Vatican City, Jun 17, 2015 / 10:50 am
Instead of blaming God when a parent loses a child – or vice versa – families should remember that because of Christ's resurrection death does not have the final say, Pope Francis said.
"For parents, outliving their own children is especially devastating, (as it) goes against the basic nature of the relationship which gives meaning to the family itself," the Pope said during his Wednesday general audience.
Losing one's child is like "stopping time," he said, since it "opens a chasm which swallows the past as well as the future."
The Pope's June 17 reflection was the latest in a series of catecheses on the family delivered each week at the Wednesday general audience in the Vatican. Since last Fall, the Pope has been focusing on this theme as part of the lead up to the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia in September, and the Synod on the Family in October.
The death of a son or daughter, is an "insult" to all the promises, gifts, and sacrifices "of joyful love" which a parent gives their child. Similarly, children who have lost one or both parents likewise suffer, he said.
"The emptiness of abandonment which opens within him is all the more distressing because he lacks the the experience necessary to 'give a name' to what has happened."
Because of this "black hole" brought about by a death in the family, the reasons for which are not known, we sometimes "blame God," he said.
Pope Francis based his address on the Gospel reading delivered during the audience, in which Saint Luke gives an account of Jesus raising the widow's son from the dead. This scene demonstrates both Jesus' compassion for those who suffer, and His power over death, he said.
All families, "without exception," experience death, the pontiff said. Nonetheless, when it strikes a beloved family member, death never seems natural.
However, the Pope said to be aware of other "accomplices" to physical death – "hate, envy, pride, greed" – which add to the agony and sense of injustice.
"We think of the absurd 'normality' with which, in certain times and places, events which add to the horror of death are caused by hatred and indifference for other human beings," he said.
In contrast, many families who are counted among God's people have demonstrated that death does not have the final word. "This is a true act of faith," Pope Francis said.
Whenever a family who is in mourning "finds the strength to protect the faith and the love which unites as to all those we love," he added, "this prevents death from taking everything. The darkness of death is confronted with a more intense work of love."
Citing the words of Saint Paul, the Pope reminded the faithful that Christ's Resurrection has removed from death its "sting."
"In this faith, we can comfort one another, knowing that the Lord has defeated death once and for all," he said.
"Our loved ones are not lost in the darkness of oblivion: hope assures us that they are in the benevolent and powerful hands of God. Love is stronger than death."
The Pope added that, in maintaining this faith, the experience of mourning acts to strengthen solidarity within ones own family, and promotes an awareness of the suffering of other families.
"This faith, this hope, protects us from a nihilistic vision of death, as well as the false consolations of the world," he said.
Pope Francis concluded his address by stressing it is important for pastors and Christians to communicate more concretely "the meaning of the faith with regard to the experience of mourning in the family."
He drew attention to the "simple and strong" witness of many families who grasp, through their faith in the Lord's crucifixion and death, the "irrevocable promise of the resurrection of the dead."
"God's work of love is stronger than the work of death."