Home » Posts tagged 'general audience'

God’s fatherly love is a revolution in religious psychology, pope says

By

Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — The mystery of God’s relationship with humankind is revolutionary in that Christians can look to him without fear as children to a loving father, Pope Francis said.

In teaching the Lord’s prayer, Jesus invites all Christians “to have the courage of calling God with the name ‘father,’” the pope said June 7 at his weekly general audience in St. Peter’s Square.

Pope Francis blesses a man during his general audience June 7 in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican. (CNS/Maurizo Brambatti, EPA)

Pope Francis blesses a man during his general audience June 7 in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican. (CNS/Maurizo Brambatti, EPA)

“This is the great revolution that Christianity ingrains into the religious psychology of man. The mystery of God who always fascinates us and makes us feel small but no longer frightens us, he doesn’t crush us, he doesn’t distress us,” the pope said.

With temperatures in Rome hovering slightly above 80 degrees, the hot and humid weather did little to keep the estimated 15,000 pilgrims from singing and waving as Pope Francis greeted them on his popemobile.

The pope occasionally stopped to kiss several babies whose heads were draped in cloth to protect them from the sun.

In his talk, the pope reflected on the theme of God’s fatherhood as a source of hope for Christians as conveyed in the prayer of the “Our Father.”

While some may be more inclined to refer to God with a title that is “more respectful of his transcendence,” he said, the word “father” implies a trustful relationship “like a child to a father, knowing that we are loved and cared for by him.”

Referring to the parable of the prodigal son, the pope said God loves his children “not in a human way because there is no father in this world who would behave like the protagonist in this parable.”

“God is a father in his own way: good, defenseless in the face of man’s free will, capable only of conjugating the verb, ‘love,’” the pope said. “What an unfathomable mystery is a God that nourishes this kind of love toward his children.”

It is for this reason, he added, that St. Paul chose not to translate the word “father” into Greek and instead uses the Aramaic word, ‘“Abba,’ a term that is even more intimate than ‘father’ and that someone may translate as ‘pop, dad.’”

The pope said that although men and women “can be far away, hostile or even profess ourselves as being ‘without God,’” God is never far from humankind.

“When we need help, Jesus doesn’t tell us to give up and close in on ourselves, but rather to turn to the father and ask him with confidence,” he said.

Before concluding, Pope Francis asked pilgrims to contemplate on the difficulties they face in their lives before leading them in praying the “Our Father.”

“Let us think about these problems and needs in silence. Let us also think about the father, our father, who cannot be without us and who is watching us at this moment,” he said.

Pope Francis also said he would participate in the “One minute for peace” initiative June 8, a moment of prayer starting at 1 p.m. on the third anniversary of the prayer service held at the Vatican with the late Israeli President Shimon Peres and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

“In our time, there is a great need to pray — Christians, Jews and Muslims — for peace,” the pope said.

 

Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju.

Comments Off on God’s fatherly love is a revolution in religious psychology, pope says

Christians share hope, not ‘vinegar of bitterness,’ pope says

By

Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Christians are called to be “sowers of hope,” consoling and defending the poor and anyone in need, Pope Francis said.

Pope Francis greets artists from Cirque du Soleil during his general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican May 31. (CNS/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis greets artists from Cirque du Soleil during his general audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican May 31. (CNS/Paul Haring)

As Christians prepared to celebrate Pentecost June 4, Pope Francis used his weekly general audience May 31 to speak about the power of the Holy Spirit to strengthen the hope of believers and to send them forth to instill hope in others.

Sowing bitterness or perplexity, he said, “isn’t Christian and if you do this, you aren’t Christian. Sow hope. Spread the oil of hope, diffuse the perfume of hope and not the vinegar of bitterness and hopelessness.”

In his Letter to the Romans (15:13), St. Paul prays, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

Having an abundance of hope, Pope Francis said, means not only hoping that when life is over one will be with God. It also means having the strength today to continue hoping “even when there is less human reason for hoping.”

“Hope truly is like a sail,” the pope said. “It gathers the wind of the Spirit and transforms it into a driving force that pushes the boat out to sea or to the shore, depending on circumstances.”

“It pushes us to go forward, always forward,” he said. The Holy Spirit “makes us feel like pilgrims and strangers and does not allow us to sit back and become a sedentary people.”

Jesus promised his disciples the Holy Spirit as a “paraclete,” a provider of consolation and a defense, the pope said, and those who have been blessed with the gifts of the Holy Spirit are in turn called to console and defend others.

