Here is a ZENIT working translation of Pope Francis’ address during this morning’s General Audience in the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall:
THE HOLY FATHER’S CATECHESIS
Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!
In today’s catechesis I would like to contemplate with you the figure of a woman who speaks to us of hope lived in weeping – hope lived in weeping. It is Rachel, wife of Jacob and mother of Joseph and Benjamin, she that, as the Book of Genesis recounts, died in giving birth to her second-born, namely, Benjamin.
The prophet Jeremiah makes reference to Rachel when addressing the Israelites in exile to console them, with words full of emotion and poetry; namely, he takes up Rachel’s weeping but gives hope:
Thus says the Lord: “A voice is heard in Ramah, lamentation and bitter weeping. Rachel is weeping for her children; she refuses to be comforted for her children, because they are not” (Jeremiah 31:15). In these verses, Jeremiah presents this woman of his people, the great matriarch of his tribe, in a reality of sorrow and weeping, but at the same time with a prospect of unimaginable life. Rachel, who in the Genesis account died giving birth and assumed that death so that her son could live now, instead, is represented by the prophet as alive at Ramah, there where the deported gathered, weeping for her children who in a certain sense are dead by going into exile; children that, as she herself says, “are not,” have gone for ever.
And, because of this, Rachel does not want to be consoled. Her refusal expresses the depth of her sorrow and the bitterness of her weeping. In face of the tragedy of the loss of children, a mother is unable to accept words or gestures of consolation, which are always inadequate, but capable of soothing the pain of a wound that cannot and will not be healed — a sorrow proportionate to the love.
Every mother knows all this; and there are so many mothers, also today, who weep, who are not resigned to the loss of a child, inconsolable in face of a death that is impossible to accept. Rachel encloses in herself the sorrow of all the mothers of the world, of all times, and the tears of every human being who weeps for irreparable losses.
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 requires sharing his despair, to dry a tear from the face of one who is suffering requires uniting our sorrow to his. Only thus will our words be really capable of giving some hope. And if I cannot say such words — weeping, sorrowing, then silence is better — a caress, a gesture and no words.
And God, with His delicacy and His love, responds to Rachel’s weeping with true not feigned words thus, in fact, Jeremiah’s text proceeds:
“Thus says the LORD: ‘Cease your cries of weeping, hold back your tears! There is compensation for your labor— oracle of the LORD—they shall return from the enemy’s land. There is hope for your future—oracle of the LORD—your children shall return to their own territory.’”(Jeremiah 31:16-17). In fact, because of the mother’s weeping, there is hope again for the children, who will live again.
This woman, accepted death at the moment of giving birth, so that her son could live … she and her weeping are now the origin of a new life for her exiled children, [who are] prisoners, far from their homeland. To Rachel’s sorrow and bitter weeping, 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 in faith, and free, 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.
As we know, this text of Jeremiah was later taken up by the evangelist Matthew and applied to the massacre of the innocents (cf. 2:16-18). A text that puts us before the tragedy of the killing of vulnerable human beings, to the horror of power that scorns and does away with life. The children of Bethlehem died because of Jesus. And He, innocent Lamb, would then die in turn for all of us. The Son of God entered in the pain of men. We must not forget this.
When someone turns to me 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 indicate some way of consolation. And because of this we say that the Son of God entered in the pain of men; He shared and accepted death; His Word is definitively word of consolation, because it is born of weeping.
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. Death is conquered, and thus Jeremiah’s prophecy reaches fulfillment. Mary’s tears also, as those of Rachel, generated hope and new life. Thank you.[Original text: Italian] [Working Translation by ZENIT]
A warm welcome goes to the Italian-speaking pilgrims, and I wish all serenity and peace for the New Year. I am happy to receive the members of the “Prayer and Charity Associative Family” group, celebrating the 45th anniversary of their foundation and the representatives of the of the Blessed Vincenzo Romano Apostolic Center, gathered here for 25 years of service to the charism of vocational formation, and I thank them for the gift of the effigy of their Founder.
I greet the temporary professed minor brothers of the Province of Saint Anthony and the Youth Movement of the Franciscan Fraternity of Bethany: I exhort each one to intensify his prayer to grow in a true and profound friendship with Jesus.
Finally, I am happy to greet the young people, the sick and the newlyweds. I hope that you, dear young people, will be able to consider every day of the New Year a gift of God, to be lived with gratitude and rectitude, and always going forward! Always. May the New Year bring you, dear sick, consolation in body and spirit. May the Lord be close to you and Our Lady console you. And you, dear newlyweds, commit yourselves to realize a sincere communion of life in keeping with God’s plan.[Original text: Italian] [Working Translation by ZENIT]
The Holy Father’s Appeal
Yesterday, the news reached us from Brazil of the tragic massacre that happened in the prison of Manaus, where a violent clash between rival bands caused dozens of deaths. I express sorrow and concern for what has happened. I invite you to pray for the deceased, for their families and for all the detainees in that prison and for all who work there. And I renew my appeal for prisons to be places of re-education and re-integration into society, and that the conditions of life of the detainees be worthy of human persons.
I invite you to pray for these dead and alive detainees, and also for all the detainees in the world, so that prisons are for reinsertion and are not overcrowded; that they be places of reintegration. Let us pray to Our Lady, Mother of detainees: Hail Mary …
[Original text: Italian] [Working Translation by ZENIT]