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Paradise, the goal of our hope

Catechesis by Pope Francis on Christian Hope
General Audience, Wednesday 25 October 2017 - in Arabic, Croatian, English, French, German, Italian, Polish, Portuguese & Spanish

"Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!
This is the final catechesis on the theme of Christian hope, which has accompanied us since the beginning of this liturgical year. I shall conclude by speaking about Paradise, as the aim of our hope.

“Paradise” is one of the last words spoken by Jesus on the Cross, addressed to the good thief. Let us pause for a moment on this scene. On the Cross, Jesus is not alone. Beside him, on the right and on the left, there are two criminals. Perhaps, passing before those three crosses raised on Golgotha, one drew a sigh of relief, thinking that at last justice had been done by putting such people to death.

Next to Jesus is even a confessed criminal: one who recognizes that he deserved that dreadful torture. We call him the “good thief”, who, as opposed to the other, says: “we are receiving the due reward of our deeds” (Lk 23:41).

On Calvary, on that tragic and holy Friday, Jesus reaches the finality of his Incarnation, of his solidarity with we sinners. Fulfilled there is what the Prophet Isaiah had said of the suffering Servant: “he was numbered with the transgressors” (cf. 53:12; cf Lk 22:37).

It is there, on Calvary, that Jesus has his final appointment with a sinner, to throw open the gates of His Kingdom for him too. This is interesting: it is the only time that the word “Paradise” appears in the Gospels. Jesus promises it to a “poor devil” who, on the wood of the cross, had the courage to proffer Him the most humble of requests: “Remember me when you have entered your kingdom” (cf. Lk 23:42). He had no good works to assert; he had nothing; but he entrusted himself to Jesus, whom he recognized as innocent, good, so different from himself (v. 41). Those words of humble remorse were enough to touch Jesus’ heart.

The good thief reminds us of our true condition before God: that we are his children, that he feels compassion for us, that he is defenseless each time we show our nostalgia for his love. In many hospital wards or prison cells this miracle is repeated countless times: there is no person, as bad a life as he may have lived, who, faced with despair, is without recourse to grace. We all appear before God empty-handed, somewhat like the tax collector in the parable who had stopped to pray at the back of the Temple (cf. Lk 18:13). Each time a person, performing the last examination of conscience of his life, discovers that his shortcomings far exceed his good deeds, he must not feel discouraged, but must entrust himself to God’s mercy. And this gives us hope; it opens our heart!

God is Father, and he awaits our return to the very end. And when the prodigal son returns and begins to confess his sins, the father closes his mouth with an embrace. (cf. Lk 15:20). This is God: this is how he loves us!

Paradise is not a fairytale place, much less an enchanted garden. Paradise is the embrace of God, infinite Love, and we enter there thanks to Jesus, who died on the Cross for us. Where there is Jesus there is mercy and happiness; without him there is cold and darkness. At the hour of death, a Christian repeats to Jesus: “Remember me”. And even if there may no longer be anyone who remembers us, Jesus is there, beside us. He wants to take us to the most beautiful place that exists. He wants to take us there with the small or great deal of good that we have done in our life, so that nothing of what he has already redeemed may be lost. And into the Father’s house he will also bring everything in us that still needs redemption: the shortcomings and mistakes of an entire life. This is the aim of our existence: that all be fulfilled, and be transformed into love.

If we believe this, death ceases to frighten us, and we can also hope to depart from this world in a peaceful way, with so much confidence. Those who have met Jesus no longer fear anything. We too can repeat the words of the elderly Simeon; he too was blessed by the encounter with Christ, after a lifetime spent in anticipation of this event: “Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word; for mine eyes have seen thy salvation” (Lk 2:29-30).

At that instant, at last, we will no longer need anything; we will no longer see in a confused way. We will no longer weep in vain, because all has passed; even the prophecies, even consciousness. But not love: this endures. Because “love never ends” (1 Cor 13:8)."


"Je suis heureux d’accueillir les pèlerins francophones, venant de Suisse, de Belgique et de France, en particulier les pèlerins de Coutances, Bayeux-Lisieux et Saint-Flour accompagnés de leurs évêques, ainsi que l’aumônerie Tamoule Indienne de France. Chers amis, je vous invite à mettre toute votre confiance dans la miséricorde et la tendresse de Dieu pour chacun et chacune de vous. Il n’abandonne jamais ses enfants. Que Dieu vous bénisse !