“Console and defend like the Holy Spirit does for each of us who are here in the square. Console and defend,” he said. “We must be the same for the neediest, the discarded, those who need it most, those who suffer most. Console and defend.”

Saying, “This seems strange, but it’s true,” Pope Francis noted how St. Paul also taught that the Holy Spirit gives hope to all of creation, which is “groaning in labor pains” but expectant in hope. “This pushes us to respect creation: one cannot sully a painting without offending the artist who created it.”

Comments Off on Christians share hope, not ‘vinegar of bitterness,’ pope says

A closed heart can’t be surprised by the Resurrection, pope says

By

Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Christian faith is a grace and can be perceived only in the hearts of those willing to be surprised by the joy of the Resurrection, Pope Francis said.

Pope Francis greets a young choir member during his general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican April 19. (CNS/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis greets a young choir member during his general audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican April 19. (CNS/Paul Haring)

“A closed heart, a rationalistic heart” is incapable of understanding the Christian message which has God’s love, manifested in Christ’s victory over death, at its center, the pope said at his weekly general audience April 19.

“How beautiful it is to think that Christianity is essentially this: It is not so much our search for God, a search that is, truthfully, somewhat shaky, but rather God’s search for us,” the pope said.

The pope, bundled up in a white overcoat due to the unusually chilly and windy weather, entered a packed St. Peter’s Square in his popemobile. Immediately, he invited two girls and a boy, dressed in their altar server robes, to board the vehicle and ride with him around the square.

Pope Francis also took a moment to greet an elderly woman who, overcome with emotion, cried and stretched out her arms to embrace the pope. He stooped over, warmly embracing the woman and gently caressing her face before making the sign of the cross over her forehead.

Continuing his series of talks on hope, the pope reflected on St. Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians in which the apostle emphasizes the Resurrection as “the heart of the Christian message.”

“Christianity is born from here. It is not an ideology nor a philosophic system but a path of faith that begins from an event, witnessed by Jesus’ first disciples,” the pope said.

St. Paul’s summary of those who witnessed the risen Christ, he noted, ends by describing himself as the “least worthy of all” given his dramatic history as a one-time adversary of the early Christians.

St. Paul “wasn’t a choirboy. He was a persecutor of the church, proud of his own convictions,” the pope said, departing from his prepared remarks. But “one day something completely unpredictable happens: the encounter with the risen Jesus on the road to Damascus.”

It is the surprise of this encounter, the pope continued, that all Christians are called to experience “even if we are sinners.”

Like the first disciples who saw the stone overturned at Jesus’ tomb, all men and women can find “happiness, joy and life where everyone thought there was only sadness, defeat and darkness,” the pope said.

God, Pope Francis said, is greater than “nothingness and just one lit candle is able to overcome the darkest night.”

“If we are asked the reason for our smile and our patient sharing, we can respond that Jesus is still here, he continues to be alive in our midst,” the pope said. “Jesus is here, in this square with us, alive and risen.”

 

Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju.

Comments Off on A closed heart can’t be surprised by the Resurrection, pope says

Make room for kindness, not hopeless ‘mafia’ mentality, pope says

By

Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Hope cannot remain hidden within but must break free to overcome vengeful, mafia-like mentalities with mercy and humility, Pope Francis said.

Pope Francis kisses a Marian statue presented by someone in the crowd during his general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican April 5. (CNS /Paul Haring)

Pope Francis kisses a Marian statue presented by someone in the crowd during his general audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican April 5. (CNS /Paul Haring)

Christians must give witness to hope through their lives as Jesus did and make room for him in their hearts to fight evil by doing good to others, even their enemies, the pope said at his weekly general audience April 5.

“The mafiosi think that evil can be overcome by evil. They take revenge; they do so many things that we all know. But they do not know what humility, mercy and meekness are. And why? Because the mafiosi have no hope,” he said.

Arriving in St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis made his way through the crowd of 15,000 people, greeting individuals and even making a quick stop to sip some mate tea offered by a group of pilgrims from his native Argentina.

Arriving at the stage, the pope spotted a familiar face among the Argentine pilgrims, and warmly embraced an elderly woman and spoke to her while other people in the group reached out to touch him.

Continuing his series of talks on Christian hope, the pope reflected on a verse from the First Letter of St. Peter, in which the apostle calls on Christians to “always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope.”

The “secret” to understanding this hope, the pope said, is that it is rooted in the paschal mystery of Christ’s victory over death.

