Pope Francis has held the Wednesday catechesis in Saint Peter’s Square on the subject of “Mercy and consolation”, starting from the first reading. “In Jeremiah the prophet’s book, chapters 30 and 31 – he said – are called ‘book of consolation.” “Jeremiah – he observed – addresses the Israelites who were deported to a foreign land, and predicts their return to their homeland. This return is sign of the endless love of God the Father who does not abandon His children, but takes care and saves them. Exile has been a devastating experience for Israel. Faith had faltered because in an unknown land, with no temple, no cult, and after having seen their country in ruins, it was difficult for them to continue to believe in the Lord’s goodness”.
He added off the cuff, referring to Albania’s political achievements: “I am thinking of the neighboring Albania and about how after so much persecution and destruction, it was able to stand up in dignity and faith. That is how the Israelites suffered in exile”. “At times, we can live a kind of exile – he continued -, when loneliness, suffering, and death makes us think that God has abandoned us. How many times have we heard these words: ‘God has forsaken me’. So many times people suffer and feel abandoned. And how many brothers are living a real and tragic situation of exile at present, far from their homeland, with the rubble of their homes still before their eyes, fear in their heart and often, unfortunately, the painful loss of the loved ones! In these cases one may ask where God is. How can so much suffering strike men, women, and children?”
Still off the cuff, the Pontiff has spoken about the refugees’ tragedy: “And when they try to go elsewhere, people close the doors. They are on the border because so many doors and hearts are closed. Today’s migrants suffer in the open, with no food, and unable to get in. They do not feel welcome. I love to hear and see when nations and rulers open their hearts and open their doors.”
“Jeremiah the prophet – Francis has added, going back to Sacred Scripture – gives us the first answer. The exiled people will come back to see its land and experience God’s mercy. It is the announcement of consolation: Today, God is not absent from these tragic situations, God is near, and He works salvation for those who trust in Him.” “The Lord is faithful, he does not abandon us to desolation. God loves us with an everlasting love, which cannot be curbed even by sin, and thanks to Him, human heart gets filled with joy and consolation.” “The land, which the people had had to abandon, fell into the hands of the enemies and became desolate. But now it comes back to life and flourishes. And the refugees themselves will be like a watered garden, like a fertile land. Israel, brought home by his Lord, witnessed the victory of life over death and the victory of blessing on the curse.”
“That is how – the Pope has said – the people is fortified and comforted by God. The returnees receive life from a source that irrigates them without asking nothing in return. At this point, the prophet announces fullness of joy, and still in the name of God proclaims: ‘‘I will turn their mourning into gladness; I will give them comfort and joy instead of sorrow.’’ The Psalm tells us that when they came back home, their mouth was filled with laughter; It is such a great joy! It is a gift the Lord wants to make to each one of us, with his forgiveness that converts and reconciles.”
The Pope concludes speaking about the true return from exile that takes place during Easter: “Jeremiah the prophet has given us the announcement, presenting the return of the exiles as a great symbol of consolation offered to a repentant heart. The Lord Jesus, in His turn, has realized the prophet’s message. The real and radical return from exile and the comforting light that follows the darkness of the crisis of faith is realized at Easter, in the full and definitive experience of God’s love, the merciful love that gives joy, peace, and eternal life.”