Pope Francis has reaffirmed the reality of heaven as an eternal reward of life with God, rather than a fanciful myth or a children’s story.
“Heaven is not a fairy tale, nor is it an enchanted garden,” the Pope told pilgrims gathered in Saint Peter’s Square Wednesday. “Heaven is the embrace of God, infinite Love, and we enter into it thanks to Jesus, who died on the cross for us.”
In this week’s General Audience, the Pope concluded a series of talks on the Christian virtue of hope, focusing on the nature of heaven.
The pontiff noted that “paradise” is one of the last words uttered by Jesus on the cross, when he assured the good thief that “this day you will be with me in paradise.”
“It is there, on Calvary,” the Pope said, “that Jesus has the last appointment with a sinner, to open to him the doors of his kingdom.”
Jesus promises paradise to an condemned thief, “who on the wood of the cross has the courage to make the humblest of requests to Him: ‘Remember me when you enter into your kingdom,’” Francis said.
The so-called “good thief” had no good deeds to put forward, Francis continued, “he had nothing, but he put his trust in Jesus,” and this word of humble repentance “was enough to touch the heart of Jesus.”
“Wherever Jesus is, there is mercy and happiness; without Him there is cold and darkness,” Francis said. “At the hour of death, the Christian repeats to Jesus: ‘Remember me.’ And even if there is no one else to remember us, Jesus is there, beside us.”
“The good thief reminds us of our true condition before God: that we are His children, that He has compassion on us, that He is disarmed every time we reveal a desire for his love,” he said.
“Before God, we all present ourselves empty-handed,” Francis said, yet even when we find that our faults outweigh our good deeds, we must not be discouraged but “trust in the mercy of God,” he said.
“If we believe this, death ceases to frighten us, and we can also hope to leave this world in a serene, trusting way,” he said, because “the one who has known Jesus no longer fears.”
“And at that moment, at last, we will no longer need anything, and we will not see in a confused way,” he concluded. “We will no longer weep in vain, because everything has passed, including prophecies and knowledge. But not love, that remains.”
Because “love never ends,” he said.
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