VATICAN CITY — As the feast of Pentecost approaches, at his general audience today Pope Francis reflected on the relationship between the Holy Spirit and Christian hope.
Hope: your anchor and sail
The letter to the Hebrews compares hope to an anchor (cf. 6:18-19), Pope Francis told faithful and pilgrims gathered in a sunny St. Peter’s Square.
Recalling the image often used in mystical theology to describe the gifts of the Holy Spirit, Pope Francis compared hope to the sails on a boat. He said:
“If the anchor is what secures the boat and keeps it ‘anchored’ amid the swaying of the sea, the sail, on the other had, is what makes it glide and advance on the waters. Hope is truly like a sail. It gathers up the wind of the Holy Spirit and transforms it into a driving force that moves the boat forward” towards the safe harbor of eternal life.”
Be happy in hope, not just hoping to be happy
Pope Francis then invited everyone to “listen well” to St. Paul’s greeting to Christians in Rome: ‘May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope’ (Rom 15:13).” Reflecting on the meaning of St. Paul’s greeting, he explained:
“The expression ‘God of hope,’ does not only mean that God is the object of our hope, that is, the One whom we hope to reach one day in eternal life. It also means that God is the One who enable us to hope now; indeed, he makes us “rejoice in hope” (Rom. 12:12): happy now in hope, not only hoping to be happy. It is the joy of hope and not hoping to have joy, already today. ‘Where there’s life, there’s hope,’ the saying goes, but the opposite is also true: ‘Where there’s hope, there’s life.’ Men need hope to live, and they need the Holy Spirit to hope.”
Abounding in hope
The Holy Spirit has the power to make us “abound in hope,” Pope Francis continued.
“Abounding in hope means never being discouraged; it means hoping ‘against all hope’ (Rom. 4:18), that is, hoping even when every human reason to hope is lacking, as it was for Abram when God asked him to sacrifice his only son, Isaac, and as it was, still more, for the Virgin Mary under the Cross of Jesus.”
Hope at work in the human heart
The Spirit bears witness within our hearts to the consoling truth of God’s promises and the inheritance that awaits us as his beloved sons and daughters (cf. Rom 8:16). Again turning to St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans, he said:
“‘He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, will he not also give us all things with him?’ (cf. Rom 8:32). Hope, brothers and sisters, never disappoints: ‘hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us’ (Rom. 5:5). That is why it does not disappoint, because the Holy Spirit is inside of us and he pushes us forward, always!”
Sowers of hope
Filled with this hope, the pope said, we can become, in the words of Cardinal Newman, “consolers in the image of the Paraclete” to others. Quoting one of Newman’s sermons, he said:
“Instructed by our own sorrows and our own sufferings, and even by our own sins, we will be trained in mind and heart for every work of love for those who are in need of love. To the measure of our ability, we will be consolers in the image of the Paraclete in every sense that this word implies: advocates, helpers, bringers of comfort. Our words and our counsel, our manner, our voice, our glance, will be gentle and tranquil (Parochial and plain Sermons, vol. V, London 1870, pp. 300s.).
The poor, the excluded and the unloved are those who especially need someone to be their paraclete, Pope Francis said, i.e. a consoler and defender, like the Holy Spirit does with each of us. “We need to do the same for the neediest, the most discarded, with those who are in need and suffer the most. Be defenders and consolers!”
Hope at work in Creation
The Holy Spirit nourishes hope not only in the hearts of men, but laos in the whole creation, Pope Francis said. The Apostle Paul says — this is somewhat strange, but it is true: that even creation “waits with eager longing” for liberty and it is “groaning in travail” like the pains of childbirth (cf. Rom 8:20-22).
“Sacred Scripture reveals to us that the energy capable of moving the world is not an anonymous and blind force but the action of the ‘Spirit of God… moving over the face of the waters’ (Gn 1: 2) at the beginning of the Creation,” he said, quoting Pope Benedict in his Pentecost homily of 2009.
“This also pushes us to respect creation: you cannot dirty a painting without offending the artist who created it,” Pope Francis said. In the same homily, Benedict XVI continued:
“And Jesus Christ ‘brought to the earth’ not the vital force that already lived in it but the Holy Spirit, that is, the love of God who ‘renews the face of the earth’, purifying it from evil and setting it free from the dominion of death (cf. Ps 103: 29-30). This pure, essential and personal ‘fire’, the fire of love, came down upon the Apostles gathered in prayer with Mary in the Upper Room, to make the Church an extension of Christ’s work of renewal.” (Benedict XVI, Homily for Pentecost, May 31, 2009).
Pope Francis concluded his catechesis, saying:
“Brothers and sisters, may the upcoming feast of Pentecost — which is the birthday of the Church — find us united in prayer, with Mary, the Mother of Jesus and our Mother. And may the gift of the Holy Spirit make us abound in hope. I would go further. May He make us ‘waste’ hope on all those who are most in need, most discarded and on all those in need.”