“Our hope is not a concept nor a sentiment; it is not phone call or a pile of riches,” he said. “No, our hope is a person, it is the Lord Jesus who we recognize alive and present in us and in our brothers and sisters.”

A person who lacks hope, the pope added, is incapable of giving or receiving the “consolation of forgiveness” and unable to make room for Christ in their hearts.

St. Peter’s assertion that “it is better to suffer for doing good” than doing evil, he continued, doesn’t mean that it is good to suffer, but that suffering for the sake of good means “that we are in communion with the Lord.”

Christians who wish to follow Jesus’ example are called to love and do good, even to “those who do not wish us well or even harm us,” Pope Francis said.

“It is the proclamation of God’s love, an immeasurable love that is unending, that is never lacking and constitutes the very foundation of our hope,” he said.

 

Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju.

Comments Off on Make room for kindness, not hopeless ‘mafia’ mentality, pope says

World needs those who can bring God’s hope, pope says

By

Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Christian hope is built on patiently enduring everything life brings and knowing how to see God’s presence and love everywhere, Pope Francis said.

An elderly woman reacts as she meets Pope Francis during his general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican March 22. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

An elderly woman reacts as she meets Pope Francis during his general audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican March 22. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

God “never tires of loving us” as he “takes care of us, dressing our wounds with the caress of his goodness and his mercy, meaning, he consoles us and he never tires of consoling us,” the pope said during his general audience in St. Peter’s Square March 22.

The pope also invited all Catholics to “rediscover the sacrament of reconciliation” during the Lenten season. The pope asked people to make time for confession to “experience the joyful encounter with the mercy of the father,” who welcomes and forgives everyone.

During his main audience talk, the pope continued a series of reflections on how the Apostle Paul describes the nature of Christian hope. In the apostle’s Letter to the Romans (15:1-5), he said that it is “by endurance and by the encouragement of the scriptures we might have hope.”

This endurance or perseverance, the pope said, is the patient ability to remain faithful and steadfast even when dealing with the most unbearable burdens. It is persevering even when “we would be tempted to judge unfavorably and give up on everything and everyone.”

The encouragement or consolation St. Paul talks about, the pope said, is “the grace to know how to grasp and show the presence and compassionate action of God in every situation, even in one greatly marked by disappointment and suffering.”

When St. Paul says, “We who are strong ought to put up with the failings of the weak,” he isn’t separating the Christian community into a special class of those who are “strong” and a group of “second-class citizens” who are weak, the pope said.

In actuality, the strong are those who experience and understand their fragility and know they need the support and comfort of others, he said. And when people are experiencing their fragility and vulnerability, they “can always offer a smile or hand to a brother or sister in need,” showing them strength.

It’s about people offering one another what they can and knowing that the truly strong one is Christ, who takes care of everyone. “In fact, we all need to be carried on the shoulders of the Good Shepherd and to feel surrounded by his tender and caring gaze,” Pope Francis said.

That strength to endure and find encouragement all comes from God and his sacred Scriptures, the pope said, not from one’s own efforts.

The closer people are to God with prayer and reading the Bible, the more they will have the energy and feel the responsibility to go to those in need, “to console them and give them strength.”

The aim of serving others then will not be to feel proud of oneself, he said, but to “please our neighbor for the good, for building up,” as the Apostle Paul says.

People will realize they are “a channel for broadcasting the Lord’s gifts and, in that way, concretely become a sower of hope,” the pope said.

Planting seeds of hope “is needed today. It’s not easy,” Pope Francis said. But with Christ at the center of one’s life, it will be him who “gives us the strength, the patience, the hope and the consolation” needed to live in harmony.

At the end of the general audience, the pope highlighted that the day also marked World Water Day, established by the United Nations 25 years ago.

The pope greeted participants attending the conference, “Watershed: Replenishing Water Values for a Thirsty World,” sponsored by the Pontifical Council for Culture and the Club of Rome March 22.

He said he was “happy this meeting is taking place” as part of continued joint efforts to raise awareness about “the need to protect water as a treasure belonging to everyone.”

Comments Off on World needs those who can bring God’s hope, pope says

Pope appeals for aid as famine grips ‘martyred South Sudan’

By

Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis appealed for humanitarian assistance to South Sudan where famine threatens the lives of millions of people already suffering due to a three-year civil war.

