“The reaction of these ‘pagans’ is the right reaction before death, because that’s when the man has a full experience of his own frailty and of his need for salvation. The instinctive horror of dying reveals the need for hope in the God of life,” Francis said.
Too often and easily we don’t turn to God when we are in need, he said, because we are worried it will just be a prayer based on self-interest, and therefore “imperfect.”
“But God knows our weakness, knows that we remember him for help, and with the indulgent smile of a father responds graciously,” Pope Francis reassured.
In the end, when Jonah confesses the truth – that he was running away from the Lord – his witness of faith and his sacrifice of being thrown into the sea lead the sailors to pray to the one, true God.
“Hope, which had led them to pray not to die, reveals an even more powerful person and a reality that goes well beyond what they hoped: not only do they not perish in the storm, but it opens them to the recognition of the one true Lord of heaven and of earth,” the Pope said.
In his greetings to pilgrims in different languages after his catechesis, Pope Francis noted that Jan. 18 marks the first day of the annual Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, which runs through Jan. 18-25.
In his comments to German-speaking pilgrims specifically, he recalled his recent trip to Sweden for a joint commemoration of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation.
Recalling the joint ecumenical prayer said Oct. 31, he said “the Gospel of Christ is at the center of our lives and unites people who speak different languages, live in different countries and live the faith in different communities.”
“In the spirit of the joint commemoration of the Reformation, we look more at what unites us what divides us, and we continue our journey together to deepen our communion and give her an increasingly visible form,” he said.
When it comes to Europe, “this common faith in Christ is like a green thread of hope; we belong to each other.”
“Communion, reconciliation and unity are possible,” he said, adding that “as Christians, we have a responsibility to this message and we have to bear witness with our lives. May God bless this desire for union and guard all the people walking on the path to unity.”
To close the weeklong event Pope Francis will preside over Second Vespers in the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Wall Jan. 25 to mark the feast of the Conversion of St. Paul. Representatives from the different Churches and ecclesial communities in Rome will take part in the prayer, which is also open for the clergy and faithful of Rome.
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