VATICAN CITY — Confidence in God’s deep personal love for each of us is the root of our hope, and a source of joy even in trial, Pope Francis told the Christian faithful this morning, asking them: “Can you say: ‘I am sure that God loves me’?”
Speaking at the Wednesday general audience, in the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall, Pope Francis observed that, as children, we were always taught that it is not good to boast. For when we boast about who we are or what we have, we disrespect those who are less fortunate.
Reflecting on the Letter to the Romans (5:1-5), the pope said that St. Paul surprises us by twice telling us to boast. First, he tells us to boast of the abundant grace we receive in Jesus Christ through the gift of faith. Paul wants to make us understand that, “if we learn to read everything in the light of the Holy Spirit, we realize that all is grace! All is gift!” God has created all things as a gift of love, through which he makes known his plan of salvation fulfilled in Jesus.
St. Paul invites us to make this grace the cause of all our praise and joy, the pope continued. When we do this, he said, “we are at peace with God and we experience freedom. And this flows into all the areas and relationships in our lives: we are peace with ourselves, we are at peace in our family, in our community, at work, and with the people we meet each day on our journey.”
But, the pope continued, St. Paul also tells us to boast of our afflictions. For God’s peace is not the absence of fears, disappointments, or suffering, the pope added.
Pope Francis said: “The hope that flows from faith is a gift: it is the grace of experiencing that God loves us and that he is always with us. He never leaves us alone, not even for one moment of our lives. This peace, Saint Paul says, bears patience, for even in the most difficult and unsettling moments, we know that the mercy and goodness of the Lord are the greater than everything, and nothing can tear us from his hands and from communion with him.” Christian hope then is not based on who we are or what we are capable of, but on God’s love for each one of us.
He then told the faithful gathered for the audience:
“It is easy to say: God loves us. We all say it. But think about it: can each one of us say: I am sure that God loves me? It is not so easy to say. But it is true. This is a good exercise, to say to ourselves: God loves me. This is the root of our certainly, the root of hope. And the Lord has abundantly poured the Spirit — which is God’s love — into our hearts like an architect … so that he can nourish faith within us and keep this hope alive. This certainty: God loves me. ‘But right now, when things are difficult?’ — God loves me. “Me, who has done this bad and evil thing?’ – God loves me. That certainty that no one can take away from us. And we should repeat it like a prayer: God loves me. I am sure that God loves me. I am sure that God loves me.”
May we be instruments of hope, Pope Francis concluded, so that our greatest boast will be of a Father who excludes no one, but opens his home to all. And may we be a people who sustain one another with this message of Christian hope.