Hope as a Response to Death in the Family
At his Wednesday general audience on June 17, 2015, Pope Francis spoke about the experience of death in the family. He called death a reality that “concerns all families” and described it as a “black hole” in the life of the family. He noted that the experience of death is particularly painful and lonely when a parent loses a child, or vice versa. The result of this extreme sorrow is often anger directed toward God. In addition, sins such as “hatred, envy, pride, [and] avarice” often accompany physical death, making families’ suffering more intense.
Pope Francis proclaimed that with Jesus’ grace, families can face the difficult reality of death by showing love in their actions. “Love is stronger than death,” he said; it has the power to remove the “sting” from death. In addition, Jesus’ supreme act of love on the Cross has already destroyed death. Because of this, families who experience the pain of death should live in hope, knowing that there will be a time when “death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain any more” (Rev 21:4). Families who respond to death with faith rather than with despair can be strengthened by the experience of death and can develop a deeper compassion for others who undergo similar situations.
Pope Francis then commented on a Gospel reading (Luke 7:11-15), highlighting that at the end of the healing story, Jesus “gave him [the sick man] to his mother.” The Holy Father said that this is what will happen in Heaven – Jesus will give lost loved ones back into the care of their families. Having faith in the reunion in the afterlife prevents families from succumbing to either a nihilist philosophy of death or superstitions regarding death.
Lastly, Pope Francis expressed his desire for Christians to know more widely the role of faith in mourning. He believes that “the right to weep should not be denied,” noting that Jesus too wept at the grave of Lazarus. He concluded his message by reminding the crowd that “the work of the love of God is stronger than the work of death” and that “Jesus will restore all families.”