I greet the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors taking part in today’s Audience, particularly the groups from England, Norway, India, Malaysia, China, Indonesia, Japan, the Philippines, Canada and the United States of America. I extend a particular welcome to the priests from the Metropolia of Nea Ionia of the Orthodox Church of Greece, accompanied by His Grace Metropolitan Gabriel. Upon all of you, and your families, I invoke joy and peace in our Lord Jesus Christ.

Ein herzliches Willkommen allen Pilgern deutscher Sprache, insbesondere den Schülerinnen und Schülern der Liebfrauenschule Nottuln wie auch denen der Maria-Ward-Schule in Bamberg, die anlässlich des 300-jährigen Bestehens ihrer Schule in Begleitung von Erzbischof Ludwig Schick nach Rom gekommen sind. Jesus, unser Bruder und Lehrer, ermutigt uns hinauszugehen, um Gutes zu wirken, und Er bringt das zur Vollendung, was wir nicht schaffen. Der Herr segne euch und eure Familien.

Saludo cordialmente a los peregrinos de lengua española, en particular a los venidos de España y Latinoamérica. Los animo a poner siempre la confianza en el Señor, pidiendo que en el último momento de nuestra vida también se acuerde de nosotros y abra para nosotros las puertas del paraíso. Que Dios los bendiga. Uma saudação especial para todos os peregrinos de língua portuguesa, nominalmente os fiéis de Roraima acompanhados pelo seu Pastor e os diversos grupos do Brasil. Queridos amigos, a fé na vida eterna nos leva a não ter medo dos desafios desta vida presente, fortalecidos pela esperança na vitória de Cristo sobre a morte. Que Deus vos abençoe.

أرحب بمودة بالحاضرين الناطقين باللغة العربية، وخاصة بالقادمين من‏ العراق والأردن والأراضي ‏المقدسة. إن الفردوس هو غاية رجائنا وهدف وجودنا. إنه عطية الله لنا، لا بسبب استحقاقاتنا وإنما لفيض ‏رحمة الله ومحبته اللامتناهية؛ إنه عناق الآب الذي ينتظرنا‏ ليمنحنا غفرانه ويعيد لنا كرامتنا التي فقدناها بسبب ‏خطايانا وابتعادنا عنه؛ إنه ثمر الثقة في الله.‏ ليبارككم الرب جميعا ‏ويحرسكم دائما من ‏الشرير!‏‏‏‏ ‏‏

Serdecznie witam polskich pielgrzymów. Drodzy bracia i siostry, kończąc dzisiaj nasze refleksje o chrześcijańskiej nadziei, kierujemy wzrok ku rajowi, gdzie z otwartymi ramionami oczekuje na nas Ojciec nasz niebieski. Wprowadzi nas tam miłosierny Jezus, który z wysokości krzyża wciąż obiecuje raj każdemu skruszonemu grzesznikowi. Prośmy Go z nadzieją: „Jezu wspomnij na nas…!” Z serca błogosławię wam i waszym bliskim.

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Un cordiale benvenuto ai pellegrini di lingua italiana!

Sono lieto di accogliere le Serve di Maria Ministre degli Infermi e i Padri Eudisti. Il pellegrinaggio alle tombe degli Apostoli, sia occasione per crescere nell’amore di Dio, affinché le vostre comunità diventino luogo in cui si sperimenta la comunione e il servizio.

Saluto le associazioni e i gruppi parrocchiali, specialmente i fedeli di Santa Lucia e Santa Apollinare in Frisia e del Sacro Cuore di Gesù in San Ferdinando di Puglia; i Volontari Ospedalieri di Caserta e il Movimento del Messaggio di Fatima.

Lastly I offer a greeting to young people, to the sick and to newlyweds. At the end of the month of October I would like to recommend that you pray the Holy Rosary. May this Marian prayer be for you, dear young people, an occasion to understand more deeply the Mystery of Christ at work in your lives; may you love the Rosary, dear sick people, so it may give comfort and meaning to your suffering; may it become for you, dear newlyweds, a privileged occasion to experience that spiritual intimacy with God that lays the foundations of a new family."