Christian hope is also the “expectation of the resurrection,” affirmed Pope Francis during the General Audience of February 1, 2017.
This morning’s General Audience was held at 9:30 in Paul VI Hall, where the Holy Father Francis met with groups of pilgrims and faithful from Italy and from all over the world.
Continuing with the series of catecheses on the theme of Christian hope, in his address in Italian the Pope focused his meditation on the theme: The helmet of hope of salvation, of which Saint Paul speaks (1 Thessalonians 5:4-11). During the catechesis in Italian, he invited the crowd in Paul VI Hall to repeat Saint Paul’s words: “So we shall always be with the Lord” (1 Thessalonians: 4-17). He invited to “pray for loved ones who have left us, who live with Christ and in communion with us.
After summarizing his catechesis in several languages, the Holy Father expressed special greetings to groups of faithful present. The General Audience ended with the singing of the Pater Noster and the Apostolic Blessing.
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THE HOLY FATHER’S CATECHESIS
Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning! In the past catecheses we began our course on the theme of hope by rereading in this perspective some pages of the Old Testament. Now we want to put in light the extraordinary scope that this virtue assumes in the New Testament, when it meets the novelty represented by Jesus Christ and the paschal event: Christian hope. We, Christians, are women and men of hope.
It is what emerges clearly from the first text that was written, namely, the First Letter of Saint Paul to the Thessalonians. Perceived in the passage we heard, is all the freshness and beauty of the first Christian proclamation. The Thessalonian community is a young community, recently founded, yet despite the difficulties and many trials, it is rooted in the faith and celebrates enthusiastically and joyfully the Resurrection of the Lord Jesus. So the Apostle heartily rejoices with all, in a much as those that are reborn at Easter truly become “sons of light and sons of the day” (5:5), in virtue of their full communion with Christ.
When Paul writes to them, the community of Thessalonika had just been founded, and only a few years separate it from Christ’s Pasch. Therefore, the Apostle tries to make them understand all the effects and consequences that this unique and decisive event, namely, the Lord’s Resurrection, implies for history and for the life of each one. In particular, the difficulty for the community was not so much to acknowledge Jesus’ Resurrection, all believed in it, but to believe in the resurrection of the dead. Yes, Jesus is risen, but the difficulty was to believe that the dead will rise again. In this connection, this Letter is revealed all the more timely. Every time we find ourselves in face of our death, or that of a loved one, we feel our faith is put to the test. All our doubts arise, all our frailty, and we wonder: “But will there truly be life after death …? Will I be able to see again and embrace again the persons I loved …? A lady asked me this question a few days ago in an audience, manifesting a doubt: “Will I meet my own?” In the present context, we are also in need of returning to the root and foundation of our faith, so as to become aware of all that God has done for us in Christ Jesus and what our death means. We all are somewhat afraid of this uncertainty of death. I remember a little old man, and elderly good man, who said: “I’m not afraid of death. I’m a bit afraid to see it coming.” He was afraid of this.
In face of the fears and perplexities of the community, Paul invites to have firmly on the head as a helmet, especially in trials and in the most difficult moments of our life, “the hope of salvation.” It is a helmet. See what Christian hope is. When there is talk of hope, we can be led to understand it according to the ordinary meaning of the term, namely, in reference to something good that we desire, but which can or cannot be realized. We hope it will happen; it is like a desire. One says, for example: “I hope the weather will be good tomorrow!” ; but we know that, instead, the weather could be bad the next day … Christian hope is not like this. Christian hope is the expectation of something that has already been accomplished; the door is there, and I hope to arrive at the door. What must I do? I must walk to the door! I am certain I will arrive at the door. Christian hope is like this: to have the certainty that I am on the way to something that is, not that I wish it to be.
This is Christian hope. Christian hope is the expectation of something that has already been accomplished and which certainly can be realized for each one of us. Therefore, our resurrection also, and that of our dear deceased, is not something that might or might not happen, but it is a certain reality, in as much as it is rooted in the event of Christ’s Resurrection. To hope, therefore, means to learn to live in expectation; to learn to live in expectation and to find life. When a woman realizes she is pregnant, she learns to live every day in the expectation of seeing the gaze of that child that will come. So we must also live and learn from these human expectations and live in the expectation of seeing the Lord, of encountering the Lord. This is not easy, but it can be learned: to live in expectation. To hope means and implies a humble heart, a poor heart. Only a poor one knows how to wait. One who is already full of himself and of his possessions does not put his trust in anything other than himself.
Again, Saint Paul writes: “He [Jesus] died for us so that whether we wake or sleep we might live with him” (1 Thessalonians5:10). These words are always a motive of great consolation and peace. Therefore, we are also called to pray for loved ones who have left us, so that they will live in Christ and be in full communion with us. Something that touches my heart very much is an expression of Saint Paul, again addressed to the Thessalonians. It fills me with the certainty of hope. He says thus: “and so we shall always be with the Lord” (1 Thessalonians 4:17). Something beautiful: everything passes but, after death, we will always be with the Lord. It is the total certainty of hope. The same that, much earlier made Job exclaim: “For I know that my Redeemer lives […] whom I shall see on my side, and my eyes shall behold Him” (Job 19:25.27). And so we shall always be with the Lord. Do you believe this? I ask you, do you believe this? To have some force, I invite you to say it three times with me: “And so we shall always be with the Lord.” And we will meet there with the Lord.
[Original text: Italian]
(c) Translation by ZENIT, Virginia Forrester
I give a warm welcome to the delegation of the Global Catholic Climate Movement and I thank it for its commitment to look after our common home in these times of grave socio-environmental crisis. I encourage you to continue to weave networks so that the local Churches respond with determination to the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor.
I receive joyfully the Italian-speaking pilgrims. I greet the participants in the Congress of the Marian Priestly League promoted by the Silent Workers of the Cross and the guests of the Saint Lucy Foundation, exhorting them to assiduousness in prayer, effective remedy in sickness and in suffering.
I greet the officers of the Command of the Guardia di Finanza of Parma and the members of the Center of Spirituality of Mercy, with the Bishop of Piazza Armerina, Monsignor Rosario Gisana, who have come with the icon of the Mother of Mercy, which will be exhibited in Saint Peter’s Basilica. I invite each one to continue the exercise of the works of mercy, so that they become habitual virtues of daily life.
A greeting goes to young people, the sick and newlyweds. Tomorrow we will celebrate the feast of the Presentation of the Lord and the World Day for Consecrated Life. I entrust to your prayers all those who have been called to profess the evangelical counsels, so that with their testimony of life they can radiate the love of Christ and the grace of the Gospel in the world.
[Original text: Italian]
(c) Translation by ZENIT, Virgina Forrester