A health worker examines a 4-year-old girl suffering from malnutrition Feb. 13 in Dablual, South Sudan. Pope Francis appealed for humanitarian assistance to South Sudan, where famine threatens the lives of millions of people already suffering due to a three-year civil war. (CNS photo/Nicolas Peissel/EPA)

A health worker examines a 4-year-old girl suffering from malnutrition Feb. 13 in Dablual, South Sudan. Pope Francis appealed for humanitarian assistance to South Sudan, where famine threatens the lives of millions of people already suffering due to a three-year civil war. (CNS photo/Nicolas Peissel/EPA)

In the “martyred South Sudan,” he said, “a fratricidal conflict is compounded by a serious food crisis, which has struck the Horn of Africa and condemns millions of people to starve to death, among them many children,” the pope said.

At the end of his weekly general audience at the Vatican Feb. 22, the pope said that a solid commitment from the international community to assist South Sudan is crucial.

The United Nations Feb. 21 declared a famine in two counties of South Sudan, adding that the catastrophic food shortages will continue to spread, threatening millions of lives.

Civil war has destabilized the world’s youngest country for more than three years due to a political power struggle between President Salva Kiir and former Vice-President Riek Machar.

“This famine is man-made,” said Joyce Luma, director of the U.N. World Food Program.

Despite efforts to hold off the famine, she added, “there is only so much that humanitarian assistance can achieve in the absence of meaningful peace and security, both for relief workers and the crisis-affected people they serve.”

Pope Francis urged governments and international organizations to “not stop at just making statements,” but take concrete steps so that necessary food aid “can reach the suffering population.”

“May the Lord sustain these, our brothers and sisters, and those who work to help them,” Pope Francis said.

 

Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju.

Comments Off on Pope appeals for aid as famine grips ‘martyred South Sudan’

Never lose hope in God’s love, pope says at audience

By

Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Christians must never lose hope and should remind themselves that God loves them even at their worst, Pope Francis said.

God’s love provides “security” both in difficult moments and even when “I have done something terrible and evil,” the pope said Feb. 15 during his weekly general audience.

Pope Francis waves during his general audience in Paul VI hall  at the Vatican Feb. 15. (CNS photo/Claudio Peri, EPA)

Pope Francis waves during his general audience in Paul VI hall at the Vatican Feb. 15. (CNS photo/Claudio Peri, EPA)

“No one can take this security from us. We must repeat it like a prayer: God loves me. I am sure that God loves me!” he said.

Among the thousands of pilgrims present at the Paul VI audience hall were numerous student groups from Europe, including several children’s choirs from Italy and Spain.

When greeting the Italian-speaking pilgrims, the pope was interrupted by each choir that broke out in song to greet him.

Despite several ovations, one choir continued singing to the amusement of Pope Francis. He laughed heartily while praising them for their persistence in finishing the entire song.

“When you want something, that’s how you do it. That’s what we should do with prayer; when asking something from the Lord: insist, insist, insist. That is a beautiful example, a beautiful example of prayer,” the pope said off-the-cuff, following his praise of the determined choir group.

Continuing a series of talks on Christian hope, the pope reflected on a passage from St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans in which the apostle says Christians “should boast in hope of the glory of God.”

“Not only that, but we even boast of our afflictions, knowing that affliction produces endurance, and endurance, proven character, and proven character, hope,” St. Paul writes.

The pope said boasting is “surprising” since from a young age, people are taught that boasting reflects “a certain pride” and reveals “a lack of respect for others, especially toward those less fortunate than us.”

“How is it possible to do this without offending, without excluding anyone?” the pope asked.

He explained that Christians are called first to “boast of the abundance of grace we have received in Jesus Christ” by “learning to read everything with the light of the Holy Spirit.”

“If we pay attention, acting, in our history, in our lives, we are not alone, but above all with God. It is he who is the absolute protagonist, who creates everything as a gift of love, who weaves the storyline of his plan of salvation and who fulfills it in us through his son,” the pope said.

By seeing one’s life illuminated by the Holy Spirit, he added, “we are at peace with God and experience freedom.”

However, the pope continued, St. Paul’s second invitation to boast in times of tribulation “is not easy to understand.”

While it may seem to be unrelated with the peace that comes from “boasting of the abundance of grace,” Pope Francis said that peace does not mean the absence of difficulties, but that “God loves us and he is always close to us.”

“It’s easy to say: ‘God loves us,’” the pope said, departing from his prepared remarks. “But think a little; is each one of us capable of saying: ‘I am sure that God loves me?’ It is not so easy to say, but it is true. This is a good exercise, to tell yourselves, ‘God loves me.’ This is the root of our security, the root of our hope.”

