Pope Francis told the faithful never to despair, as the Lord’s grace is always present to those who put their trust in him.
Speaking to the faithful at his Wednesday General Audience on October 25, 2017, Pope Francis greeted the crowds in St. Peter’s square telling them that this is the last catechesis on the subject of Christian hope, which has accompanied us since the beginning of the liturgical year.
And so, he said: “I will end by talking about heaven, as the goal of our hope”.
“Paradise” the Pope said is one of the last words spoken by Jesus on the cross when he addresses the good thief.
Reflecting on that scene from the Gospel, the Pope said “Jesus is not alone. Next to him, right and left, there are two offenders”.
Perhaps, he said, passing in front of those three crosses hoisted on Golgotha, someone may even have breathed a sigh of relief thinking that justice was finally done.
In fact, Francis said “On Calvary, on that tragic and Holy Friday, for Jesus it was the extreme moment of solidarity with sinners. As the prophet Isaiah said: “He was counted among the ungodly.”
Pope Francis remarked that it is interesting to note that this is the only instance in which the word “Paradise” appears in the gospels.
The good thief
He recalled the “poor devil” who, on the cross, had the courage to express the most humble of wishes: “Remember me when you enter into your kingdom.”
“He did not have good deeds to assert, he had nothing, but he put his trust into Jesus, and his humble words of repentance were enough to touch the heart of Jesus” he said.
This tells us, he said, that the Lord’s solidarity with us sinners culminated on the cross where, in one of his final acts, he opened the gates of heaven to a repentant criminal.
Trust in God’s mercy
Thus, at the heart of the Pope’s catechesis was the message that we can only trust in God’s mercy, and, at every hour of our life, turn to him with hope in his promises.
This miracle, he said, is repeated countless times in hospitals and prison cells: “there is no person, no matter how bad, to whom grace is denied”
God, he said, desires that nothing be lost of what he has redeemed.
No one must despair
“No one, he explained, should despair, for his grace is always present to those who put their trust in him”.
Paradise, Francis continued, is not a fairy tale, nor is it an enchanted garden. Paradise is an embrace with God, it is infinite Love, it is a place we enter thanks to Jesus, who died on the cross for us.
“Where there is Jesus, there is mercy and happiness; without Him there is the cold and darkness” he said.
Love and charity never end
If we believe this, the Pope said, we stop being afraid of death and we can hope to leave this world in a serene and trusting way.
“At the hour of death, a Christian must say to Jesus: ‘Remember me’ and even if there is no one who remembers us, Jesus is there, beside us” he said.
At that moment, the Pope concluded, we will no longer need anything, we will not see in a confused way, we will not weep unnecessarily, because everything will be gone except for love that remains because: “charity never ends”.