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VATICAN CITY — As Christians we are called to an interior purification of the heart that allows us to see ourselves and all creation “with the eyes of the Risen Christ,” Pope Francis said on Wednesday, one week before the Church enters the Season of Lent.
Speaking to faithful and pilgrims at the general audience in St. Peter’s Square, as spring-like temperatures return to Rome, the pope dedicated his latest catechesis on Christian hope to creation’s “eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God” (Romans 8:19).
“We are often tempted to think that creation is our property, a possession we may exploit as we like without having to be accountable to anyone,” he said.
Yet as we read in the Book of Romans (8:19-27), he added, “St. Paul reminds us that creation is a wonderful gift that God has placed in our hands, so that we might enter into relationship with him and recognize the imprint of his loving design.”
“When man allows himself to be consumed by selfishness, he ultimately also destroys the most beautiful things that have been entrusted to him.”
Pope Francis pointed to water contamination as one such example. “Water is something beautiful and so important; water gives us life and helps us in every way, but in order to exploit the minerals we contaminate the water, we make creation dirty and destroy it.”
“Through the tragic experience of sin, and by breaking communion with God, we have broken the original communion with everything around us and we have ended up corrupting creation, making it a slave, submissive to our caducity.”
Unfortunately, Pope Francis observed, the consequences of this break are dramatically before our eyes every day.
“When man breaks communion with God, he loses his own original beauty and then disfigures everything around him; and whereas everything before pointed to the Father and Creator and to his infinite love, now it bears the sad and desolate sign of human pride and voraciousness,” he said. “Human pride, exploiting creation, destroys.”
The Lord, however, does not abandon us, but offers us a new horizon of freedom and salvation, the pope continued. St. Paul reminds us of this truth, by inviting us to hear the groaning of all people and things, and even the groaning of the Holy Spirit in our hearts. These groans are not sterile, but speak of the pangs of birth, the ushering in of new life.
Despite the many signs of our sins and failings, we know that we are saved by the Lord, and even now contemplate and experience within ourselves and all around us signs of the Resurrection, a new creation. We know that Jesus wants to heal us and creation once and for all, and reconcile us in his love.
“This is the content of our hope,” Pope Francis said. “The Christian does not live outside the world; he is able to see in his own life and in what surrounds him the signs of evil, egoism and sin. He is united with those who suffer, with those who weep, with those who are marginalized, with those who are in despair … But at the same time, the Christian has learned to read all of this with the eyes of Easter, with the eyes of the Risen Christ.”
Let us see ourselves and the world with Christ’s eyes, he said.
And when we are discouraged or tempted to despair, let us remember that the Holy Spirit comes to our aid, to keep alive our cries to God, and to reveal new heavens and a new earth which he is preparing for us.
The Pope’s special greetings to young people, the sick, and newlyweds.
A special thought to young people, to the sick and to newlyweds. Today we celebrate the Feast of the Chair of St. Peter, Apostle, a day of special communion of believers with the Successor of St. Peter and with the Holy See. Dear young people, I encourage you to intensify your prayers on behalf of my Petrine ministry. Dear sick, I thank you for the witness of life given in suffering for the building up of the ecclesial community. And may you, dear newlyweds, build your family on the love that binds the Lord Jesus to His Church.