“It questions us in a profound way, especially when it touches us up close, or when it strikes the little ones, the defenseless in a way that seems to us scandalous,” the Pope reflected, stating that the questions “why do children suffer? Why do children die?” are particularly striking.
“If death is understood as the end of everything,” he explained, “it frightens, terrifies, and is transformed into a threat that shatters every dream, every prospect, which breaks every relation and interrupts every way.”
This vision of seeing life “enclosed between two poles: birth and death” without anything beyond, observed the Pope, “is typical of atheistic thought, which interprets existence as finding oneself accidentally in the world and walking towards nothingness.”
“There is also a practical atheism, which is to live only for one’s own interests and earthly things,” he continued, adding that if we fall into this vision we have no other choice than to avoid the reality of death so that we won’t be afraid.
However, noted the pontiff, “this false solution reveals in man’s heart, the desire that we all have for the infinite, our nostalgia of the eternal.”
Asking what then is the meaning of Christian death, Pope Francis encouraged those present to recall the passing of a loved one, stating that in our pain “we remember that, even in the tragedy of the loss…the conviction arises in our heart that everything cannot be finished, that the good given and received was not useless.”
“There is a powerful instinct within us, which tells us that life does not end with death.”
The only “reliable” answer to this “thirst for life,” observed the Pope, is the “Resurrection of Jesus Christ,” adding that it “not only gives us the certainty of life beyond death, but it also illumines the mystery itself of the death of each one of us.”
“If we live united to Jesus, faithful to Him, we will be able to face the passage of death with hope and serenity,” he went on to say, emphasizing that one tends to die in the way that they lived.
“If my life has been a journey with the Lord, of trust in His immense mercy, I will be prepared to accept the last moment of my earthly existence as the definitive and confident abandonment in his welcoming hands.”
“This,” stated the Pope, “is the most beautiful thing that could happen: to contemplate face to face that wonderful countenance of the Lord.”
“To see him as he is, beautiful, full of light, full of love, full of tenderness. We go towards this end: to see the Lord.”
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Pope Francis then stressed the importance of preparing ourselves for the moment of death, following the invitation of Jesus “to be always ready, vigilant,” with the knowledge that “life in this world is also given to prepare for the other life.”
A “sure way” to prepare well for our deaths, he reflected, is “staying close to Jesus with prayer, in the Sacraments and also in the practice of charity.”
“Solidarity in sharing sorrow and infusing hope is the premise and condition to receive in inheritance the Kingdom prepared for us,” emphasized the Pope, stressing that “one who practices mercy does not fear death.”
He then asked those present, “Do you agree? Shall we say it together so as not to forget? One who practices mercy does not fear death!”
“And why does he not fear death? Because he looks it in the face in the wounds of brothers, and overcomes it with the love of Jesus Christ.”
Pope Francis concluded his audience by encouraging the 70,000 pilgrims present to open their hearts to “our littlest brothers,” and by extending a personal greeting to groups from various countries around the world.