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General Audience: Focus on Christ During Pandemic

‘What does He do in the face of our pain?’

This morning’s General Audience was held at 9:25 am in the Library of the Apostolic Vatican Palace.

In his address in Italian, on the eve of the Paschal Triduum, the Pope focused his meditation on the Passion of Christ, ”in these weeks of apprehension due to the pandemic, which is making the world suffer so much.”

After summarizing his catechesis in several languages, the Holy Father expressed special greetings to the faithful.

The General Audience ended with the recitation of the Pater Noster and the Apostolic Blessing.

* * *

The Holy Father’s Catechesis

 Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!

In these weeks of apprehension due to the pandemic that is making the world suffer so much,  among the many questions we ask ourselves, there may also be questions about God: What does He do in the face of our pain? Where He is when all goes wrong? Why doesn’t He resolve the problems speedily for us? They are questions we ask about God.

Of help to us is the account of the Passion of Jesus, who accompanies us in these holy days. There too, in fact, many questions come together. After welcoming Jesus triumphantly to Jerusalem, the people wondered if He had finally liberated <them> from their enemies (Cf. Luke 24:21). They were expecting a powerful, triumphant Messiah with a sword. Instead, one arrives who is meek and humble of heart, who calls to conversion and mercy. And it is in fact the crowd, that had earlier acclaimed Him, that cries out: “Let Him be crucified!” (Matthew 27:23).  Those that were following Him, confused and scared, abandon Him.  They thought: if this is Jesus’ fate, He isn’t the Messiah, because God is strong, God is invincible.

However, if we read further on in the account of the Passion, we find a surprising fact. When Jesus dies, the Roman centurion who wasn’t a believer, he wasn’t a Jew, but a pagan, who had seen Him suffer on the cross and heard Him forgive all, who had touched His boundless love, confessed: “Truly this man was the Son of God” (Mark 15:39). In fact, he says the opposite of the others. He says that God is there, that it is truly God. We can ask ourselves today: which is God’s true face? Usually, we project on Him what we are, to the greatest degree: our success, our sense of justice, and also our anger. However, the Gospel tells us that God isn’t like this. He is different and we cannot know Him with our own strength. Therefore, He made Himself closer; He came to meet us and precisely at Easter He revealed Himself completely.  And where did He reveal Himself completely? On the cross. There we learn the features of God’s face. Let us not forget, brothers and sisters, that the cross is God’s Chair. It will do us good to stay to look at the Crucifix in silence and to see who Our Lord is: it is He who does not point the finger against anyone, not even against those that are crucifying Him, but opens wide His arms to all; who doesn’t crush us with His glory, but lets Himself be despoiled for us; who doesn’t love us with words but gives His life in silence; who doesn’t constrain us, but frees us; who doesn’t treat us as strangers, but takes our evil upon Himself; He takes our sins upon Himself. And He does this, to free us from prejudices about God, so we look at the Crucifix. And then we open the Gospel. In these days, all of us in quarantine and at home, shut-in, we take these two things in hand: the Crucifix and we look at it; and we open the Gospel.  This will be for us — let’s say so — as a great domestic liturgy because these days we cannot go to church. Crucifix and Gospel!

In the Gospel we read that, when the people go to Jesus to make him King, for instance, after the multiplication of the loaves, He goes away (Cf. John 6:15). And when the devils want to reveal His divine majesty, He silences them (Cf. Mark 1:24-25). Why? Because Jesus doesn’t want to be misunderstood, He doesn’t want the people to confuse the true God, who is humble love, with a false god, a worldly god that makes a show and imposes himself with force. He isn’t a devil; He is God who became man, like each one of us, and He expresses Himself as man but with the force of His divinity. Instead, when in the Gospel is Jesus’ identity proclaimed solemnly? When the centurion says: “Truly, He was the Son of God.” It’s said there, when He has just given His life on the cross because we can no longer be mistaken: it’s seen that God is omnipotent in love, and in no other way. It’s His nature because He is made so. He is Love.  You can object: “What do I do with a God that is so weak, that He dies? I would prefer a strong God, a powerful God!” But do you know, the power of this world passes, whereas love remains. Love alone protects the life we have because it embraces our fragilities and transforms them. It’s God’s love that at Easter cured our sin with His forgiveness, who made of death a passage of life, who changed our fear into trust, our anguish into hope. Easter tells us that God can turn everything into good, that with Him we can truly trust that all will be well. And this isn’t an illusion, because Jesus’ Death and Resurrection isn’t an illusion: it was a truth! Behold why on Easter morning we are told: “Do not be afraid!” (Matthew 28:5). And the anguishing questions about evil don’t disappear suddenly but find in the Risen One the solid foundation that enables us not to be shipwrecked.

Dear brothers and sisters, Jesus has changed history, making Himself close to us, and has rendered it, although still marked by evil, the history of salvation. By offering His life on the cross, Jesus also defeated death. God’s love reaches all of us from the open heart of the Crucified. We can change our stories by coming close to Him, accepting the salvation He offers us. Brothers and sisters, let us open our whole heart to Him in prayer, this week, these days, with he Crucifix and the Gospel. Don’t forget: Crucifix and Gospel. This will be the domestic liturgy. Let us open our whole heart to Him in prayer, letting His gaze rest on us, and we will understand that we are not alone, but loved because the Lord doesn’t abandon us and doesn’t forget us — ever. And, with these thoughts, I wish you a Holy Week and a Holy Easter.

© Libreria Editrice Vatican

[Original text: Italian]  [ZENIT’s translation by Virginia M. Forrester]

 

In Italian

 I greet warmly the Italian-speaking faithful. My thought goes, in particular, to the groups that would have liked to be present here today, among them, the University students from different countries, who are living virtually the UNIV 2020 gathering. Dear students, I hope that this Holy Week is for all a provident occasion to reinforce your personal relationship with Jesus and your faith in Him, crucified and risen.

Finally, I greet young people, the sick, the elderly and newlyweds. May the Lord’s Passion, culminating in the glorious triumph of Easter, be for each one of you a source of hope and comfort in moments of trial.  My Blessing to you all.

© Libreria Editrice Vatican

[Original text: Italian]  [ZENIT’s translation by Virginia M. Forrester]

About Virginia Forrester

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