VATICAN CITY – On Sunday Pope Francis said that to be a Christian isn’t easy, but means having faith and striving to live a moral life even when it’s hard, trusting in God and his love during moments of weakness and anxiety.
“Christianity doesn’t offer easy consolations, it’s not a shortcut, but requires faith and a healthy moral life which rejects evil, selfishness and corruption,” the pope said March 11.
A faithful and moral life, he said, “gives us the true and great hope in God the Father, rich in mercy, who has given us his only son, thus revealing to us his immense love.”
Francis spoke to pilgrims in St. Peter’s Square for his Sunday Angelus address, which he focused on the day’s passage from John’s Gospel when Jesus speaks to Nicodemus, explaining what will happen to those who believe and walk in truth, and what will happen to those who don’t.
Jesus’ affirmation that “God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him,” synthesize the core of the Christian message, Francis said.
Namely, this message is that “even when the situation seems desperate, God intervenes, offering man salvation and joy.” God, the pope said, doesn’t stand aside, but “enters into the history of humanity to animate it with his grace and to save it.”
Christians, he said, are called to listen to this announcement and to reject the temptation to be too sure of themselves, wanting to “do without God,” and be “liberated” from him and his word.
“When we find the courage to consider ourselves for what we are, we realize that we are people called to deal with our fragility and our limits,” he said, noting that at times thinking about these weaknesses can lead people to be anxious for the future, or afraid of illness and death.
This, Francis said, is the reason many people look for “a way out,” turning to “dangerous shortcuts such as the tunnel of drugs, superstitions or ruinous magic rituals.”
However, Christianity offers a different path. Though it’s not easy, it leads to hope, he said, and pointed to the image of Jesus on the cross, which he said is the “greatest manifestation of God’s love.”
“It’s good to know our limits,” he said. Not to become discouraged, “but to offer them to God, and he helps us in the path of daily life. He takes us by the hand, but he never leaves us alone, never. Because of this we have joy.”
Turning again to the passage in the day’s Gospel where Jesus says that he didn’t come to condemn the world, but to save it, Francis said if Christians root themselves in this affirmation, then “our trust is unshakable.”
To do this, he said, “is a matter of opening the heart.” And during Lent in particular, this means increasingly opening oneself to God in a better way.
“Only in this way can we live a life animated by justice and charity, and become testimonies of this divine love; a love which is not only given to those who earn it, doesn’t ask for recompense, but is offered freely, without conditions.”
Jesus went to the cross “to heal us,” he said, and in off-the-cuff comments urged faithful to look to the crucifix and say: “God loves me. It’s true, there are sins, (but) God loves us in our weakness, in our infidelity, in our fragility…let’s look to the crucifix and go forward.”
Francis closed his address asking that Mary would help obtain for each person this certainty that they are loved by God.
“(God) is close to us in moments when we feel alone, when we feel tempted to surrender to the difficulties of life,” he said, and prayed that those present would be able to communicate the message of Jesus, so that Lent would become “an experience of forgiveness, welcome and charity.”
After leading pilgrims in praying the Angelus, the pope greeted pilgrims present from around the world, offering a special welcome to the students, mentors and tech experts who participated in the March 8-11 first-ever Vatican “Hackathon.”
Speaking directly to the students, he told them “it’s beautiful to place intelligence, which is a gift from God, at the service of the truth and those most in need.”