In his message for this year’s diocesan celebration of World Youth Day, which has coincided since 2021 with the solemnity of Christ the King of the Universe, Pope Francis encourages young people to nurture hope and ‘share with others the hope and joy of the risen Christ!’
Released on 9 November ahead of the great solemnity, Pope Francis focuses his meditation on the nature and meaning of hope in Christian life.
He emphasises that hope is not something we can conjure through sheer force of will but comes to us as a gift of God.
‘The “joy in hope” proclaimed by the Apostle [Paul] is the fruit of Christ’s paschal mystery and the power of his resurrection,’ the Pope says. ‘It is not a product of our human efforts, plans or skills, but of the energy born of an encounter with Christ.
‘Christian joy comes from God himself, from our knowledge of his love for us.’
One of the temptations people face in the modern world, for a variety of reasons, is the temptation towards despair, Pope Francis writes. With the experience of war, conflict and other hardships creating immense pressures, many people ‘feel as if they are in a dark prison, where the light of the sun cannot enter … We may say to ourselves, with Job: “Where then is my hope? Who will see my hope?” (Job 17:15).’
One of the consequences of despair is that we think ‘it is useless to do good, since it would not be appreciated or acknowledged by anyone.’
But hope is ‘essential’ for human beings to flourish. ‘Think for a moment. How can we live without hope? What would our days be like? Hope is the salt of our daily lives.’
Christian joy comes from God himself, from our knowledge of his love for us.
Pope Francis also distinguishes between hope and optimisim: ‘Christian hope is no facile optimism, no placebo for the credulous: it is the certainty, rooted in love and faith, that God never abandons us and remains faithful to his promise: “Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil, for you are with me”’ (Psalm 23:4).
‘Christian hope is not a denial of sorrow and death; it is the celebration of the love of the risen Christ, who is always at our side, even when he seems far from us.’
This hope, a certain hope born from the presence of Christ in our midst, is one he encourages young people to nurture in their daily lives.
‘After the flame of hope is kindled in us, there can be times when it risks being extinguished by the worries, fears and pressures of daily life,’ he writes. ‘A flame needs oxygen to keep burning, in order to grow into a great bonfire of hope. The gentle breeze of the Holy Spirit nurtures our hope, and there are several ways that we cooperate in this.’
The best way for people to nurture hope, the pope says, is through prayer. ‘Prayer preserves and renews hope … Praying is like climbing to a mountaintop: from the ground, the sun can be hidden by clouds, but once we climb beyond them, its light and warmth envelop us. We see once more that the sun is always there, even when everything around us seems dark and dreary.’
Ours, he says, is an age in need of hope. ‘Nurture the spark that has been kindled in you, but at the same time share it. You will come to realize that it grows by being given away! … Stay close in particular to your friends who may be smiling on the outside but are weeping within, for lack of hope.’
Prayer preserves and renews hope.
He quotes the French Catholic spiritual writer Charles Péguy, who pictured faith, hope and love as three sisters walking along pulled especially by hope. Péguy thought that hope is the theological virtue people pay least attention to, even though it is the most important:
Yes she, the little one, drags everything along.
Because Faith only sees what exists.
And Charity only loves what exists.
But Hope loves what will be.
Banner image: Pope Francis. (Photo: Mazur/catholicnews.org.uk.)
Melbourne Catholic07 August 2023
Melbourne Catholic08 August 2023