Today’s General Audience was adapted to the coronavirus crisis. The pontiff encouraged people to “face every situation, even the most difficult, with strength, responsibility and hope.” He warned against forgetting the Syrians “suffering on the border between Greece and Turkey.” For him, even in the most corrupt person yearns for the good.
Vatican City (AsiaNews) – Pope Francis focused again on patients and health workers in today’s General Audience. He used the occasion to thank all Christians who are praying, and to express his closeness to the people of Syria and the Syrians caught on the border between Turkey and Greece.
As a result of the coronavirus outbreak, both St Peter's Square and the St Paul VI Hall were empty today. To prevent large gatherings, the Wednesday General Audience was held in the Pope's private library (pictured) in the presence of ten priests.
In his reflections, the pontiff talked again about the cycle of catechesis on the Beatitudes, focusing his meditation on the fourth: “Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied” (Mt 5:6).
“Hunger and thirst are crucial needs, about survival. This must be clear: It it is not a question of a generic want, but a vital and daily need, like food. But what does being hungry and thirsty for justice mean? We are certainly not talking about those who want revenge; on the contrary, in the previous beatitude we spoke of meekness.
“Certainly, injustice hurts humanity; human society urgently needs equity, truth and social justice. Let us remember that the evil suffered by women and men in the world reaches the heart of God the Father. Which father would not suffer from the pain of his children? The Scriptures speak of the pain of the poor and oppressed, which God knows and shares. Because he heeded the cry of oppression raised by the children of Israel, as the Book of Exodus tells us (cf. 3:7-10), God came down to free his people.”
Yet “the hunger and thirst for justice that the Lord tells us about is even deeper than the legitimate need for human justice that every person carries in their heart. In the same Sermon on the Mount, a little further on, Jesus spoke of a justice greater than human law or personal perfection, saying: ‘[U]nless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter into the kingdom of heaven’ (Mt 5:20). This justice comes from God (cf. 1 Cor 1:30).”
"In the Scriptures we find a deeper thirst than the physical thirst, which is a desire found at the root of our being,” explained Francis. “In every heart, even in the most corrupt one – far from goodness, there is a yearning for light, hidden under the rubble of deception and errors. There is always a thirst for truth and goodness, which is the thirst for God. It is the Holy Spirit that sparks such thirst: He is the living water that has shaped our dust; He is the creative breath that gave it life.
“For this reason, the Church has to proclaim the Word of God to everyone, filled with the Holy Spirit because the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the greatest justice that can be offered to the heart of humanity, which has a vital need for it, even if it does not realise it.
“For example, when a man and a woman get married, their intention is to do something great and beautiful, and if they keep this thirst alive, they will always find the way to go forward, amid problems, with the help of Grace.”
“Young people too have this hunger, and must not lose it! We must protect and feed in the hearts of children this desire for love, tenderness, and acceptance, which they express through their sincere and luminous impulses.
“Everyone is called to rediscover what really matters, what they really need, what makes life good as well as what is secondary, what we can do without. In this beatitude, Jesus proclaimed that one thirst will not be disappointed, a thirst that, if met, will be satisfied and will always be successful, because it corresponds to the very heart of God, to his Holy Spirit which is love.”
At the end, the pontiff also offered words of encouragement to the people of Italy to “face every situation, even the most difficult, with strength, responsibility and hope". He also turned his thoughts to the sick, and those who care for them, as well as the people of Syria.
“At this point in time, I would like to speak to all those who are sick with the [corona]virus, who are suffering from this illness, and to the many who are uncertain as to whether they too are ill.
“I sincerely thank the hospital staff – doctors and nurses – and the volunteers who at such a difficult time stand alongside the people who are suffering. I thank all Christians, all men and women of good will who are praying during this period, all united, regardless of which religious tradition they belong to. Heartfelt thanks for this effort.”
Last but not least, “I would not want such pain, such a major epidemic to make us forget about the unfortunate Syrians suffering on the border between Greece and Turkey: a people suffering for years. They have to escape from war, hunger, and disease. Let's not forget our [Syrian] brothers and sisters, so many children, who are suffering over there.”