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POPE FRANCIS GENERAL AUDIENCE — Saint Peter’s Square, Wednesday, 10 April 2013

POPE FRANCIS

GENERAL AUDIENCE

Saint Peter’s Square
Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Dear Brothers and Sisters, good day!

Pope gives thumbs up as he leaves general audience in St. Peter's Square at VaticanIn the last Catechesis we have focused on the event of the Resurrection of Jesus, in which women have played a special role. Today I would like to reflect on its meaning for salvation. What does the Resurrection mean for our lives? And why, without it, is our faith in vain? Our faith is based on the death and resurrection of Christ, just like a house built on foundations: if they give in, the whole house collapses. On the Cross, Jesus offered himself taking sins upon himself our and going down into the abyss of death, and in the Resurrection he defeats them, he removes them and opens up to us the path to be reborn to a new life. St. Peter expresses it briefly at the beginning of his First Letter, as we have heard: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who in his great mercy gave us a new birth to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you”(1:3-4).

The Apostle tells us that the Resurrection of Jesus is something new: we are freed from the slavery of sin and become children of God, that we are born to a new life. When does this happen to us? In the Sacrament of Baptism. In ancient times, it was normally received through immersion. Those to be baptized immersed themselves in the large pool within the Baptistery, leaving their clothes, and the bishop or the priest would pour water over their head three times, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Then the baptized would emerge from the pool and put on a new vestment, a white one: they were born to a new life, immersing themselves in the death and resurrection of Christ. They had become children of God. In the Letter to the Romans Saint Paul writes: you ” For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you received a spirit of adoption, through which we cry, “Abba, Father! ‘”(Rom. 8:15). It is the Holy Spirit that we received in baptism that teaches us, leads us to say to God, “Father.” Or rather, Abba Father. This is our God, He is a father to us. The Holy Spirit produces in us this new status as children of God, and this is the greatest gift we receive from the Paschal Mystery of Jesus. And God treats us as His children, He understands us, forgives us, embraces us, loves us even when we make mistakes . In the Old Testament, the prophet Isaiah said that even though a mother may forget her child, God never, ever forgets us (cf. 49:15). And this is a beautiful thing, beautiful!

However, this filial relationship with God is not like a treasure to be kept in a corner of our lives. It must grow, it must be nourished every day by hearing the Word of God, prayer, participation in the sacraments, especially the Sacraments of Penance and the Eucharist and charity. We can live as children! We can live as children! And this is our dignity. So let us behave as true children! This means that each day we must let Christ transform us and make us like Him; it means trying to live as Christians, trying to follow him, even if we see our limitations and our weaknesses. The temptation to put God to one side, to put ourselves at the center is ever-present and the experience of sin wounds our Christian life, our being children of God. This is why we must have the courage of faith, we must resist being led to the mentality that tells us: “There is no need for God, He is not that important for you”. It is the exact opposite: only by behaving as children of God, without being discouraged by our falls, can we feel loved by Him, our life will be new, inspired by serenity and joy. God is our strength! God is our hope!

Dear brothers and sisters, we must first must firmly have this hope and we must be visible, clear, brilliant signs of hope in world. The Risen Lord is the hope that never fails, that does not disappoint (cf. Rom 5:5). God’s hope never disappoints!. How many times in our life do our hopes vanish, how many times do the expectations that we carry in our heart not come true! The hope of Christians is strong, safe and sound in this land, where God has called us to walk, and is open to eternity, because it is founded on God, who is always faithful. We should never forget this; God is always faithful! God is always faithful! Be risen with Christ through Baptism, with the gift of faith, to an imperishable inheritance, leads us to increasingly search for the things of God, to think of Him more, to pray more. Christianity is not simply a matter of following commandments; it is about living a new life, being in Christ, thinking and acting like Christ, and being transformed by the love of Christ, it is allowing Him take possession of our lives and change them, transform them, to free them from the darkness of evil and sin.

