By Christopher Wells
Pope Francis on Wednesday held his first General Audience since sweeping measures were imposed throughout Italy to contain the coronavirus epidemic. The Audience was livestreamed from the Library of the Apostolic Palace, to avoid the large gatherings of people that typically fill St Peter’s Square to hear the Holy Father.
An inner longing for God
In his catechesis, the Holy Father reflected on the fourth beatitude, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for justice, for they shall be satisfied”. The words “hunger and thirst” speak to “crucial, daily needs”; while the term “justice” refers to “a thirst in the heart of human beings, an inner thirst, an inner hunger, an inner restlessness for God”.
This longing is found even “in those who are most corrupt, and furthest from goodness”, even if it is hidden “under the ruins of deception and error”. It is the Holy Spirit, Pope Francis said, that keeps up this longing within us: “He is the living water” that shaped the dust from which we were made; the “creating breath that has given us life”.
Humanity needs the Good News of Jesus
And it is for this reason that the Church was commissioned to proclaim God’s Word: because the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the greatest justice that can be offered to the heart of humanity, which has a vital need for it”, even if humanity does not always realize it.
“Every person”, the Pope said, “is called to rediscover what really matters, what they truly need, what allows them to live well”, and, on the contrary, “what is of secondary importance, and what they can safely do without”.
In this beatitude, “Jesus proclaims… that there is a thirst that cannot be disappointed; a thirst that, if indulged, will be satisfied and will always succeed, because it corresponds to the very heart of God”, Pope Francis said.
Prayer for the sick
Following his catechesis, Pope Francis offered words of closeness and consolation to those afflicted by Covid-19, but also to those suffering from other ailments. He thanked all those who are assisting them, especially Christians “and men and women of goodwill, who are praying - united together, no matter the religious tradition to which they belong".
But, he added, “I would not want this suffering, this very serious epidemic, to make us forget the poor Syrian people, who are suffering on the border between Greece and Turkey: a people who have suffered for years… Let us not forget our brothers and sisters, including so many children, who are suffering there.”