Pope Francis contrasted authentic hope, born out of trust in God, with the temptation of false idols offered by our modern world, such as money, power or physical beauty, in his General Audience today.
"Hope is a primary need.." but we can get lost in our search for security by trusting in the false hopes offered by idols, that "confuse the mind and heart, and, instead of favouring life, they lead to death.
The Pope then told a story he had heard in Buenos Aires of a very beautiful woman who was very proud of her beauty. She said she had to have an abortion in order to preserve her figure.
He went on: "Faith is trusting in God, but there comes a moment in which when confronted with life's difficulties, we experience the fragility of that trust and feel the need for other certainties, more tangible and concrete."
The Scriptures, especially the prophets and wisdom writers, he said, reveal the fleeting nature of idols and the hope they offer. In Psalm 115, the Psalmist ironically presents these idols as silver and gold, made of human hands.
"The message of the Psalm is very clear," Pope Francis said, "one who places their hope in idols becomes like them: empty images with hands that don't touch, feet that don't walk, mouths that cannot speak. One has nothing else to say and becomes incapable of helping, of changing things, of smiling, giving of oneself, and of loving."
In contrast, God is always greater than we are, making us incapable of reducing God to our size, made in our own image and tailored to our desires.
The Holy Father concluded, with Psalm 115, that the grandeur of God enables Christians to trust and hope in the Lord.
"Trusting in the Lord, one becomes like Him; His blessing transforms us into His children, who share His life. Hope in God makes us enter, as it were, within the range of God's action, of His memory which blesses and saves us."
The official English summary of the Pope's Catechesis follows:
Dear Brothers and Sisters:
In these first days of the new year, following our celebration of the seasons of Advent and Christmas, with their message of the fulfilment of God's promises in the coming of the Saviour, we now continue our catechesis on Christian hope.
The Scriptures teach us that side by side with authentic hope, born of trust in God's word, we can be tempted by false hopes and worldly idols, like money, power or physical beauty. Hope in God demands strength and perseverance, whereas these false gods promise an easy security, a future we can control.
The Psalmist denounces this kind of idolatry, stating that those who put their trust in images that are the work of human hands, will come to be like them: spiritually blind, deaf and insensible. God is always greater than we are, and we, created in his image and likeness, cannot reduce him to our size or fabricate other gods, made in our own image and tailored to our desires.
By trusting in God's word and hoping in his promises, we become more and more like him, sharing in his life and rejoicing in his provident care, revealed in the birth, death and resurrection of Jesus his Son.