God’s love, he said, nourishes Christian hope that “doesn’t separate us from others, nor does it lead us to discredit or marginalize others.”

“Our greatest boast is having, as a father, a God who does not make preferences, who excludes no one, but rather opens his home to all human beings, beginning from the last ones to the far away so that as his children, we learn to console and support one another,” Pope Francis said.

 

Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju.

Comments Off on Never lose hope in God’s love, pope says at audience

Pope: Like expectant moms, live in joyful expectation of embracing God

By

 

Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Christian hope isn’t about believing in something that may or may not come true, like hoping tomorrow’s weather will be pleasant, Pope Francis said.

“Christian hope is the expectation of something that already has been fulfilled and that certainly will be attained for each one of us,” that is, knowing Christ died and is truly risen so that all of humanity may gain salvation and live together with God, the pope said Feb. 1 during his weekly general audience.

Pope Francis puts his hand to his ear after asking for a response from the crowd during his general audience in Paul VI hall at the Vatican Feb. 1. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis puts his hand to his ear after asking for a response from the crowd during his general audience in Paul VI hall at the Vatican Feb. 1. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Continuing a series of talks on Christian hope, the pope looked at St. Paul’s First Letter to the Thessalonians (5:4-11) and what it teaches about the Christian belief in life after death.

The early Christian community at Thessaloniki was firm in its belief in Christ’s resurrection, but trusting in one’s own resurrection and the resurrection of loved ones was a bit harder to grasp, the pope said.

Such doubts and uncertainty still exist today as “we all are a little afraid of dying,” he told those gathered in the Paul VI audience hall.

St. Paul, he said, writes words of encouragement, telling Christians to arm themselves against the onslaught of doubt and difficulties by “putting on the breastplate of faith and love and the helmet that is hope for salvation.”

This kind of hope, the pope said, has nothing to do with wishing for “something nice,” something “that may or may not happen.”

“For example, people say, ‘I hope it will be nice weather tomorrow,’ but we know that it might be terrible weather instead.”

Christian hope isn’t like that, he said. It is belief in “a sure reality” because it is rooted in the real event of Christ’s resurrection and his promise of eternal life with him.

It’s knowing and seeing that “there is a door over there,” he said, pointing to the entryway into the Paul VI audience hall.

“There is a door. I hope to get to the door. What do I have to do? Walk toward the door. I am sure I will make it to the door. That is what Christian hope is like. Being certain that I am walking” with that destination, he said.

Christian hope is living like an expectant mother, the pope said.

“When a woman realizes she is pregnant, she learns to live each day in expectation of seeing her child’s gaze,” he said.

Everyone needs to learn to live each day with this same joyful anticipation – “to live in expectation of gazing at the Lord, of finding the Lord,” he said.

Learning to live in “sure expectation” isn’t easy, but it can be learned, he said.

“A humble, poor heart” knows how to wait, but it is difficult for someone who is “full of himself and his possessions.”

The pope asked everyone to repeat aloud with him St. Paul’s words (1 Thes 4:17) as a way to find peace and consolation, knowing that one day the faithful will be united with God and their loved ones: “Thus we shall always be with the Lord.”

At the end of his main audience talk, the pope greeted members of the Global Catholic Climate Movement, which seeks to act upon the pope’s encyclical “Laudato Si’” and address climate change.

He thanked them for their dedication to “taking care of our common home during this time of serious social-environmental crisis.”

He encouraged them to continue to expand and strengthen their networks “so that local churches may respond with determination to the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor.”

 

Follow Glatz on Twitter: @CarolGlatz.

Comments Off on Pope: Like expectant moms, live in joyful expectation of embracing God

Women are braver than men, take their advice, Pope Francis says

By

Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — The humble counsel of courageous women should never be disregarded but rather embraced as advice full of God’s divine wisdom, Pope Francis said.

Pope Francis poses with members of a musical group during his general audience in Paul VI hall at the Vatican Jan. 25. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis poses with members of a musical group during his general audience in Paul VI hall at the Vatican Jan. 25. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Women like the biblical heroine Judith are an example of trusting God amid sufferings and difficulties when it is easy to give up hope and fall into despair, the pope said Jan. 25 during his weekly general audience.

“This is my opinion, but women are more courageous than men,” the pope said to applause.

As the pope arrived for the audience, the sounds of classical music echoed throughout the Paul VI audience hall as a youth orchestra from Bolivia played for the pope.

The Anglican choir of London’s Westminster Abbey and former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger also were present and greeted the pope at the end of the audience.

