Pope Francis began a new catechesis series at his General Audience today, focusing on the theme of “Christian hope.” It is especially important to reflect on this theme, he said, during the season of Advent, “a time of expectation, in which we prepare to welcome once more the consoling mystery of the Incarnation and the light of Christmas.”
In our times, which seem so dark, the Pope said we often feel “lost in the face of the wickedness and the violence that surround us.” We may even feel “discouraged, because we feel powerless, and it seems the darkness might never end.”
But we should never give up hope, he continued, “because God, with His love, journeys with us, He does not leave us alone, and the Lord Jesus has overcome evil, and opened up the path of life.”
It is important to reflect on hope during this season of Advent, when we prepare for the coming of Christ at Christmas. Pope Francis based his reflection primarily on a passage from Isaiah, in which God tells the prophet, first, to console his people, and then to “make straight the path of the Lord.”
This prophetic message was addressed to the people of Israel when they were living the tragedy of the exile in Babylon, when they had been taken out of their own land and deprived of their freedom and dignity, and even their trust in God. But the call of the prophet, the Pope said, “opens their hearts anew to faith.” It is precisely in the desert that they hear his call, it is precisely there that a new journey “can be made in order to return not only to their homeland, but to God.”
This passage, Pope Francis continued, was the starting point for the preaching of John the Baptist, “a voice crying out in the desert, prepare the way of the Lord.” In Jesus time, the Israelites were once again living a kind of exile, living as strangers in their own land because of the oppression of the Romans. But it was not the powerful who made history, the Pope continued; rather, history is the story of what God has done together with his little ones, people like Zechariah and Elizabeth, Mary, and the shepherds, the simple, humble people who gathered around Jesus at his birth. “These are the little ones,” Pope Francis said, made great by their faith,” the little ones who know that they must keep hope alive.
“Let us allow ourselves, then,” the Pope concluded, “to teach hope, to faithfully await the coming of the Lord, and whatever desert we might have in our life will become a flowering garden.”