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Pope’s General Audience – May 8, 2024

Pope Francis

Wednesday, May 8, 2024

Elderly man with long beard holding infant Jesus, elderly woman standing behind him
Giotto di Bondone, Scenes from the Life of Christ: Presentation of Christ at the Temple. Wikimedia Commons.
During his weekly General Audience, Pope Francis reflected on the theological virtue of hope. He said that it "is the answer offered to our heart, when the absolute question arises in us: 'What will become of me? What is the purpose of the journey? What is the destiny of the world?'"
Read the full text of his address below. You can watch the full broadcast on Salt + Light TV on Thursday night at 7:00 pm ET, 4:00 pm PT and then on Salt + Light Plus.
Dear brothers and sisters!
In the last catechesis we began to reflect on the theological virtues. There are three of them: faith, hope, and charity. Last time, we reflected on faith. Now it is the turn of hope. “Hope is the theological virtue by which we desire the kingdom of heaven and eternal life as our happiness, placing our trust in Christ’s promises and relying not on our own strength, but on the help of the grace of the Holy Spirit” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, #1817). These words confirm to us that hope is the answer offered to our heart, when the absolute question arises in us: “What will become of me? What is the purpose of the journey? What is the destiny of the world?”
We all realize that a negative answer to these questions produces sadness. If there is no meaning to the journey of life, if at the beginning and the end there is nothing, then we ask ourselves why we should walk: hence man’s desperation, the sensation of the pointlessness of everything, is born. And many may rebel: “I have striven to be virtuous, to be prudent, just, strong, temperate. I have also been a man or woman of faith.... What was the use of my fight, if it all ends here?” If hope is missing, all the other virtues risk crumbling and ending up as ashes. If no reliable tomorrow, no bright horizon, were to exist, one would only have to conclude that virtue is a futile effort. “Only when the future is certain as a positive reality does it become possible to live the present as well” said Benedict XVI (Encyclical Letter Spe salvi, #2).
Christians have hope not through their own merit. If they believe in the future, it is because Christ died and rose again and gave us His Spirit. “Redemption is offered to us in the sense that we have been given hope, trustworthy hope, by virtue of which we can face our present” (#1). In this sense, once again, we say that hope is a theological virtue: it does not emanate from us, it is not an obstinacy we want to convince ourselves of, but it is a gift that comes directly from God.
To many doubting Christians, who had not been completely born again to hope, the Apostle Paul sets before them the new logic of the Christian experience, and he says: “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all men most to be pitied” (1 Corinthians 15:17-19). It is as if he said: if you believe in the resurrection of Christ, then you know with certainty that no defeat and no death is forever. But if you do not believe in the resurrection of Christ, then everything becomes hollow, even the preaching of the Apostles.
Hope is a virtue against which we sin often: in our bad nostalgia, in our melancholy, when we think that the happiness of the past is buried forever. We sin against hope when we become despondent over our sins, forgetting that God is merciful and greater than our heart. And let us not forget this, brothers and sisters: God forgives everything, God forgives always. We are the ones who tire of asking for forgiveness. But let us not forget this truth: God forgives everything, God forgives always. We sin against hope when we become despondent over our sins; we sin against hope when the autumn in us cancels out the spring; when God's love ceases to be an eternal fire and we do not have the courage to make decisions that commit us for a lifetime.
The world today is in great need of this Christian virtue! The world needs hope, just as it needs patience, a virtue that walks in close contact with hope. Patient men are weavers of goodness. They stubbornly desire peace, and even if some of them are hasty and would like everything, and straight away, patience is capable of waiting. Even when around us many have succumbed to disillusionment, those who are inspired by hope and are patient are able to get through the darkest of nights. Hope and patience go together.
Hope is the virtue of those who are young at heart; and here age does not count. Because there are also the elderly with eyes full of light, who live permanently striving towards the future. Think of the two great elderly people of the Gospel, Simeon and Anna: they never tired of waiting and they saw the last stretch of their earthly journey blessed by the encounter with the Messiah, whom they recognized in Jesus, brought to the Temple by His parents. What grace if it were like that for all of us! If after a long pilgrimage, setting down our saddlebags and staff, our heart were filled with a joy never before felt, and we too could exclaim: “Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace / according to thy word; / for mine eyes have seen thy salvation / which thou hast prepared in the presence of all peoples, / a light for revelation to the Gentiles, / and for glory to thy people Israel” (Luke 2:29-32).
Brothers and sisters, let us go ahead and ask for the grace to have hope, hope with patience. Always look towards that definitive encounter; always look to see that the Lord is always near us, that death will never, never be victorious. Let us go ahead and ask the Lord to give us this great virtue of hope, accompanied by patience. Thank you.
Text courtesy of Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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