs of the Apostles foster in all growth in faith and more intense service in favour of the weakest, sick, elderly and defenceless persons.
Finally, a special thought goes to young people, the sick and newlyweds. We continue to invoke the intercession of the Virgin Mary on the Synod of the Family. Dear young people, especially you of the Cicero, Saint Nilus and Saint Joseph Institute al Trionfale, always thank the Lord for the gift of the family; dear sick, unite the offering of your suffering to the intention of prayer for peace in families; and you, dear newlyweds, found your conjugal home on the rock of the Word of God.[Original: Italian] [Working translation by ZENIT]