The Vatican (Wednesday, February 22, 2017, Gaudium Press) On Wednesday Pope Francis said creation has often suffered because of humanity’s sins and failings, stressing that we must take care of it because as Christians, we see signs of hope in Christ’s Resurrection in nature every day.
“We are still struggling with the consequences of our sin and everything around us still bears the mark of our efforts, of our shortcomings, our closures,” he said Feb. 22.
“At the same time, however, we know that they are saved by the Lord and already we are given to contemplate and anticipate in ourselves and in the world around us signs of the Resurrection, Easter, which operates a new creation.”
Pope Francis spoke to pilgrims during his general audience, held in St. Peter’s Square for the first time since winter, continuing his catechesis on the theme of hope.
He reminded pilgrims that God has entrusted creation to us as a gift that can draw us closer to him, even if our selfishness and sin has contributed to its destruction.
“Creation is a wonderful gift that God has placed in our hands that we may enter into a relationship with him and we can recognize the imprint of his loving plan, the achievement of which we are all called to work toward together, day after day,” he said.
But when we get caught up in our selfishness, we ruin even the most beautiful things entrusted to us, he continued, “and so it happened for creation.”
“With the tragic experience of sin, broken fellowship with God, we have broken the original communion with everything around us and we ended up corrupting creation, thus making it a slave, submissive to our frailty.”
We see the consequence of this before us every day, he said, pointing to water as an example.
“Water is beautiful, water is important, water is life,” yet we have helped to destroy creation by contaminating water, the Pope observed. His reference comes a day ahead of the start of a two-day seminar on water and sustainable development hosted by the Pontifical Academy for the Sciences.
“But the Lord does not leave us alone,” he said, and turned to a passage from the letter of St. Paul to the Romans which says that “all creation is groaning in labor pains even until now.”
If we pay attention to creation and to ourselves, Francis said, we will see that we are all groaning, just like a woman experiencing labor pains, and this is because the Holy Spirit is working within us.
These groans are the cries of those who suffer, who are waiting for the recreation of the world, the Pope said, adding that “this is the content of our hope: (that we are living in) the time of waiting, the time of longing that goes beyond the present, the time of fulfillment.”
Because we live in the world, we see “signs of evil, selfishness and sin” both in ourselves and in what surrounds us, he said. But at the same time, as Christians we also have learned to see the world “through the eyes of Easter, with the eyes of the Risen Christ.”
That’s why this is a time of waiting, a time of longing: we have hope in our knowledge that the Lord wants to permanently heal our wounded hearts with his mercy, and in this way, regenerate “a new world and a new humanity, finally reconciled in his love.”
We can often be tempted by pessimism, by disappointment, Pope Francis said. However, “we find solace the Holy Spirit, breath of our hope, which keeps alive the groaning and the expectation of our hearts.”
At the end of the audience, the Pope and those gathered in the square received a surprise performance by an Italian circus group, Rony Roller Circus. Francis said afterwards that “they make beauty, and beauty is the road that leads to God. Continue to make beauty!”
He also made an appeal for “the martyred South Sudan,” where millions of people are dying of hunger due to a food crisis brought on by the country’s drawn-out internal conflict.
Right now “a fratricidal conflict joins a severe food crisis that condemns to death by hunger millions of people, including many children,” the Pope observed, and called for action.
Just within the past few days a famine was declared in some areas of South Sudan as some 100,000 people face starvation and another 1 million are described as being on the brink of famine, according to the World Food Programme (WFP).
According to both WFP and FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations) sources, the number of people facing hunger is expected to raise to 5.5 million by July if nothing is done to curb the food crisis.
However, the agencies report that if adequate food assistance is urgently delivered to the suffering areas, the situation can be improved and further crisis averted.
In his appeal, Pope Francis said that right now “it is more needed than ever” for everyone to commit to not stopping with declarations, “but to give real food aid and to allow that it reach the suffering populations.”
“May the Lord sustain these brothers of ours and those who work to help them,” he said, and gave his blessing before closing the audience.