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POPE'S MESSAGE | Like expectant moms, live in joyful expectation of embracing God

VATICAN CITY — Christian hope isn't about believing in something that may or may not come true, like hoping tomorrow's weather will be pleasant, according to Pope Francis.

"Christian hope is the expectation of something that already has been fulfilled and that certainly will be attained for each one of us," that is, knowing Christ died and is truly risen so that all of humanity may gain salvation and live together with God, the pope told his weekly general audience Feb. 1.

Continuing a series of talks on Christian hope, the pope looked at St. Paul's First Letter to the Thessalonians (5:4-11) and what it teaches about the Christian belief in life after death.

The early Christian community at Thessaloniki was firm in its belief in Christ's resurrection, but trusting in one's own resurrection and the resurrection of loved ones was a bit harder to grasp. Such doubts and uncertainty still exist today.

"We all are a little afraid of dying," the pope told the gathering in the Paul VI audience hall.

St. Paul wrote words of encouragement, advising Christians to arm themselves against the onslaught of doubt and difficulties by "putting on the breastplate of faith and love and the helmet that is hope for salvation," he said, adding that this kind of hope has nothing to do with wishing for "something nice, (something) that may or may not happen."

"For example, people say, 'I hope it will be nice weather tomorrow,' but we know that it might be terrible weather instead."

The pope described Christian hope as belief in "a sure reality" rooted in the real event of Christ's resurrection and His promise of eternal life with Him.

It's knowing and seeing that "there is a door over there," he said, pointing to the entryway into the Paul VI audience hall. "There is a door. I hope to get to the door. What do I have to do? Walk toward the door. I am sure I will make it to the door. That is what Christian hope is like. Being certain that I am walking" with that destination.

Pope Francis also described Christian hope as similar to living like an expectant mother. "When a woman realizes she is pregnant, she learns to live each day in expectation of seeing her child's gaze," he said, adding that everyone needs to have similar joyful anticipation "to live in expectation of gazing at the Lord, of finding the Lord."

Living in "sure expectation," is difficult for someone who is "full of himself and his possessions, ... (but) a humble, poor heart" knows how to wait, the pope said.

The pope asked everyone to repeat aloud with him St. Paul's words (1 Thessalonians 4:17) as a way to find peace and consolation, knowing that one day the faithful will be united with God and their loved ones: "Thus we shall always be with the Lord." 

Pope: Jesus sought the people, not popularity

VATICAN CITY — Jesus didn't come into the world seeking popularity, but rather to be close to those in need, Pope Francis said.

The large crowds that would gather around Jesus wherever He went "had their eyes fixed on Him and He had His eyes fixed on the people," the pope said Jan. 31 at Mass in the chapel of Domus Sanctae Marthae.

"This is the peculiarity of Jesus' gaze: Jesus does not depersonalize the people; He looks at each one" individually, he said.

The pope reflected on the day's Gospel reading from St. Mark, which recalled the great crowds that would follow Jesus seeking healing.

Jesus, he noted, "is always in the midst of the people. He is not with guards who escort Him so that the people will not touch Him. No, no! He remained there and the people pressed in."

Jesus' gaze focuses on real people and the reality of their lives, "from the greatest to the smallest" things in their hearts, the pope said. "He looks at our great problems, our great joys, and He also looks at our little things because He is close. Jesus isn't afraid of the big things, but He also considers the small things."

— Junno Arocho Esteves, Catholic News Service 

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