Pope Francis at General Audience: What is our hope as Christians?
A medieval army with flags, drums and trumpets welcomed Pope Francis as he began the General Audience. “Thank you!”
During his catechesis, the Pope explained what Christian hope is. He said that the Church waits for Christ’s return as a wife waits for her husband, from whom she will never seperate.
Christian hope is not just a wish, or mere optimism. For a Christian, hope is expectation, fervent, passionate expectation for the ultimate and definitive fulfilment of a mystery, the mystery of God’s love, in which we are born again and are already living,” Pope Francis said at today’s General Audience in St. Peter’s Square.
Francis continued his series of catecheses on “our Holy Mother the hierarchical Church the journeying People of God,” starting with today’s question: “in the end, what will become of the people of God? What will become of each of one us? What should we expect? The Apostle Paul gave heart to the Christian community in Thessalonica, who were asking these same questions, and after his argument, they would say these words, which are among the finest in the New Testament: “and so we will be with the Lord forever”. These words are so simple, but so dense with a great hope!” Then, turning to the crowd, Francis added: “Do you believe this? I do not think so, eh! Do you believe? Let us repeat them together, three times? And so we will be with the Lord forever! And so we will be with the Lord forever! And so we will be with the Lord forever!” At the end of the catechesis the Pope repeated again: “and do not forget, never forget that in this way it will be forever with the Lord. Will we repeat this three more times? And so we will be with the Lord forever! And so we will be with the Lord forever! And so we will be with the Lord forever!”
At one point the wind blew the Pope’s white zucchetto away. He continued by saying that the people of God “follow the Lord Jesus and prepare every day for the encounter with Him, like a bride prepares for her husband.” Francis quoted St. John who said that the Church, the Bride of Christ, makes the “new Jerusalem” visible. This means that the Church, as well as being a Bride, is called to become a city, a symbol par excellence of human coexistence and relationality. How beautiful it is to be able to contemplate another suggestive image from Revelations, all peoples and nations gathered together in this city as if under one tent, which will be “the tent of God”! And in this glorious image there will be no more isolation, bullying or discrimination of any kind – social, ethnic or religious – we will all be one in Christ. Before this unprecedented and wonderful scenery our hearts cannot help feeling strongly confirmed in hope.”
“You see,” Francis said, “Christian hope is not just a wish, or mere optimism. For a Christian, hope is expectation, fervent, passionate expectation for the ultimate and definitive fulfilment of a mystery, the mystery of God’s love, in which we are born again and are already living. It is waiting for someone who is about to arrive: this someone is Christ the Lord, who is getting closer to us, day after day, and who will finally usher in the fullness of communion and peace. Then the Church has the task of keeping the lamp of hope lit and clearly visible” as we wait for Jesus to return. “We must ask ourselves, however, with great sincerity, are we really bright and credible witnesses of this expectation, this hope? Are our communities still living in the sign of the presence of the Lord Jesus and warm expectation of His coming, or do they appear tired, numb, crushed under the weight of fatigue and resignation? Do we also run the risk of running out of the oil of faith, and the oil of joy? Let us be careful,” the Pope said as he concluded his homily by adding: “We invoke the Virgin Mary, Mother of Hope and the Queen of Heaven, so we may always maintain an attitude of listening and waiting, so we can be already be imbued with the love of Christ and be able to take part one day in the joy without end, in full communion with God and do not forget, never forget that in this way it will be forever with the Lord.
During the final greetings at the end of the Audience, the Pope gave a special mention – amidst waves of applause – to Polish pilgrims present in St. Peter’s Square, in memory of the anniversary of Pope John Paul II’s election on 16 October 1978. Today the Church remembers St. Teresa of Avila: “These two saints both entrusted themselves to God, they share a devotion to the Church and both led mystical lives. Let us learn from their radical evangelical acts and their ability to grow in full communion with God. I give my wholehearted blessing to each and every one of you present here today and to your loved ones.” Addressing Italian speakers, Francis then spoke about the Extraordinary Synod that is currently underway in the Vatican (5-19 October): “We continue to invoke the intercession of the Virgin Mary on the Synod of the Family. Dear young people, always give thanks to the Lord for the gift of family; dear sick people, unite the offering of your suffering to the intention of prayer for peace in families; and you dear newlyweds, found your conjugal home on the rock of the Word of God.