“The Lord will wipe away every tear and deliver us from every fear”
VATICAN CITY — “God is near, and he works wonders of salvation for those who trust in him,” Pope Francis said on Wednesday at his weekly general audience. Therefore, “we must not give in to despair but continue to be confident that good conquers evil, and that the Lord will wipe away every tear and will deliver us from every fear.”
Speaking this morning to a reported crowd of nearly 40,000 faithful and pilgrims gathered in a sunny St. Peter’s Square, the pope continued his Jubilee Year series of talks on God’s mercy from a biblical perspective. Today the Holy Father reflected on the hopeful message contained in the “book of Consolation” (Jeremiah 30, 31).
After his catechesis, Pope Francis expressed his hope that passing through the Holy Door (whether in Rome or one’s local diocese) might be for each and every pilgrim a “propitious occasion for returning to the embrace of the Father, who always consoles us in difficulty.”
Here below we publish a translation of the pope’s address.
Dear brothers and sisters,
In the book of the prophet Jeremiah, chapters 30 and 31 are called the “book of Consolation,” because in them God’s mercy is presented with all its ability to comfort and open the hearts of the afflicted to hope. Today we also want to hear this message of consolation.
Jeremiah addresses himself to the Israelites who were deported to a foreign land, and he foretells their return to their 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. Exile was a devastating experience for Israel. Their faith had faltered because — in a foreign land, without the temple, without worship and after having seen their land destroyed — it was difficult to continue to believe in the Lord’s goodness. I think of nearby Albania and how, after so much persecution and destruction, it was able to rise up again in dignity and faith. This was how the Israelites suffered during the Exile.
Sometimes we too can experience a kind of exile when loneliness, suffering and death make us think we are abandoned by God. How often have we heard these words: “God has forgotten me.” There are people who suffer and feel abandoned. And how many of our brothers and sisters are now living through real and tragic situations of exile, far from their homeland, with the rubble of their homes still in their eyes, with fear in their hearts and often, unfortunately, with the pain of having lost their loved ones? In cases such as these one can wonder: Where is God?
How is it that so much suffering can befall innocent men, women and children? And when they attempt to enter elsewhere, they shut the door on them. And they are there, at the border, because so many doors and so many hearts are closed. Today’s migrants, who suffer from the cold, who are without food and who cannot enter do not feel welcome. I love it when I see nations and rulers open their hearts and open their doors.
The prophet Jeremiah gives us a first answer. The exiled people will be able to return and see their land and experience the Lord’s mercy. It is the great announcement of consolation: God is not absent, even today, in these tragic situations. God is near, and he works wonders of salvation for those who trust in him. We must not give in to despair but continue to be confident that good conquers evil, and that the Lord will wipe away every tear and deliver us from every fear. Therefore, Jeremiah lends his voice to the words of God’s love for his people:
“I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore, I have continued my faithfulness to you. Again I will build you, and you shall be built, O virgin Israel. Again you shall adorn yourself with timbrels, and shall go forth in the dance of the merrymakers.—31:3-4
The Lord is faithful. He does not leave us desolate. God loves with an everlasting love, that not even sin can stop. And thanks to him, the heart of man is filled with joy and consolation.
The consoling dream of returning to their homeland continues in the words of the prophet who, addressing himself to all those who shall return to Jerusalem, says:
They shall come and sing aloud on the height of Zion, and they shall be radiant over the goodness of the Lord, over the grain, the wine, and the oil, and over the young of the flock and the herd; their life shall be like a watered garden, and they shall languish no more.—31:12
In joy and gratitude the exiles shall return to Zion, ascending the holy mountain to the house of God, and thus shall they again raise hymns and prayers to the Lord who delivered them. This return to Jerusalem and its goods is described with a verb that literally means “to flow.” The people [of Israel] is envisioned, in a paradoxical movement, as a river flowing to the heights of Zion, re-ascending the mountaintop. A bold image to describe the greatness of the Lord’s mercy.