“The heart of the human being aspires to great things, lofty values, deep friendships, ties that are strengthened rather than broken by the trials of life. The human being aspires to love and to be loved. This is our deepest aspiration: to love and be loved; and definitively.” –Pope Francis
Long before Jorge Bergoglio was elected to the papacy, he was an ordinary person trying to live a Christian life in a complex world. He was the eldest of five children, born to first-generation Italian immigrants in Argentina. He played soccer and basketball, liked to dance, cook, and play the piano, and had a lively sense of humor. Before joining the Jesuits, he worked as a janitor at a stocking factory and studied chemistry. Early in his seminary days, he was lovestruck by a young woman he met at a family wedding. Her beauty and intellectual radiance dazzled him and left him sleepless for a week.
In the end, as we know, Jorge chose religious life over marriage. But his rich and varied life experience has served him well as pope. When he speaks about the universal human desire “to love and be loved,” listeners sense a genuine understanding of human nature. His voice rises with excitement. He becomes animated, and a world of emotions plays across his face. Joy. Tenderness. Hope. Rage against hatred and injustice. Delight in kindness and goodness. Confidence that “all will be well,” because God’s love will triumph in the end.
Here are some of his most intimate thoughts about the purpose and promise of love, “the greatest power for the transformation of reality.”
GOD TAKES THE FIRST STEP
The first step that God takes toward us is that of a love that anticipates and is unconditional. God is the first to love. God does not love because there is something in us that engenders love. God loves us because he himself is love, and, by its very nature, love tends to spread and give itself. God does not even condition his benevolence on our conversion. If anything, this is a consequence of God’s love.
June 14, 2017
REPEAT IT: I AM SURE THAT GOD LOVES ME
It is easy to say: God loves us. We all say it. But think a bit. Each one of us is able to ask: Am I sure that God loves me? It is not so easy to say it. But it is true. This is a good exercise, to say to oneself: God loves me. This is the root of our certainty, the root of hope. The Lord has abundantly poured into our hearts the Spirit—which is the love of God—as artisan, as guarantor, precisely so that he may nourish the faith within us and keep this hope alive. This is a certainty: God loves me. “But in this difficult moment?”—God loves me. “I, who have done this bad and cruel thing?”—God loves me. No one can take this certainty away. We must repeat it as a prayer: God loves me. I am sure that God loves me. I am sure that God loves me.
February 15, 2017
AN OVERFLOWING LOVE
God’s forgiveness is the symbol of his overflowing love for each of us. It is the love that leaves us free to distance ourselves, like the prodigal son, but which awaits our return every day. It is the resourceful love of the shepherd for the lost sheep. It is the tenderness which welcomes each sinner who knocks at his door. The Heavenly Father—our Father—is filled, is full of love and he wants to offer it to us.
September 17, 2017
DIVE INTO THE SEA OF GOD’S LOVE
In the weakness and frailty of our lives, we can turn to God with the confidence of children and enter into communion with him. In the face of so many wounds that hurt us and could harden our hearts, we are called to dive into the sea of prayer, which is the sea of God’s boundless love, to taste his tenderness.
March 5, 2014
THE LOVE OF GOD NEVER LEAVES US
God is love. And we move toward the light to find the love of God. But is God’s love within us, even in the dark moments? Is the love of God there, hidden away? Yes, always! The love of God never leaves us. It is always with us. Do we trust in this love?
Address to Children
MAY 31, 2014
THE HEART OF JESUS SPEAKS TO US
We do not believe in an ethereal God, we believe in a God who became flesh, who has a heart and this heart today speaks to us thus: “Come to me if you are tired, oppressed, and I will give you rest. But the smallest, treat them with compassion, with the same tenderness with which I treat you.” The heart of Jesus Christ says this to us today.
June 12, 2015
THE STEADFAST LOVE OF GOD
To move forward and grow on the journey of life, we must not have fear; we must have faith.… We must not think that God is a cruel, hard and severe master who wishes to punish us. If this mistaken image of God is within us our life cannot be fruitful, because we will live in fear and this will not lead us to anything constructive. On the contrary, fear paralyzes us; it causes our self-destruction. We are called to reflect in order to discover what our idea of God really is. Already in the Old Testament he revealed himself as “a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness” (Exodus 34:6). And Jesus always showed us that God is not a severe or intolerant master, but a father full of love, of tenderness, a father full of goodness. Therefore, we can and must have immense faith in him.
November 19, 2017
BRING LOVE AND PEACE TO ALL
Some people ask how it is possible to speak of good news when so many people around us are suffering. Where is the good news when so much injustice, poverty, and misery cast a shadow over us and our world? But I want a very clear message to go out from this place. I want people to know that you, the young men and women of Myanmar, are not afraid to believe in the good news of God’s mercy, because it has a name and a face: Jesus Christ.
As messengers of this good news, you are ready to bring a word of hope to the Church, to your own country, and to the wider world. You are ready to bring good news for your suffering brothers and sisters who need your prayers and your solidarity, but also your enthusiasm for human rights, for justice, and for the growth of that “love and peace” which Jesus brings.
November 30, 2017