Dear brothers and sisters, to those who ask us our reasons for the hope that is in us (cf. 1 Pt 3:15), let us point to the Risen Christ. Let us point to Him with the proclamation of the Word, but especially with our resurrected life. Let us show the joy of being children of God, the freedom he gifts us to live in Christ, who is true freedom, freedom from the slavery of evil, sin and death! In looking to our heavenly home, we will also have a new light and strength in our commitment and in our daily efforts. It is a precious service that we give to our world, which is often no longer able to lift its gaze upwards, it no longer seems able to lift its gaze towards God.

The definitive option for or against God — Hell

Learn a lesson from the Demons: A Follow up on the 1999 catechesis series on the reality of heaven, hell, and purgatory by Pope John Paul II. This installment: The Reality of Hell And The Danger of Damnation… [General Audience, Wednesday, 28 July 1999].

 “To die in mortal sin without repenting and accepting God’s merciful love means remaining separated from him for ever by our own free choice. This state of definitive self-exclusion from communion with God and the blessed is called ‘hell’” (CCC n. 1033).

1. God is the infinitely good and merciful Father. But man, called to respond to him freely, can unfortunately choose to reject his love and forgiveness once and for all, thus separating himself for ever from joyful communion with him. It is precisely this tragic situation that Christian doctrine explains when it speaks of eternal damnation or hell. It is not a punishment imposed externally by God but a development of premises already set by people in this life. The very dimension of unhappiness which this obscure condition brings can in a certain way be sensed in the light of some of the terrible experiences we have suffered which, as is commonly said, make life “hell”.

In a theological sense however, hell is something else: it is the ultimate consequence of sin itself, which turns against the person who committed it. It is the state of those who definitively reject the Father’s mercy, even at the last moment of their life.

Hell is a state of eternal damnation

2. To describe this reality Sacred Scripture uses a symbolical language which will gradually be explained. In the Old Testament the condition of the dead had not yet been fully disclosed by Revelation. Moreover it was thought that the dead were amassed in Sheol, a land of darkness (cf. Ez. 28:8; 31:14; Jb. 10:21f.; 38:17; Ps 30:10; 88:7, 13), a pit from which one cannot reascend (cf. Jb. 7:9), a place in which it is impossible to praise God (cf. Is 38:18; Ps 6:6).

The New Testament sheds new light on the condition of the dead, proclaiming above all that Christ by his Resurrection conquered death and extended his liberating power to the kingdom of the dead.

Redemption nevertheless remains an offer of salvation which it is up to people to accept freely. This is why they will all be judged “by what they [have done]” (Rv 20:13). By using images, the New Testament presents the place destined for evildoers as a fiery furnace, where people will “weep and gnash their teeth” (Mt 13:42; cf. 25:30, 41), or like Gehenna with its “unquenchable fire” (Mk 9:43). All this is narrated in the parable of the rich man, which explains that hell is a place of eternal suffering, with no possibility of return, nor of the alleviation of pain (cf. Lk. 16:19-3 1).

The Book of Revelation also figuratively portrays in a “pool of fire” those who exclude themselves from the book of life, thus meeting with a “second death” (Rv. 20:13f.). Whoever continues to be closed to the Gospel is therefore preparing for ‘eternal destruction and exclusion from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might” (2 Thes 1:9).

3. The images of hell that Sacred Scripture presents to us must be correctly interpreted. They show the complete frustration and emptiness of life without God. Rather* than a place, hell indicates the state of those who freely and definitively separate themselves from God, the source of all life and joy. This is how the Catechism of the Catholic Church summarizes the truths of faith on this subject: “To die in mortal sin without repenting and accepting God’s merciful love means remaining separated from him for ever by our own free choice. This state of definitive self-exclusion from communion with God and the blessed is called ‘hell'” (n. 1033).

“Eternal damnation”, therefore, is not attributed to God’s initiative because in his merciful love he can only desire the salvation of the beings he created. In reality, it is the creature who closes himself to his love. Damnation consists precisely in definitive separation from God, freely chosen by the human person and confirmed with death that seals his choice for ever. God’s judgement ratifies this state.

