(Vatican News) At the weekly General Audience, Pope Francis reflects on sadness and invites us to take comfort in Jesus' Resurrection, saying He can comfort our despair and sense of loss if we respond with faith in God's goodness.
When overwhelmed by sadness, take comfort in Jesus' Resurrection.
Pope Francis offered this reminder during his Wednesday General Audience held in the Vatican's Paul VI Hall.
Continuing his catechesis series on virtues and vices, the Pope focused this week on the sin of excessive sadness (acedia vel tristitia, in Latin), recalling that there are two types of sadness.
Two types of sadness
The first, he explained, is "a sorrow that is appropriate to Christian life, and that with God’s grace can be changed into joy." This form of sorrow, he said, "must not be rejected and forms part of the path of conversion."
It is the experience, he recalled, of the Prodigal Son, who, when "reaches the depths of his degeneracy," feels "great bitterness," which "prompts him to come to his senses and to decide to return home to his father."
This form of sorrow, he insisted, is "a grace," which possesses the ability "to lament over one’s own sins, remember the state of grace from which we have fallen, and weep because we have lost the purity in which God dreamed of us."
Whereas the second kind of sadness, he said, "must be fought resolutely and with every strength, because it comes from the evil one."
This "ailment of the soul," he said, "arises in the human heart when a desire or hope vanishes," and was the experience of the disciples of Emmaus in St. Luke's Gospel of Luke, as they lamented Jesus' loss.
St. Paul, Pope Francis recalled, offered the distinction between the two types when he wrote to the Corinthians: "Godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation and brings no regret, but worldly grief produces death" (2 Cor 7:10).
Regenerated in faith and hope
The dynamic of sadness, Pope Francis explained, is linked to the experience of loss, which, he recognized, is often accompanied by discouragement, weakness of the spirit, depression, and anguish.
"We all go through ordeals that generate sorrow in us, because life makes us conceive dreams that are then shattered," the Pope acknowledged, pointing out that after our internal turmoil, some people are unable to get beyond melancholy and sadness, whereas others are able to be regenerated in hope.
Pope Francis exhorted those who may be lulled into excessive sadness to be comforted through their faith and Jesus' closeness.
Jesus' Resurrection comforts us
"Certain protracted griefs, where a person continues to expand the void of one who is no longer there, are not proper to life in the Spirit," the Pope said, noting it isn't healthy and is not proper to our Christian identity.
While he admitted there is something in everyone’s past that needs to be healed and that sadness is natural, he warned it can turn into something devious and dangerous.
However, the Holy Father reassured, it "can be combatted easily, keeping in mind the thought of the Resurrection of Christ."
"However full life may be of contradictions, defeated desires, unrealized dreams, and lost friendships," Pope Francis acknowledged, "thanks to Jesus’ Resurrection, we can believe that all will be saved."
Faith casts out fear
"Jesus rose again not only for Himself," the Pope marveled, "but also for us, to redeem all the happiness that has remained unfulfilled in our lives."
"Faith casts out fear, and the Resurrection of Christ," he rejoiced, "removes sadness like the stone from the tomb."
While observing that every Christian’s day "is an exercise in resurrection,” Pope Francis concluded by praying that the Spirit of the Risen Jesus help us defeat sorrow with holiness.