A Catholic Monthly Magazine

Francis Speaks on Hope

An edited version of the Pope's teaching  about 'Hope Founded in the Word,' based on Romans 15:1-8.

We can describe perseverance in fact as patience: it is the capacity to endure, to carry on one’s shoulders, ‘support,’ to remain faithful, even when the burden seems to be too great, unbearable, and we are tempted to judge negatively and to abandon everything and everyone.

Consolation, instead, is the grace to be able to receive and show the compassionate presence and action of God in every situation, even in those largely marked by disappointment and suffering. Now Saint Paul reminds us that the Scriptures communicate perseverance and consolation to us (v. 4).

The God of perseverance and consolation

In fact, in the first place, the Word of God leads us to turn our gaze to Jesus, to know Him better and to be conformed to Him, to be ever more like Him. In the second place, the Word reveals to us that the Lord is truly ‘the God of perseverance and of consolation’ (v. 5), who is always faithful to His love for us. In other words, he perseveres in His love for us, he does not tire of loving us! He is steadily persistent, he always loves us! And he takes care of us, covering our wounds with the caress of his goodness and his mercy -- he consoles us. He does not tire of consoling us, either.

Bearing with others' failings

Understood in this perspective also is the Apostle’s initial affirmation: ‘We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves’ (v.1). This expression, ‘we who are strong,’ might seem presumptuous, but, in the logic of the Gospel, we know that it is not so. Rather, it is in fact the contrary, because our strength does not come from ourselves, but from the Lord. One who experiences in his life the faithful love of God and God’s consolation is able -- and more than that -- has the duty, to be close to weaker sisters and brothers, and take on their frailty. If we are close to the Lord we will have that strength to be close to the weakest and to the neediest, and to console them and give them strength. This is what it means. We can do this without being pleased with ourselves, but feeling ourselves simply as a ‘channel’ that transmits the Lord’s gifts, and thus truly become sowers of hope. This is what the Lord asks of us, that we have the strength and capacity to console, and to be sowers of hope. Today it is necessary to sow hope, and it is not easy . . .

Live in harmony with one another

The fruit of this lifestyle is not a community in which some are ‘series A,’ that is, the strong, and others ‘series B,’ the weak. Instead, as Saint Paul says, the fruit is ‘to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus’ (v. 5). The Word of God nourishes a hope that is translated concretely in sharing and in mutual service. Because even one who is ‘strong’ finds himself experiencing frailty sooner or later, and the need of others’ comfort and, vice versa, in weakness one can always offer a smile or a hand to a sister or brother in difficulty.

Christ gives us hope, consolation

And it is such a community that ‘with one spirit and one voice renders glory to God’ (cf. v. 6). However, all this is possible if Christ and his Word are put at the centre, because he is ‘strong.’ He is the one who gives us strength, who gives us patience, who gives us hope, who gives us consolation. He is the ‘strong brother,’ who takes care of each one of us: all of us, in fact, are in need of being carried on the shoulders of the Good Shepherd and of feeling enveloped by his tender and solicitous gaze.

Hope founded on God's support and faithfulness

We can never thank God enough for the gift of His Word, which is rendered present in the Scriptures. It is there that the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ is revealed as ‘God of perseverance and of consolation.’

And it is there that we realise that our hope is not founded on our capacities and our strength, but on God’s support and on the faithfulness of His love, that is, on God’s strength and consolation.

Source: Zenit 22 March 2017

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