We are saved from going to hell by Jesus who conquered Satan

4. Christian faith teaches that in taking the risk of saying “yes” or “no”, which marks the human creature’s freedom, some have already said no. They are the spiritual creatures that rebelled against God’s love and are called demons (cf. Fourth Lateran Council, DS 800-801). What happened to them is a warning to us: it is a continuous call to avoid the tragedy which leads to sin and to conform our life to that of Jesus who lived his life with a “yes” to God.

Eternal damnation remains a real possibility, but we are not granted, without special divine revelation, the knowledge of whether or which human beings are effectively involved in it. The thought of hell — and even less the improper use of biblical images — must not create anxiety or despair, but is a necessary and healthy reminder of freedom within the proclamation that the risen Jesus has conquered Satan, giving us the, Spirit of God who makes us cry “Abba, Father!” (Rm. 8:15; Gal. 4:6).

This prospect, rich in hope, prevails in Christian proclamation. It is effectively reflected in the liturgical tradition of the Church, as the words of the Roman Canon attest: “Father, accept this offering from your whole family … save us from final damnation, and count us among those you have chosen”.

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Pope Benedict XVI: Christian Unity ‘so that the world might believe’

Vatican Information Service

“So that the world may believe!…The world is suffering from the absence of God, … it wishes to know the face of God. But how can men and women today know the face of God in the face of Christ if we Christians are divided? Only in unity can we truly show the face of God, the face of Christ, to a world which has such need to see it”. Pope Benedict XVI

VATICAN CITY (VIS) – Benedict XVI dedicated his catechesis during today’s general audience to the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity which began on 18 January and will come to an end on Friday, 25 January, Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul.

Addressing the thousands of faithful gathered in the Paul VI Hall, the Pope explained that during the Week “Christians from various Churches and ecclesial communities will come together … in a choral entreaty to ask the Lord Jesus to re-establish full unity among all His disciples, … undertaking to work so that all humanity accepts and recognises Him as their only Pastor and Lord”.

The Holy Father gave his listeners a broad historical overview of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, the theme of which this year is “pray without ceasing”: More than 100 years ago Fr. Paul Wattson, an Anglican priest from the U.S.A. who later entered into the communion of the Catholic Church, launched “the prophetic idea of an Octave of prayer for the unity of Christians”.

In 1916 Pope Benedict XV extended the invitation to pray for unity to the entire Catholic Church and later, during Vatican Council II, “the need for unity was felt with even greater urgency”.

Vatican Council II promulgated the Decree on Ecumenism “Unitatis Redintegratio” which, the Pope said, “lays great emphasis on the role and the importance of prayer for unity. Prayer”, he added, “is at the very heart of the ecumenical journey”.

“It is thanks to this spiritual ecumenism, founded on prayer and sincere conversion, … that the joint search for unity has undergone considerable development over the last few decades, diversifying into many different initiatives: from mutual knowledge to fraternal contact between members of different Churches and ecclesial communities, from ever more friendly dialogue to collaboration in various fields, from theological dialogue to the search for tangible forms of communion”.

Vatican Council II “also highlighted prayer in common”, said Pope Benedict, “because in joint prayer Christian communities come together before the Lord and, aware of the contradictions caused by their divisions, manifest their desire to obey His will”. … Joint prayer is not, then a form of volunteer work or sociology, but an expression of the faith that unites all Christ’s disciples”.

“It is the awareness of our human limitations that encourages us to abandon ourselves faithfully in the hands of the Lord. … The profound significance of the Week of Prayer lies precisely in the fact that it is firmly founded on the prayer of Christ … ‘that they may all be one, … so that the world may believe'”.

“So that the world may believe!” the Pope concluded. “We particularly feel the realism of those words today. The world is suffering from the absence of God, … it wishes to know the face of God. But how can men and women today know the face of God in the face of Christ if we Christians are divided? Only in unity can we truly show the face of God, the face of Christ, to a world which has such need to see it”.