Pope Francis, Address during the General Audience, May 31, 2017
‘Not only does the Holy Spirit make us capable of hoping, but also to be sowers of hope.’ Pope Francis
In the imminence of the Solemnity of Pentecost, we cannot but speak of the relation there is between Christian hope and the Holy Spirit. The Spirit is the wind that drives us on, that keeps us on the way, makes us feel ourselves pilgrims and strangers, and does not permit us to ensconce ourselves and to become a “sedentary” people.
The Letter to the Hebrews compares hope to an anchor (Cf. 6:18-19); and to this image we can add that of the sail. If the anchor is what gives the boat security and keeps it “anchored” between the waves of the sea, the sail, instead, is what makes it go and advance on the waters. Hope is truly like a sail; it receives the wind of the Spirit and transforms it into the driving force that pushes the boat, depending on the circumstances, to the open sea or to the shore.
We Are Capable of Hoping
The Apostle Paul ends his Letter to the Romans with this wish: hear well, listen well to this beautiful wish: “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 (15:13). Let us reflect a bit on the content of this very beautiful word.
The expression “God of hope” does not only mean that God is the object of our hope, namely Him that we hope to reach one day in eternal life. It also means that God is He that already now makes us hope, rather, He makes us “rejoice in hope” (Romans 12:12): rejoicing now in hope, and not only hoping to rejoice. It is the joy of hoping, now today, and not hoping to have joy. “While there is life, there is hope,” states a popular saying. And the contrary is also true: while there is hope, there is life. Men have need of hope to live and they have need of the Holy Spirit to hope.
We heard Saint Paul, who attributes to the Holy Spirit the capacity to make us even “abound in hope.” To abound in hope means never to be discouraged; it means to hope “against all hope” (Romans 4:18), namely, to hope also when every human motive for hope fails, as it was for Abraham, when God asked him to sacrifice to Him his only son, Isaac, and as it was, even more so, for the Virgin Mary under Jesus’ cross.
The Holy Spirit makes this invincible hope possible, giving us the interior testimony that we are children of God and His heirs (Cf. Romans 8:16). How could He who gave us His only Son not give us everything else together with Him? (Cf. Romans 8:32). “Hope — brothers and sisters — does not disappoint: hope does not disappoint, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (Romans 5:5). Therefore, it does not disappoint, because the Holy Spirit is within us who pushes us to go on, always! And because of this, hope does not disappoint.
There is more: not only does the Holy Spirit make us capable of hoping, but also to be sowers of hope, to be also — like Him and thanks to Him – “paracletes,” namely consolers and defenders of brothers, sowers of hope.
A Christian can sow bitterness, he can sow perplexity, and this is not Christian, and one who does this is not a good Christian. He sows hope: he sows the oil of hope; he sows the perfume of hope and not the vinegar of bitterness and despair. In one of his addresses, Blessed Cardinal Newman said to the faithful: “Instructed by our own suffering, by our own pain, even by our own sins, we will have the mind and the heart exercised in every work of love towards those who have need of it. In the measure of our capacity, we will be consolers in the image of the Paraclete, and in all the senses that this word entails: advocates, assistants, comfort bearers. Our words and our advice, our way of being, our voice, our look, will be gentle and tranquilizing” (Parochial and Plain Sermons, vol. V, London, 1870, pp. 300f.).
And it is above all the poor, the excluded, the unloved that are in need of someone who will be a “paraclete” to them, namely, a consoler and defender, as the Holy Spirit is with every one of us, who are here in the Square – consoler and defender. We must do the same with the neediest, with the most rejected, with those who have greatest need, those who suffer most – defenders and consolers!
The Holy Spirit Nourishes Our Hope
The Holy Spirit nourishes hope not only in men’s heart, but also in the whole of Creation. The Apostle Paul says – this seems a bit strange, but it is true: that Creation also “waits with eager longing” to be set free and “groaning in travail” as the pangs of birth (Cf. Romans 8:20-22). “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’ (Genesis 1:2) at the beginning of Creation” (Benedict XVI, Homily, May 31, 2009). This also drives us to respect Creation: a painting cannot be besmirched without offending the artist who created it.
Brothers and sisters, may the forthcoming feast of Pentecost, which is the birthday of the Church, find us in accord in prayer with Mary, Jesus’ Mother and ours. And may the gift of the Holy Spirit make us abound in hope. I will say more to you: may it make us fritter away hope with all those who are most in need, most rejected and all those that have need. Thank you.
Subtitles added – Editor