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POPE’S MESSAGE | Why be afraid when God is always showing the way

VATICAN CITY — Christians always have hope, no matter how bleak, bad or uncertain the journey, because they know God is always by their side, Pope Francis said.

In fact, "even crossing parts of the world (that are) wounded, where things are not going well, we are among those who, even there, continue to hope," he said at his weekly general audience April 26 in St. Peter's Square.

Just a few days before visiting Cairo April 28-29, the pope continued his series of talks on the nature of Christian hope, saying it's rooted in knowing God will always be present, even to the end of time.

The Gospel of St. Matthew begins with the birth of Jesus as Emmanuel — "God with us" — and ends with the risen Christ telling His doubtful disciples to go forth and teach all nations, assuring them that "I am with you always, until the end of the age."

The apostle shows how "ours is not an absent God, sequestered in a faraway heaven," Pope Francis said. "Instead He is a God 'impassioned' with mankind," so tenderly in love that He is unable to stay away.

Human beings are the ones who are really good at cutting off ties and destroying bridges, not God, he said: "If our hearts get cold, His remains incandescent. Our God always accompanies us even if, through misfortune, we were to forget about Him."

In fact, the decisive moment between skepticism and faith is "the discovery of being loved and accompanied by our Father," the pope said.

Life is a pilgrimage, a journey in which "the seduction of the horizon" is always calling the human "wandering soul," pushing people to go and explore the unknown, he said.

"You do not become mature men and women if you cannot perceive the allure of the horizon — that boundary between heaven and earth that asks to be reached" by those who are on the move, he said.

Christians never feel alone "because Jesus assures us He not only waits for us at the end of our long journey, but accompanies us every day," even through dark and troubled times, he said.

God will always be concerned and take care of His children, even to the end of all time, he said. "And why does He do this? Quite simply because He loves us."

The pope said the anchor is one of his favorite symbols of hope.

"Our life is anchored in heaven," he said, which means "we move on because we are sure that our life has an anchor in heaven" and the rope "is always there" to grab onto.

So if God has promised "He will never abandon us, if the beginning of every vocation is a 'Follow me,' with which He assures us of always staying before us, why be afraid then?" the pope asked. "With this promise, Christians can walk everywhere," even in the worst, darkest places.

"It's precisely there where darkness has taken over that a light needs to stay lit." 

Mercy opens the door to understanding the mystery of God

VATICAN CITY — Mercy is a true form of knowledge that allows men and women to understand the mystery of God's love for humanity, Pope Francis said.

Having experienced forgiveness, Christians have a duty to forgive others, giving a "visible sign" of God's mercy, which "carries within it the peace of heart and the joy of a renewed encounter with the Lord," the pope said April 23 before praying the "Regina Coeli" with visitors gathered in St. Peter's Square.

"Mercy helps us understand that violence, resentment and revenge do not have any meaning and that the first victim is the one who lives with these feelings, because he is deprived of his own dignity," he said.

Commemorating Divine Mercy Sunday, Pope Francis said St. John Paul II's establishment of the feast in 2000 was a "beautiful intuition" inspired by the Holy Spirit.

God's mercy, he said, not only "opens the door of the mind," it also opens the door of the heart and paves the way for compassion toward those who are "alone or marginalized because it makes them feel they are brothers and sisters and children of one father."

"Mercy, in short, commits us all to being instruments of justice, of reconciliation and peace. Let us never forget that mercy is the keystone in the life of faith, and the concrete form by which we give visibility to Jesus' resurrection," Pope Francis said.

— Junno Arocho Esteves, Catholic News Service 

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