Pope Francis closed his series of Wednesday catecheses on the theme of Christian hope, dedicating today’s catechesis to “paradise as the goal of our hope.”
“There is no one, as bad as he might have been in his life, to whom God denies His grace if he repents,”
said Pope Francis during the general audience attended by some 25,000 faithful.
Under the bright morning sun, the pontiff continued, “In the rooms of so many hospitals, or in prison cells,” the miracle of forgiveness and mercy takes place—a miracle that “is repeated innumerable times.”
He said that each time “a man, upon making his last examination of conscience in his life (before dying), discovers that his ‘faults’ are greater than his ‘good works,’” he “should not lose hope, but rather trust in God’s mercy.”
“God is our Father, and he hopes up to the last minute for our return.” He waits for repentant men and women as for “the prodigal son, who begins to confess his sins, and whom the Father silences with a hug.”
The word “paradise” is one of the last words pronounced by Jesus on the cross, and he says it to a repentant sinner.
The good thief, “in the face of his imminent death, makes a humble petition to Jesus: ‘Remember me when You enter Your Kingdom.’”
He has no good works to offer Jesus, but he trusts in Him. “Those words of humble repentance were enough to touch Jesus’ heart,” the pope said.
The Bishop of Rome spoke of the Good Thief to remind his listeners that God comes “out to meet us, with compassion for us.”
“Before God, we find ourselves with empty hands, but we hope for His mercy.”
What is heaven like?
Later during the audience, the pope described what that place after death will be like. “Paradise isn’t a fairy tale, nor is it a magic garden. Paradise is God’s embrace, infinite Love, and we enter thanks to Jesus, who died on the cross for us.”
Continuing to speak about Christian hope, he added that “where Jesus is, there is mercy and happiness; without Him, there is coldness and darkness. At the hour of death, Christians repeat to Jesus, ‘Remember me.’ And even if nobody else remembers us, Jesus is there, at our side.”
Jesus wants to “carry us to the best place that exists. He wants to take us there with the little or the much that we may have done in our lives, so that nothing of what He has redeemed will be lost.”
“If we believe this, death will not make us afraid. Anyone who has met Jesus fears nothing!”
At the end of the catechesis, Pope Francis greeted the English-speaking pilgrims.
“Upon all of you and your families, I invoke joy and peace in our Lord Jesus Christ.”
The general audience concluded with the singing of the Our Father and the Apostolic Blessing.