People need God to have hope, pope in new encyclical
involve hurt can lead to a life of emptiness, he said. Instead, Christians are called to suffer with and for others, and their capacity to do so depends on their strength of inner hope, he said.
"The saints were able to make the great journey of human existence in the way that Christ had done before them, because they were brimming with great hope," he said.
The pope recalled that in the not-too-distant past, many Christians would "offer up" to Christ their minor daily disappointments and hardships. Perhaps that practice should be revived, he said.
The pope said the idea of judgment -- specifically the Last Judgment of the living and the dead -- touched strongly on Christian hope because it promises justice.
"I am convinced that the question of justice constitutes the essential argument, or in any case the strongest argument, in favor of faith in eternal life," he said.
It is impossible for the Christian to believe that the injustices of history will be the final word, he said.
The Last Judgment should not evoke terror, however, but a sense of responsibility, the pope said. It is a moment of hope, because it combines God's justice and God's grace -- but "grace does not cancel out justice," he said.
"(Grace) is not a sponge which wipes everything away, so that whatever someone has done on earth ends up being of equal value," he said. "Evildoers, in the end, do not sit at table at the eternal banquet beside their victims without distinction, as though nothing had happened."
The pope said the idea of purgatory, as a place of atonement for sins, also has a place in the logic of Christian hope. Heaven is for the "utterly pure" and hell for those who have destroyed all desire for truth and love, but "neither case is normal in human life," he said.
Thus, the souls of many departed may benefit from prayers, he said.
The pope began and ended his encyclical with profiles of two women who exemplified Christian hope. The closing pages praised Mary for never losing hope, even in the darkness of Jesus' crucifixion.
The encyclical opened by describing a similar sense of hope in a 19th-century African slave, St. Josephine Bakhita, who after being flogged, sold and resold, came to discover Christ.
With her conversion, St. Bakhita found the "great hope" that liberated and redeemed her, the pope said.
The pope emphasized that this was different from political liberation as a slave. Christianity "did not bring a message of social revolution," he said, but something totally different: an encounter with "a hope stronger than the sufferings of slavery, a hope which therefore transformed life and the world from within."
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Copyright (c) 2007 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops
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