"We all experience a sort of exile, when loneliness, suffering, death makes us think we have been abandoned by God, but "God is not absent" not even in the most dramatic situations we sometimes experience. "God is at hand, and carries out great works of salvation for those who trust in Him".
Vatican City (AsiaNews) - Pope Francis today again launched an appeal to nations and rulers to open their hearts and their doors to migrants. He evoked the plight of the "innocent" who "suffer in the open without food and cannot enter, do not feel welcome". But "God is not absent", even in such dramatic situations. The Pope spoke of the "consolation" that comes from God’s mercy today to 20 thousand people in St. Peter's Square for the general audience, commenting on the chapters 30 and 31 of the Book of Jeremiah, also called "the Book of Consolation".
"Jeremiah - said Francis – turns to the Israelites who were deported to a foreign land, and heralds their return to the homeland. This return is a sign of the infinite love of God the Father who does not abandon His children, but cares for them and saves them.
The exile was a devastating experience for Israel. Faith had faltered because in a strange land, without a temple, without worship, after seeing the country in ruins, it was difficult to continue to believe in the goodness of the Lord. This brings to mind neighboring Albania and how after so much persecution and destruction it was able to arise once more in dignity and faith. This is how the Israelites has suffered in exile".
"We too can sometimes experience a sort of exile, when loneliness, suffering, death makes us think we have been abandoned by God. So often, people who suffer feel abandoned. And how many of our brothers and sisters instead are right now experiencing the very real and dramatic situation of exile, far from their homeland, with the rubble of their homes still in their eyes, fear in their hearts and often, unfortunately, the pain of having lost loved ones ! In these cases one may ask, where is God? How is it that so much suffering will befall men, women and innocent children ?. And when they try to go somewhere else they find a closed door. And they are there on the border, because so many doors and many hearts are closed. Today's migrants who suffer out in the open without food and cannot enter, do not feel welcome. I love to hear, to see nations, rulers, who open their hearts and open their doors".
"The prophet Jeremiah gives us a first answer. The exiled people will once again see their land and experience God's mercy. It is the great announcement of consolation: God is not absent, even today, in these dramatic situations, God is near, and carries out great works of salvation for those who trust in Him. We must not give in to despair, but continue to be confident that good overcomes evil and that the Lord will wipe away every tear, and deliver us from fear. So Jeremiah lends his voice to the words of love of God for his people: "With age-old love I have loved you; so I have kept my mercy toward you. Again I will build you, and you shall stay built, virgin Israel; Carrying your festive tambourines, you shall go forth dancing with merrymakers "(31.3 to 4). The Lord is faithful, He does not abandon the desolate. God loves us with an everlasting love, that even sin cannot restrain, and thanks to Him the human heart is filled with joy and consolation".
"The consoling dream of returning home continues in the words of the prophet, which in addressing many will return to Jerusalem says:"Shouting, they shall mount the heights of Zion, they shall come streaming to the LORD’s blessings: The grain, the wine, and the oil, flocks of sheep and cattle; They themselves shall be like watered gardens, never again neglected"(31,12) .In the joy and gratitude, the exiles will return to Zion, climbing the holy mountain to the house of God, and so will again raise hymns and prayers to the Lord who delivered them. This return to Jerusalem and its assets is described with a verb that literally means "to stream, to flow." The people are seen, in a paradoxical movement, like a river that flows into the hill of Zion, going back towards the top of the mountain. A bold image to describe how great the mercy of the Lord is!".
"The land, which the people had to leave, had become prey to enemies and desolate. Now, however, it comes alive and flourishes. And the refugees themselves will be like a watered garden, like a fertile land. Israel, brought home by its Lord, witnesses the victory of life over death and of blessing over the curse.
That's how the people are fortified and - this word is important! - consoled by God, consoled. Those returning receive life from a source that freely irrigates them, gifting them fertility. At this point, the prophet announces the fullness of joy, and always in the name of God proclaims: "I will turn their mourning into joy, I will show them compassion and have them rejoice after their sorrows" (31,13). This is the gift that the Lord wants to give to each of us, with His forgiveness that converts and reconciles".
"The prophet Jeremiah gave us the announcement, presenting the return of the exiles as a great symbol of consolation given to the heart that repents. The Lord Jesus, for his part, accomplished the prophet’s message. The real and radical return from exile and the comforting light after the darkness of the crisis of faith, is realized at Easter, in the full and definitive experience of God’s love, the merciful love that gives joy, peace and eternal life".