On Wednesday Pope Francis said true Christians aren't sad or gloomy, but have the specific task of being bearers of hope not only with their words, but with actions as simple as a smile or an act of charity. In his Oct. 4 general audience, the Pope said it's encouraging to know that the' disciples “are announcers of Jesus' resurrection not only in word, but with facts and with the testimony of their life!”
Jesus, he said, “doesn't want disciples capable only of repeating learned and memorized formulas. He wants witnesses: people who spread hope with their way of welcoming, smiling and loving.” The most important part loving, he said, “because the strength of the resurrection renders Christians capable of loving even when love seems to have lost it's meaning.”
For Christians, there is a “more” to existence that can't be explained simply with the strength of spirit or a great amount of optimism. Rather, believers are people that seem to have a “piece of heaven” with them, and who are accompanied “by a presence that no one can even intuit.”
Pope Francis spoke to pilgrims gathered in St Peter's Square, continuing his catechesis on Christian hope. This week, he spoke of the need to have “missionaries of hope,” noting that the call for such witnesses is key in the month of October, which is traditionally dedicated to mission.
A Christian, the Pope said, not “a prophet of misfortune,” but rather, their task entails announcing Jesus, “who died out of love and who God resurrected on the morning of Easter.” “This is the nucleus of our Christian faith,” he said, explaining that if the Gospels had stopped at the the crucifixion and tomb, “the story of this prophet would add itself to the many biographies of heroic personalities that often have spent their lives for an ideal.”
In this case, the Gospel would simply become “an edifying and consoling book,” but it would in no way “be an announcement of hope.” However, the Gospels go beyond the tomb, Francis said, explaining that “it is precisely this last part that transforms our lives.” Although everything seemed hopeless after Jesus' death, with some disciples already beginning to leave Jerusalem, Jesus rose. And this “unexpected fact” completely “overturns and subverts the heart of the disciples.”
Christians, then, are called to spread this news in the world and “open spaces for salvation, like regenerative cells capable of restoring vigor to those seem lost forever.” True Christians, Pope Francis said, are “not sad and angry, but convinced by the strength of the resurrection, that no evil is infinite, no night without end, no man is definitively in wrong, no hate is invincible from love.”
But while there is joy that comes from announcing the Gospel, disciples at times have had to “pay a dear price” for their hope, Francis said, and pointed to the many Christians who “have not abandoned their people” in times of persecution. “They have stayed there, where tomorrow isn't certain, where they couldn't have plans of any sort, (but) they stayed hoping in God.”
Referring, as he often does, to the many modern martyrs who give their lives for Christ, the Pope said their fidelity proves that “injustice does not have the final word in life.” “In Christ Risen we can continue to hope,” he said, noting that while men and women who have a certain reason to live are able to resist more than others in times of difficulty, “those who have Christ at their side truly no longer fear anything.”
“Because of this Christians are never easy and accommodating men,” he said, stressing that “their meekness must not be confused with a sense of insecurity or of submissiveness.” And this, he said, “is why the Christian is a missionary of hope. Not by their merit, but thanks to Jesus, the grain of wheat who, fallen to the earth, died and brought much fruit.”
At the end of the audience, just before leading pilgrims in the Our Father, Pope Francis announced that a special meeting will be held March 19-24 with youth from all over the world in order to prepare for the 2018 Synod of Bishops on “Young People, Faith and the Discernment of Vocation.” Youth who will attend the conference will also include non-believers and non-Catholics, whether they come from other Christian traditions, other faiths entirely.
Conclusions of the discussion will be given to synod participants to take into consideration during the discussion. In preparing for the synod, “the Church wants to listen to the voices, feelings, faith and even doubts and critiques of the youth,” Pope Francis said, which is why the March meeting will gather such a vast panorama of participants, and why, ultimately, their reflections will be taken into consideration during the synod itself.