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VATICAN CITY — Humanity's greed and selfishness turns creation into a sad and desolate world instead of the sign of God's love that it was meant to be, Pope Francis said.
Human beings are often tempted to view creation as "a possession we can exploit as we please and for which we do not have to answer to anyone," the pope said Feb. 22 at his weekly general audience.
"When carried away by selfishness, human beings end up ruining even the most beautiful things that have been entrusted to them," the pope said.
As an early sign of spring, the audience was held in St. Peter's Square for the first time since November. Despite the chilly morning temperatures, the pope made the rounds in his popemobile, greeting pilgrims and kissing bundled-up infants.
Continuing his series of talks on Christian hope, the pope reflected on St. Paul's Letter to the Romans, which expresses the hope "that creation itself would be set free from slavery to corruption."
St. Paul reminds Christians that creation is a "marvelous gift that God has placed in our hands," the pope said, adding that through this gift "we can enter into a relationship with Him and recognize the imprint of His loving plan, which we are all called to achieve together."
Sin, however, breaks communion not only with God but with His creation, "thus making it a slave, submissive to our frailty," the pope said. "Think about water. Water is a beautiful thing; it is so important. Water gives us life and it helps us in everything. But when minerals are exploited, water is contaminated and creation is destroyed and dirtied. This is just one example; there are many."
When people break their relationship with creation, they lose their original beauty, he said, and also "disfigure everything surrounding them," causing a reminder of God's love to become a bleak sign of pride and greed.
St. Paul told believers that hope comes from knowing that God in His mercy wants to heal the "wounded and humbled hearts" of all men and women and, through them, "regenerate a new world and a new humanity, reconciled in His love," Pope Francis said.
"The Holy Spirit sees beyond the negative appearances for us and reveals to us the new heavens and the new earth that the Lord is preparing for humanity," the pope said.
ROME — A practical first step toward holiness — as well as for assuring peace in one's family and in the world — is to pray for a person who has caused offense or harm, Pope Francis said.
"Are you merciful toward the people who have harmed you or don't like you? If God is merciful, if He is holy, if He is perfect, then we must be merciful, holy and perfect as He is. This is holiness. A man or woman who does this deserves to be canonized," the pope said Feb. 19 at an evening parish Mass.
"I suggest you start small," Pope Francis told members of the parish of St. Mary Josefa on the extreme eastern edge of the Diocese of Rome. "We all have enemies. We all know that so-and-so speaks ill of us. We all know. And we all know that this person or that person hates us."
When that happens, the pope said, "I suggest you take a minute, look at God (and say), 'This person is your son or your daughter, change his or her heart, bless him or her.' This is praying for those who don't like us, for our enemies. Perhaps the rancor will remain in us, but we are making an effort to follow the path of this God who is so good, merciful, holy, perfect, who makes the sun rise on the evil and the good."
The day's first reading included the line, "Be holy, for I, the Lord, your God, am holy," and in the Gospel reading, Jesus said, "Be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect."
"You might ask me, 'But, Father, what is the path to holiness?' 'What is the journey needed to become holy?' Jesus explains it well in the Gospel. He explains it with concrete examples," the pope said.
The first example, he said, is "not taking revenge. If I have some rancor in my heart for something someone has done, I want vengeance, but this moves me off the path of holiness. No revenge. 'But he did this and he will pay.' Is this Christian? No. 'He will pay' is not in the Christian's vocabulary. No revenge."
The pope said, "I'm not telling you what to do, Jesus is: Love your enemies. 'You mean I have to love that person?' Yes."
— Cindy Wooden, Catholic News Service
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