Pope’s General Audience: On Missionaries of Hope Today

‘A Christian isn’t a prophet of doom’

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This morning’s General Audience was held at 9:40 in St. Peter’s Square, where the Holy Father met with groups of pilgrims and faithful from Italy and from all over the world.

In his address in Italian, the Pope reflected on the theme “Missionaries of Hope Today.”

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.

* * *

The Holy Father’s Catechesis

Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!

In this catechesis I wish to speak on the theme “Missionaries of Hope Today.” I am happy to do so at the beginning of this month, which the Church dedicates particularly to the mission, and also on the feast of Saint Francis of Assisi, who was a great missionary of hope!

In fact, a Christian isn’t a prophet of doom. We are not prophets of doom. The essence of his proclamation is the opposite, the opposite of doom: it’s Jesus, who died out of love and who God resurrected on Easter morning. And this is the nucleus of the Christian faith. If the Gospels ended with Jesus’ burial, the story of this prophet would be added to the many biographies of heroic personalities that spend their life for an ideal. The Gospel would then be an edifying and consoling book, but wouldn’t be a proclamation of hope.

However, the Gospels don’t close with Holy Friday, they go beyond; and it’s precisely this further fragment that transforms our lives. Jesus’ disciples were depressed on that Saturday after His crucifixion; that stone rolled on the door of the sepulcher also closed the three exciting years lived by them with the Teacher of Nazareth. It’s seemed that everything was finished, and some, disappointed and fearful, were already leaving Jerusalem.

But Jesus resurrected! This unexpected event upsets and overturns the mind and heart of the disciples, because Jesus didn’t resurrect only for Himself, as if His rebirth was a prerogative of which to be jealous: if He ascends to the Father it’s because He wants His Resurrection to be shared by every human being, and take every creature on high. And on the day of Pentecost, the breath of the Holy Spirit transformed the disciples. They not only had good news to take to all, but they themselves were different from before, as though reborn to a new life. Jesus’ Resurrection transforms us with the strength of the Holy Spirit. Jesus is alive, He is alive among us, He is living and has that strength to transform.

How beautiful it is to think that we are heralds of Jesus’ Resurrection not only in words but in deeds and with the witness of life! Jesus doesn’t want disciples capable only of repeating formulas learnt by heart. He wants witnesses: persons that spread hope by their way of welcoming, of smiling, of loving. Above all by loving, because the strength of the Resurrection renders Christians capable of loving even when love seems to have lost its reasons. There is a certain “more” that dwells in Christian existence, and that is not explained simply with strength of spirit or greater optimism. The faith, our hope isn’t only optimism; it’s something else, <something> more! It’s as if believers were persons with more of a “piece of Heaven” above the head, accompanied by a presence that some are not even able to intuit.

Thus the task of Christians in this world is to open areas of salvation, as cells of regeneration capable of restoring lymph to what seemed lost forever. When the sky is all cloudy, one who is able to speak of the sun is a blessing. See, the true Christian is thus: not lamenting and angry but convinced, by the strength of the Resurrection, that no evil is infinite, no night is without end, no man is definitively mistaken, no hatred is invincible for love.

Sometimes the disciples would certainly pay a dear price for this hope given to them by Jesus. We think of the many Christians that didn’t abandon their people, when the time of persecution arrived. They stayed there, where they were even uncertain of the morrow, where no plans could be made of any sort, they stayed hoping in God. And we think of our brothers, of our sisters of the Middle East that give witness of hope and also offer their life for this witness. They are true Christians! They bear Heaven in their heart, looking beyond, always beyond. One who has had the grace to embrace Jesus’ Resurrection can even hope in the unexpected. The martyrs of all times, with their fidelity to Christ, tell us that injustice isn’t the last word in life. In the risen Christ, we can continue to hope. The men and women who have a “why” for living endure more than others in times of misfortune. However, whoever has Christ truly by his side no longer fears anything. And because of this Christians — true Christians –, are never easy and accommodating men. Their meekness is not confused with a sense of insecurity and submissiveness. Saint Paul spurs Timothy to suffer for the Gospel, and says thus: “for God did not give us a spirit of timidity but a spirit of power and love and self-control” (2 Timothy 1:7). Fallen, they always rise.

See, dear brothers and sisters, why a Christian is a missionary of hope. Not by his merit but thanks to Jesus, the grain of wheat that fell on the ground died and bore much fruit (Cf. John 12:24).

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

In Italian

I give a warm welcome to the Italian-speaking pilgrims. I’m happy to receive the participants in the General Chapter of the Society of Mary (Marist Fathers) and the Daughters of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, gathered in General Conference. I encourage you to promote your charism with a spirit of service and fidelity to the Church.

I greet warmly the Commission of the Family of Triveneto, accompanied by the Bishop of Verona, Monsignor Giuseppe Zenti; the parish groups; the young people of the Immaculate Heart of Mary Community of Pescara; the members of the YMCA Associations, that work with the problems that most afflict young people; the Haemopathic Child Association and the Environmental Coordination of Anagni.

Finally, an affectionate thought goes to young people, the sick and newlyweds. Today we celebrate the feast of Saint Francis of Assisi. May his example of life reinforce each one of you, dear young people, in your care of Creation; may it sustain you, dear sick, alleviating your daily difficulty; and may it be of help to you, dear newlyweds, in building your family on charitable love.

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

Announcement of the Pre-Synodal Meeting of the 15th Ordinary General Assembly

I wish to announce that the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops has convoked a Pre-Synodal Meeting from March 19-24, 2018, to which young people from different parts of the world are invited, be they young Catholics, or young people of different Christian Confessions and other religions, or non-believers.

This initiative is inserted in the itinerary of preparation for the next General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, whose theme will be: Young People, the Faith and Vocational Discernment, in October 2018. With this itinerary, the Church wishes to listen to the voice, the sensibility, the faith and also the doubts and criticism of young people — we must listen to young people. Therefore, the conclusions of the March Meeting will be transmitted to the Synodal Fathers.

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

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