Pope Francis focused his audience talk on Judith, “a woman of great beauty and wisdom,” who reproached the people of Israel for their lack of trust in God to deliver them from foreign invaders.

“They were at the point of saying, ‘God has sold us,’” the pope said. “How many times have we come to situations that test our limits where we are not even able to trust in the Lord? It is an ugly temptation.”

Facing a situation full of despair, the pope continued, the people gave God five days to intervene. However, even in prayer they doubted that the Lord would help them.

“Five days are given to God to intervene; this is the sin! Five days of waiting but already expecting the end. In reality, no one among the people is capable of hoping,” he said.

Pope Francis said that in the moment of despair, Judith confronts the people’s doubts with the “courageous language” of faith and hope.

Her courage, he explained, is a reminder for Christians “to knock on the door of God’s heart; he is a father, he can save us. This widow risks (everything), even of making herself look like a fool in front of the others. But she is courageous, she goes forward.”

Christians must “never put conditions on God,” the pope said. Instead, they should allow “hope to conquer our fears.”

“To trust God means entering into his plans without assuming anything” and to believe that “he knows better than us,” the pope said.

The story of Judith exemplifies the importance of the “courageous counsel” of humble women, Pope Francis said. Their words, he added, contain “the wisdom of God” and should never be “dismissed as ignorant.”

“The words of grandmothers, how many times do grandmothers know the right word to say,” the pope said. “They give words of hope because they have the experience of life, they have suffered so much, they trusted in God and the Lord gave them this gift of giving us hopeful advice.”

 

Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju.

Comments Off on Women are braver than men, take their advice, Pope Francis says

Prayer brings light of hope in dark times, pope says at audience

By

Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Prayer has the power to awaken hope in men and women, even in the face of death and destruction, Pope Francis said.

People often feel unworthy to turn to God when they are in need “as if it were a self-interested prayer and, thus, imperfect,” the pope said Jan. 18 during his weekly general audience.

Pope Francis walks near violinists during his general audience in Paul VI hall at the Vatican Jan. 18. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis walks near violinists during his general audience in Paul VI hall at the Vatican Jan. 18. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

“But God knows our weakness; he knows that we remember him to ask for help and, with the indulgent smile of a father, he responds graciously,” he said.

Greeting thousands of people in the Paul VI audience hall, the pope seemed to lose his balance several times as pilgrims clasped his hand and tried pulling him toward them, hoping for a hug or a blessing.

Still, the pope took time to greet people, stopping to bless a pregnant woman’s belly and embracing a young boy in tears, who was overcome with emotion at meeting him.

The audience took place at the beginning of the annual Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, which for 2017 had the theme: “Reconciliation: The love of Christ compels us.”

Addressing the different language groups, the pope prayed that all Christian communities would “be open more to reconciliation” and communion.

“In this same spirit of hope and with gratitude for the progress already made in the ecumenical movement, I ask your prayers for this important intention,” the pope told the English-speaking pilgrims.

During the audience, the pope reflected on the prophet Jonah, a man who first tried to run away from God’s call and initially refused “to place himself at the service of the divine plan of salvation.”

Nevertheless, the story of Jonah is a “great lesson about the mercy of God who forgives,” the pope said.

Jonah fled from his task of preaching salvation to the people of Ninevah who, in the eyes of the Israelites, “deserved to be destroyed, not to be saved,” the pope said. But when a dangerous storm hit, the pagans aboard his ship immediately prayed to their gods; a just reaction in the face of death because only then “man experiences his own frailty and his own need of salvation,” he said.

“The instinctive horror of death awakens the need to hope in the God of life,” the pope said. People think, “‘Perhaps God will think of us and we will not perish.’ These are the words of hope that become a prayer, that plea full of anguish raised by the lips of man in front of an imminent danger of death.”

The storm passed once Jonah accepted his responsibility and asked to be thrown into the sea, the pope continued, which moved the pagans to a sincere fear of God and “to recognize the one true Lord of heaven and earth.”

The people of Ninevah, he added, also had the experience of facing death yet being saved in the end, which led them to know and experience the truth of God’s love.

This experience of God’s divine mercy is a reminder for all men and women to recognize the “surprising occasions of knowing hope and encountering God,” Pope Francis said.

“Prayer brings you to hope,” the pope said. “And when things become dark, with more prayer there will be more hope.”

 

 

Comments Off on Prayer brings light of hope in dark times, pope says at audience
Marquee Powered By Know How Media.