Addressing the faithful gathered in St Peter’s Square for his weekly General Audience, Pope Francis reflected on the Passion of the Lord that we heard on Palm Sunday, and in particular, on the final words of the gospel passage: “They sealed the stone”.
The Holy Father noted that everything seemed over and that, for the disciples, the boulder signified the final end of their hope. The Teacher was crucified, killed in the cruelest and most humiliating manner, hung upon the infamous gallows outside the city – a public failure, the worst possible ending.
The Pope recalled that, today, this discouragement seems normal as we too have gloomy thoughts and frustrating feelings. “Even today, hope sometimes seems to be sealed behind the stone of mistrust,” said the Pope.
The Holy Father then went on to note that there was one image which remained fixed in the minds of the disciples, “the cross”.
“That is where the end of everything was centered,” he explained. However, he continued, “in a little while, they would discover a new beginning right there, in the cross.”
“This is how God’s hope germinates,” explained the Pope, “it is born and reborn in the black holes of our disappointed expectations – and hope, instead, never disappoints.”
Pope Francis then used the cross as an example of this, saying that “out of the most terrible instrument of torture, God wrought the greatest sign of His love.”
Pope Francis then encouraged Christians to look to the cross as the “tree of life”, so that we might be healed of that sadness that makes us ill.
Just as the Son of God was stripped and humiliated, we too find it difficult “to bare ourselves, to be truthful” and instead “we adorn ourselves with appearances, unnecessary things.”
Pope Francis stressed that “will not find peace this way”. Rather, we must return to the heart, to the essentials, to a simple life.
Pope Francis went on to note that Jesus was wounded on the cross.
“The cross displays the nails that pierce His hands and feet, His open side,” but on top of the wounds in His body are those in His soul, added the Pope. Alone and betrayed, even though He had committed no crime, Jesus was placed in the middle of two criminals. “In what way does this help our hope?” asked the Pope.
We too are wounded, said the Pope, adding, “who isn’t in life?”
But God does not hide His wounds from us, “He shows them so we can see that a new passage can be opened with Easter: to make of our own wounds, flowers of light.”
Jesus loves, continued the Pope, and “thus He converts evil into good; thus He transforms sorrow into love.”
Bringing his catechesis to an close, Pope Francis encouraged the faithful following his General Audience to unite their wounds to those of Jesus “so that my wounds too might become luminous.”
We must dry the tears of others, take care of what others are lacking, bend over those who suffer and then our wounds can become springs of hope, he said.
Instead of feeling sorry for ourselves, we should care for those who suffer and “when, instead of being thirsty for love, we quench the thirst of those in need of us.”
Finally, Pope Francis asked that during these holy days we might “draw near the Crucified One”, gaze upon Him, wounded, and “place our wounds in His. Let us let Jesus regenerate hope in us.”