ROME — Pope Francis on Wednesday said each person must strive to imitate the perseverance and consolation of God, which not only gives us the strength to keep going, but also to help others who are in difficulty.
“Perseverance we can also define as patience; it’s the ability to support, to remain faithful, even when the weight seems to become too big, unsustainable, and we are tempted to negatively judge and abandon everything and everyone,” the pope said.
Consolation, on the other hand, “is the grace of knowing how to welcome and show in every situation, even those largely marked by delusion and suffering, the presence and compassionate action of God.”
He noted how these two attitudes are highlighted by St. Paul in his letter to the Romans, both in reference to scripture and to God himself, who is “the God of perseverance and consolation.”
Speaking to pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square for his March 22 general audience, the pontiff continued his catechesis on the virtue of Christian hope, saying the qualities of perseverance and consolation shed light on what having hope really means.
Francis noted how in the day’s reading from Romans chapter 15, St. Paul reminds us that these attitudes are communicated throughout scripture. The Word of God, he said, “leads us to turn our gaze to Jesus, to know him better and to conform ourselves to him, to increasingly become more like him.”
By calling the Lord “the God of perseverance and consolation,” the apostle is revealing the nature of God as someone “who always remains faithful to his love for us and takes care of us, covering our wounds with the caress of his goodness and his mercy.”
“He’s perseverant in love for us, he never tires of loving us,” he said.
Pope Francis then pointed to how in the passage, St. Paul also insists that “we who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves.”
While the phrase “we who are strong” could seem presumptuous, the pontiff stressed that when understood with the logic of the Gospel, “we know that it’s not like this. Rather, it’s precisely the opposite because our strength doesn’t come from us, but from the Lord.”
“Whoever experiences in their own lives the faithful love of God and his consolation is able, even obliged, to be close to his weakest brothers and to take charge of their fragility,” he said.
The pope stressed the importance of doing this “without complacency,” but as “a channel that transmits the gifts of the Lord,” sowing hope to the world. Witnesses of hope “are needed today,” he said, but noted that unfortunately “it’s not so easy” to do.
However, Francis cautioned that this lifestyle doesn’t mean dividing the community so that “some are from ‘group A,’ which is the strong, and others ‘group B,’ which is the weak.”
Instead, it means having the same attitude toward one another that Christ did, he said, adding that the Word of God “nourishes a hope that is concretely translated in sharing, in reciprocal service.”
This reciprocity is essential, he said, because “even those who are strong sooner or later find themselves fragile and in need of comfort from others; and vice versa, in weakness one can always offer a smile or a hand to the brother in difficulty.”
But this is only possible “if we put Christ and his Word at the center,” Pope Francis said, and urged faithful to thank God for giving us his Word through scripture.
“We never thank God enough for the gift of his Word,” he said, stressing that “it’s there that we become aware of how our hope is not based on our own abilities and our own strength, but on the support of God and on his fidelity and love.”
At the end of his audience, Pope Francis also gave a shout-out to those participating in the “Watershed” Conference currently taking place in Rome in honor of the U.N. World Water Day, and which is being co-hosted by the Pontifical Council for Culture and the Argentinian Chapter of the Club of Rome.
“I am happy that this meeting is taking place,” he said, “for it represents yet another stage in the joint commitment of various institutions to raising consciousness about the need to protect water as a treasure belonging to everyone, mindful too of its cultural and religious significance.”
The pontiff then made an appeal for his “24 hours for the Lord” event, which takes place March 23-24.
“I hope that also this year this privileged moment of grace on the Lenten path is lived in many churches in order to experience the joyful encounter with the mercy of the Father, and that everyone welcomes and forgives,” he said.