God wants us to join Him in Paradise, so He waits for us to repent, even up until the very last minute.
Pope Francis stressed this during this morning’s General Audience in St. Peter’s Square.
As he continued his catecheses on Christian hope, his last catechesis on the theme, the Pope specifically reflected on the theme: “Heaven, the Goal of Our Hope.”
“Paradise” is one of the last words spoken by Jesus on the Cross, addressed to the good thief, the Jesuit Pope recalled, encouraging those gathered to pause a moment on that scene. There, on Calvary, Jesus meets this sinner and opens to him the door of His Kingdom.
Francis noted that this is interesting because it’s the only time the word “Paradise” appears in the Gospels, namely when Jesus promises it to a “’poor devil’ who, on the wood of the Cross, had the courage to address to Him the most humble request: ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’ (Luke 23:42).”
While this thief didn’t have good works to assert, he entrusted himself to Jesus, whom he recognizes as innocent, good, so different from himself.
“That word of humble repentance,” Francis said, “was enough to touch Jesus’ heart.”
The good thief, the Pontiff reminded, reminds us of our true condition before God: “that we are His children, that He has compassion for us, that He is disarmed every time we manifest to Him nostalgia for His love.”
Francis recalled how often in hospital rooms or prison cells, this miracle is repeated innumerable times. “There is no person, no matter how badly he lived, for whom only despair remains and for whom grace is prohibited,” he said, recalling how we all present ourselves before God with empty hands.
“Every time that a man, doing the last examination of conscience of his life, discovers that the deficits are greater compared to his good works,” the Pope highlighted, “he must not be discouraged, but entrust himself to God’s mercy. And this gives us hope; this opens our heart!”
God, the Father, waits for our return up to the end, like the Father in the Prodigal Son, Francis reminded.
“This is God: this is how He loves us!”
“Paradise is not a dream place or an enchanted garden. Paradise is the embrace with God, infinite Love, and we enter it thanks to Jesus, Who died on the Cross for us.
Where Jesus is, the Pontiff said, there is mercy and happiness, and where he is not, there is cold and darkness.
“In the hour of death, a Christian repeats to Jesus: ‘Remember me.’ And if there isn’t any one who remembers us, Jesus is there, next to us.”
The Holy Father said Jesus wants to take us to the most beautiful place that exists.
“And He will bring to the Father’s House all that is in us that still needs to be redeemed: the failures and mistakes of a whole life.”
Pope Francis said that this marks the end of our existence, namely when everything is fulfilled and is transformed in love.
“If we believe this,” the Holy Father said, “death ceases to make us afraid, and we can also hope to depart from this world serenely and with much trust.”
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