ROME — Jesus faced “extreme desolation” during his passion, Pope Francis told the faithful on Sunday, and so he understands our own weakness, fears, and discouragement.
Speaking via video-streaming from an empty Saint Peter’s Basilica Sunday, the pontiff called on believers to unite the sufferings of the coronavirus ordeal to those that Jesus underwent for the salvation of humanity.
In his Palm Sunday Mass, the day that begins the most solemn week of the year for Christians, the pope said that Christ’s love for us “led him to sacrifice himself and to take upon himself our sins.”
The Father “did not take away the evil that crushed him, but rather strengthened him in his suffering so that our evil could be overcome by good, by a love that loves to the very end,” Francis said. “The Lord served us to the point of experiencing the most painful situations of those who love: betrayal and abandonment.”
Jesus suffered betrayal from his closest friends, he continued, just as he suffers betrayal from us today.
“Let us look within. If we are honest with ourselves, we will see our infidelities. How many falsehoods, hypocrisies and duplicities! How many good intentions betrayed! How many broken promises! How many resolutions left unfulfilled!” the pope said.
And yet “He healed us by taking upon himself our infidelity and by taking from us our betrayals,” Francis continued, which should encourage us to soldier on, confident in his unfailing love.
From the Cross, Jesus exclaims: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” the pope recalled, words that emerge from his “abyss of solitude.”
These words “tell us that Jesus also brought the experience of extreme desolation to his prayer,” he said.
Jesus did all this for our sake, Francis insisted. “So that when we have our back to the wall, when we find ourselves at a dead end, with no light and no way of escape, when it seems that God himself is not responding, we should remember that we are not alone.”
“He did it for me, for you, for all of us; he did it to say to us: ‘Do not be afraid, you are not alone. I experienced all your desolation in order to be ever close to you,’” he said.
“Today, in the tragedy of a pandemic, in the face of the many false securities that have now crumbled, in the face of so many hopes betrayed, in the sense of abandonment that weighs upon our hearts, Jesus says to each one of us: ‘Courage, open your heart to my love. You will feel the consolation of God who sustains you,’” Francis said.