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POPE'S MESSAGE | God wants people to dream big, not listen to cynics

VATICAN CITY — God wants people to live with hope and joy — not bitterness — and to dream with Him of a better world, Pope Francis said.

"Please, make sure we do not pay attention to disappointed and unhappy people; let us not listen to those who cynically plead not to cultivate hope in life," he said Aug. 30 at his weekly general audience.

People must ignore those who try to crush enthusiasm and smother "youthful euphoria," he said. Instead, Christians must cultivate a "healthy utopia" based on what God wants for the world.

"God wants us to be able to dream like He does and, with Him as we journey, to be quite attentive to reality — dreaming of a different world," he said.

Continuing his series of audience talks on Christian hope, the pope reflected on a reading from the Gospel of St. John (1:35-43), which describes how the first disciples heard of Jesus and wished to follow Him.

Jesus asked the first two men, "What are you looking for?" because He sensed a healthy restlessness in their young hearts, Pope Francis said.

In fact, the pope said, young people who are not seeking something or looking for meaning in life "are not young, they have gone into retirement, they have aged before their time. It's sad to see young people in retirement."

Throughout the Gospels, he said, Jesus responds to the people He meets along the way; He is like an "arsonist," the pope said, setting people's hearts ablaze.

The intense joy Jesus ignites in those He encounters is the wellspring of every vocation, the pope said, whether it be marriage, consecrated life or the priesthood.

In that first encounter, Jesus "gives us new joy and hope and leads us — even through trials and difficulties — to an ever-fuller encounter with Him and fullness of joy."

Jesus doesn't want people who walk reluctantly behind Him, the pope said. "Jesus wants people who have experienced that being with Him gives immense joy that can be renewed each day in life."

Any disciple who does not carry joy in his or her heart "does not evangelize in this world."

People do not become preachers of God's word by "sharpening the weapons of rhetoric," the pope said. "You can talk and talk and talk," but it will not make a difference if that bright light of joy is missing from one's eyes. 

Pope: Imprisonment without hope for the future is torture

VATICAN CITY — Although prisoners must pay a price for their crimes, incarceration must not be used as a method of torture but rather an opportunity to become contributing members of society, Pope Francis said.

Punishment can be fruitful only when inmates are helped to look toward the future rather than only back at a past lived out in shame, the pope said in a video message Aug. 24 to inmates at the Ezeiza federal penitentiary in Argentina.

"Let us not forget that for punishment to be fruitful," the pope said, "it must have a horizon of hope, otherwise it remains closed in itself and is just an instrument of torture; it isn't fruitful."

The pope's video message was addressed to inmates taking part in the prison's university studies program, which he said was one of many programs that provide "a space for work, culture, progress" and are "a sign of humanity."

"What is happening among you in prison is a breath of life. And life — as you know — is a gift, but a gift that must be conquered daily. It is given to us, but we must conquer it every day. We must conquer it in every step of our life," the pope said.

Prisoners must be given the hope of social reintegration and empowerment, Pope Francis said. And the prison's educational studies program will give inmates a chance to be productive members of society despite their crimes.

"It is shame with hope, a punishment with a horizon," the pope said. "I'll say it again: There are and will be problems, but the horizon is greater than problems; hope overcomes all problems."

— Junno Arocho Esteves, Catholic News Services 

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