(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis said on Friday that a Christian does not anesthetize or numb pain but lives through it in the hope that God will give us a joy that nobody can take away. That was the key message of the Pope’s homily at his morning Mass celebrated in the Santa Marta residence.
Joy and pain of a woman giving birth
Taking his inspiration from the day’s reading where Jesus warns his disciples of a coming sadness but says it will be transformed later into a cry of joy, Pope Francis reflected in his homily on how Christians should always maintain their joy and hope, even in the midst of pain. He used the example of a woman in labour, saying: “She’s in pain because her time has come but when she gives birth to her baby she no longer remembers the suffering.” She carries on hoping throughout the pain and then she rejoices.
“This is (the impact of) what joy and hope together can have on our lives, when we are facing tribulations, when we have problems, when we are suffering. It is not an anesthesia. Pain is pain but if lived through with joy and hope it will open the door for you to the joy of a new being. This image of the Lord should give us great hope amidst our difficulties: difficulties that often are awful, horrible difficulties that can even make us doubt our faith… But with joy and hope we journey forward because after this tempest a new man arrives, just like with a woman giving birth. And Jesus tells us that this is a lasting joy and hope that will not go away.”
Joy and hope, not simply happiness or optimism
The Pope went on to explain that the joy and hope of a Christian are always tied together and they should not be confused with simple happiness or optimism.
“A joy without hope is just enjoyment, a temporary happiness. A hope without joy is not hope and doesn’t extend beyond a healthy optimism. Joy and hope always journey together and both of them create this explosion that the Church in her liturgy almost cries out -- allow me to say the word -- without shame: ‘Rejoice for your Church!, Rejoice – without formality. Because when there is a strong joy, there’s no formality, just joy.”
Pope Francis went on to explain how joy and hope depend upon each other to flourish and urged Christians to open out towards others with these two virtues.
“Joy strengthens hope and hope blooms amidst joy. And we go forward like this. But both of these Christian virtues, along with the attitude that the Church seeks to give them, show us the way to open out (towards others). Joyful people do not stay closed in on themselves: hope makes you open outwards, it is just like an anchor on the shore of heaven that pulls us up and out. Open out from ourselves, with joy and hope.”
A lasting joy
The Pope noted that human joy can be taken away at any time whereas Jesus gives us a lasting joy that nobody can take away from us. It remains “even during our darkest moments” just like the Apostles who after being reassured by the Angels following Jesus’ Ascension into heaven retrace their steps “full of joy.” He said the Apostles have that joy of "knowing that our humanity entered heaven for the first time," that hope of life and of rejoining our Lord. This, he concluded, becomes "a joy that pervades the whole Church."