Source: Vatican News Service
Addressing thousands of pilgrims gathered in St Peter's Square for the Angelus on Sunday, Pope Francis reminded them that the day was called 'Laetare Sunday' - meaning a day in which we are invited to rejoice in God's great love for humanity.
Christians are strong in the knowledge that God so love the world he sent his only Son to give us eternal life, the Pope said. Christians are strong because even when a situation appears desperate, they know God has intervened, offering salvation and joy.
"God does not stand aside but enters the history of humanity to animate it with his grace and to save it" he said.
When we find the courage to recognise ourselves for what we are, we realise that we are called to deal with our fragility and our limits. Then it can happen that we become overcome by anguish, by anxiety, by the fear of illness and death" he said.
Confronted with such challenges, people searching for a way out can resort to dangersous shortcuts such as drugs or superstitious actitivities, the Pope said.
Christianity does not offer easy consolations, he said: "It is not a shortcut. It requires faith and a strong moral standing which rejects evil, selfishness and corruption." But, "it also gives us great hope in God the Father who is rich in mercy and who has given us his Son, thus revealing to us his immense love."
The Pope said Lent is a time in which to open out hearts even more to this gift. "Only in this way can we live a life that is animated by justice and charity, and we will become witnesses to this divine love - a love not just given to those that deserve it but one that is offered to everyone freely without conditions."
The Holy Father concluded with a prayer to Mary, Mother of Mercy to help us feel that we are loved by God - to be close to us when we feel alone and when we are tempted to surrender to the difficulties of life.
"May she enable us to understand the feelings of her Son Jesus so that our Lenten journey may become an experience of forgiveness, welcome and charity."
The Pope greeted many groups of pilgrims from all over the world. He offered special words of encouragement for a group of 120 young students from 30 countries, gathered for the first 'Vatican Hackathon' - an around-the-clock programming marathon working on technical solutions on how to provide better resources for migrants, encourage solidarity for the poor and better communication in interfaith dialogue.