Sunday, March 31, 2024

Pope Francis Talks about the Stones that “Block the Hopes of Humanity”

In his 2024 Easter blessing today, Pope Francis asked a troubling question:
“Like the women disciples of Jesus, we ask one another: ‘Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?’ (cf. Mk 16:3).”

Francis was referring to the huge stone that blocked the entrance to Jesus’ tomb, which women were visiting to perform a final ritual. In despair, the women saw no way to move the stone, and yet the stone moved (or was already rolled away). For Pope Francis, the stone that blocked Jesus’ tomb thousands of years ago was a metaphor for the terrible stones of war and suffering that, in Francis’ words, “block the hopes of humanity.” The metaphor of the stone reminds us never to give up hope, never to give up on love, compassion, and forgiveness. As Francis said:
“The Church relives the amazement of the women who went to the tomb at dawn on the first day of the week. The tomb of Jesus had been sealed with a great stone. Today too, great stones, heavy stones, block the hopes of humanity: the stone of war, the stone of humanitarian crises, the stone of human rights violations, the stone of human trafficking, and other stones as well.”
As Pope Francis acutely noted, horrible wars and suffering wrack the world, from the Middle East and Ukraine, and on to, central Africa, Kivu, and elsewhere. Francis reminded the 60,000 worshipers gathered at St. Peter’s Square that Syria suffers from a decades-long civil war. He appealed for humanitarian aid, the release of hostages, and cease-fires. He still came back to his metaphor of stones, asking, how will we ever roll these terrible stones away? He recognized that desperate people, who see no hope, who think themselves helpless, all face – metaphorically – the same dilemma:
“Without the forgiveness of sins, there is no overcoming the barriers of prejudice, mutual recrimination, the presumption that we are always right and others wrong.”
On the one hand, Francis assured the worshipers that only Jesus can roll away the stones of war and hatred. Francis did not, on the other hand, omit that human beings today need to act. Instead, to follow Jesus—means, according to the Pope’s blessing, for us to reach out with love and compassion to one another:
“Let us not yield to the logic of weapons and rearming. Peace is never made with arms, but with outstretched hands and open hearts.”

Sojourner Truth and Her Metaphors

Metaphors carry great power. Metaphors—like equating a tombstone with today’s terrible moral failings—force us to see connections that our narrow-mindedness leads us to deny. Francis’ metaphor had two prongs. First, yes, the massive stones that block us seem overpowering and we feel helpless to move them. Second, however, in the biblical accounts, the enormous stone was, indeed, moved. The moving of the stone added hope to the Pope’s metaphor. To move today’s stones, Pope Francis said, we must reach out with our hearts and faith, to forgive one another, to show compassion, to move the stones, not with anger or violence, but with love.

A powerful Easter message. Will the world listen?

by William D. Harpinw

Earlier Posts:

Pope Francis Asked the Catholic Church to Listen

Pope Francis' Sermon for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees

The English text of Pope Francis’ blessing is taken from the Catholic News Agency.

Copyright © 2024, William D. Harpine

Image: Pope Francis, edited from a historical White House photo

No comments:

Post a Comment