Pope Francis continued his catechesis on Christian hope during his General Audience on Wednesday, April 5, 2017, in St. Peter’s Square, saying that God’s infinite love is the basis for all our hope.
Reflecting on the First Letter of the apostle Peter, Pope Francis at his General Audience invited Christians to imitate the Lord’s redemptive suffering by bearing witness to God’s infinite love as revealed on the Cross.
He said God’s love as sealed in the resurrection is the basis of all our hope.
“Our hope is not a concept, it is not a sentiment, it is not a mobile phone, it is not a heap of riches! Our hope is a Person, it is the Lord Jesus Whom we recognize as living and present in us and in our brothers, because Christ is risen.”
The Holy Father went on to say that Christian hope is not theoretical but must be lived and witnessed in our daily lives.
Our hope, he said, “must necessarily be released outwards, taking the exquisite and unmistakable form of gentleness, respect and goodness towards our neighbour, to the point of forgiving those who do us harm.”
He said this contrasts with the attitude of the Mafiosi, who believe “evil can be defeated by evil”, because they “do not have hope”.
Pope Francis then invited all to be suffer for good in the large and small situations of daily life and to offer a blessing instead of evil.
This, he said, “is the proclamation of God’s love, a love without bounds, that is inexhaustible, that never runs out and constitutes the true basis for our hope.”
Please find below the official English translation of the Pope’s catechesis:
Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!
The First Letter of the apostle Peter is extraordinarily rich. We must read it once, twice, three times to understand its extraordinary import: it succeeds in bringing great consolation and peace, showing how the Lord is always by our side and never abandons us, especially in the most delicate and difficult times of our lives. But what is the “secret” of this Letter, and in particular of the passage we have just listened to (cf. 1 Pt. 3:8-17)? This is a question. I know that you will take the New Testament, look for the First Letter of Peter and read it very slowly, to understand the secret and the strength of this Letter. What is the secret of this Letter?
1. The secret resides in the fact that this text is rooted directly in Easter, in the heart of the mystery we are about to celebrate, thus allowing us to perceive all the light and joy that spring from the death and resurrection of Christ. Christ is truly risen, and this is a beautiful greeting we can give each other on the day of Easter: “Christ is risen! Christ is risen!”, as many peoples do. Let us remember that Christ is risen, He lives in our midst, and abides in each one of us. This is why St. Peter strongly urges us to adore Him in our hearts (cf. v. 16). There the Lord made His dwelling at the moment of our Baptism, and from there He continues to renew us and our life, filling us with His love and with fullness of Spirit. This is why the Apostle reminds us to acknowledge the hope that is in us (cf. v. 16): our hope is not a concept, it is not a sentiment, it is not a mobile phone, it is not a heap of riches! Our hope is a Person, it is the Lord Jesus Whom we recognise as living and present in us and in our brothers, because Christ is risen. Slavic peoples, when they greet each other, instead of saying “Good morning” or “Good evening” on the days of Easter, they greet each other with this “Christ is risen!”. “Christos voskrese!”, they say to each other, and they are happy to say so! And this is the “Good morning” and “Good evening” they offer one another: “Christ is risen!”
2. We understand, then, that we cannot give a reason for this hope at a theoretical level, but above all through the witness of life, both within the Christian community and outside it. If Christ is living and abides in us, in our heart, then we must also allow Him to be made visible, not to hide Him, and to act in us. This means that the Lord Jesus must increasingly become our model: our model of life and that we must learn to behave as He behaved. Do what Jesus did. The hope that abides in us, then, cannot remain hidden inside us, in our heart: it would be a weak hope, that does not have the courage to come out and let itself be seen; but our hope, as is clear in the Psalm 33 cited by Peter, must necessarily be released outwards, taking the exquisite and unmistakable form of gentleness, respect and goodness towards our neighbour, to the point of forgiving those who do us harm. A person who does not have hope is not able to forgive; he is not able to give the consolation of forgiveness and to receive the consolation of forgiveness. Yes, because this is what Jesus did, and in this way He continues to do so through those who make space in their heart and their life for Him, in the awareness that evil is not vanquished with evil, but with humility, mercy and gentleness. Mafiosi think that evil can be defeated with evil, and so they seek revenge and do all those things we know about. But they do not know what humility, mercy and gentleness area. And why? Because Mafiosi do not have hope. Think about this.
3. This is why St. Peter affirms that “it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil” (v. 17); this does not mean that it is good to suffer, but that when we suffer for good, we are in communion with the Lord, Who accepted to suffer and to be put on the cross for our salvation. So when, in the smallest or the largest situations of our life, we too accept suffering for good, it is as if we sprinkled the seeds of resurrection, the seeds of life around us, and made the light of Easter shine in the dark. This is why the Apostle urges us always to respond “blessing” (v. 9): blessing is not a formality, or merely a sign of courtesy, but rather a great gift that we are the first to have received, and that we have the possibility of sharing with our brothers. It is the proclamation of God’s love, a love without bounds, that is inexhaustible, that never runs out and constitutes the true basis for our hope.
Dear friends, we understand also why the apostle Peter calls us “blessed”, when we must suffer for justice (cf. v.13). It is not only for a moral or ascetic reason, but it is because each time we take the side of the last and the marginalized, or that we do not respond to evil with evil, but instead forgive without vengeance, forgiving and blessing, every time we do this we shine as living and luminous signs of hope, thus becoming an instrument of consolation and peace, in accord with the heart of God. And in this way we go ahead with sweetness and gentleness, being amiable and doing good even to those who do not wish us well, or who harm us. Onwards!