The General Audience was held at 9:30 this morning, March 15, 2017, in St. Peter’s Square, 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 Christian hope, in his address in Italian the Pope focused his meditation on the theme: “Rejoice in hope” (cf. Romans 12:9-13).
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!
We know well that the great commandment that the Lord Jesus left us is to love: to love God with all our heart, with all our soul and with all our mind, and to love our neighbor as ourselves (cf. Matthew 22:37-39), that is, we are called to love, to charity. And this is our highest vocation, our vocation par excellence, and linked to it also is the joy of Christian hope. One who loves has the joy of hope, of arriving to encounter the great love that is the Lord.
In the passage of the Letter to the Romans that we just heard, the Apostle Paul puts us on guard: there is the risk that our charity is hypocritical, that our love is hypocritical. Therefore, we must ask ourselves: when does this happen? And how can we be sure that our love is sincere, that our charity is genuine? That we not feign to do charity or that our love not be a soap opera <but a> sincere, strong love . . .
Hypocrisy can insinuate itself everywhere, also in our way of loving. This is verified when ours is a self-interested love, moved by personal interests and how many self-interested loves there are . . . when charitable services, in which it seems that we spend ourselves, are carried out to put ourselves forward or to feel ourselves gratified: “But how good I am!” No, this is hypocrisy!– or again when we look at things that have “visibility” to show off our intelligence or our capacities. Behind all this is a false, deceitful idea, that is to say that, if we love, it is because we are good, as if charity were a creation of man, a product of our heart. Instead, charity is first of all a grace, a gift; to be able to love is a gift of God, and we must ask for it. And He gives it willingly, if we ask for it. Charity is a grace: it does not consist in having what we are resonate, but what the Lord gives us and that we freely receive. And, it cannot be expressed in our encounter with others, unless it is first generated from the encounter with Jesus’ meek and merciful face.
Paul invites us to acknowledge that we are sinners, and that even our way of loving is marked by sin. At the same time, however, he makes himself bearer of a new proclamation, a proclamation of hope: the Lord opens before us a way of liberation, a way of salvation. It is the possibility for us also to live the great commandment of love, to become instruments of God’s charity. And this happens when we let our heart be healed and renewed by the risen Christ. The risen Lord who lives among us, who lives with us is able to heal our heart: He does so if we ask for it. It is He who enables us, despite our littleness and poverty, to experience the Father’s compassion and to celebrate the wonders of His love. And then we understand that all that we can live and do for our brethren is nothing other than a response to what God has done and continues to do for us. Thus, it is God himself who, dwelling in our heart and in our life, continues to be close and to serve all those we meet every day on our path, beginning from the last and the neediest in whom He first recognizes Himself.
So with these words the Apostle Paul does not want so much to reprove us as, rather, to encourage and revive hope in us. All of us, in fact, have the experience of not living fully or as we should the commandment of love. However, this is also a grace, because it makes us understand that of ourselves we are not capable of truly loving: we need the Lord to continually renew this gift in our heart, through the experience of His infinite mercy. And then yes, we will turn to appreciate the little, simple and ordinary things; we will turn to appreciate these little everyday things and will be capable of loving others as God loves them, wishing them well, namely, that they be saints, friends of God, and we will be happy to have the possibility to be close to one who is poor and humble, as Jesus does with each one of us when we are far from Him, to bend down to the feet of brothers, as He, the Good Samaritan, does with each one of us, with His compassion and His forgiveness.
Dear brothers, what the Apostle Paul has reminded us of is the secret to be – I use his words – it is the secret to be “joyful in hope” (Romans 12:12): joyful in hope. The joy of hope because we know that in every circumstance, even the most adverse, and also through our own failures, God’s love does not fail. And then, with our heart visited and inhabited by His grace and His fidelity, we live in joyful hope to reciprocate in brothers, with the little that we possess, the much that we receive every day from Him. Thank you.[Original text: Italian] [Translation by Virginia M. Forrester]
A warm welcome goes to the Italian-speaking pilgrims. I am happy to receive the participants in the congress promoted by the Focolare Movement, on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of its foundation, and I exhort them to witness the beauty of new families, guided by peace and the love of Christ. Go on like this!
I greet the Arch-Confraternity of the Most Holy Trinity of the Pilgrims of Naples, accompanied by Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe; the members of the Italian-Ukrainian Christian Cultural Association; the Laureana di Borrello youth orchestra; the choir of the Catholic Union of Artists of Benevento and the members of the Granarolo Group. I hope that this meeting will revive in each one communion with the universal ministry of the Successor of Peter.
A special thought goes to the “Sky Italia” workers, and I hope that their work situation can find a speedy solution, in respect of the rights of all, especially of the families. Work gives us dignity, and leaders of people, rulers have the obligation to do all so that every man and every woman can work and thus hold their head high, look at others in the face, with dignity. One who, by economic manoeuvres, engages in negotiations that are not altogether clear, closes factories, closes work enterprises and takes work away from men, commits a very grave sin.
Finally, a greeting goes to young people, the sick and newlyweds. May the liturgical Season of Lent foster renewed closeness to God: fast not only from meals but especially from bad habits, dear young people, to acquire greater mastery over yourselves; may prayer be for you, dear sick, the means to feel God close particularly in <your> suffering; may the exercise of works of mercy help you, dear newlyweds, to live your conjugal existence by opening it to the needs of brothers.[Original text: Italian] [Translation by Virginia M. Forrester]