In Times of Trial, Love of God Has Last Word, Pope Says

General Audience Address Focuses on Canticle of Azariah

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VATICAN CITY, MAY 14, 2003 (Zenit.org).- When trials become acute, the believer must never forget that the love of God has the last word, John Paul II stressed to those attending today's General Audience.



In prayer and through inner purification, one finds "the certainty that the last word will be that of mercy and forgiveness," the Holy Father said to the pilgrims gathered in St. Peter's Square for the weekly General Audience.

On this occasion, the Holy Father reflected on the Canticle of Azariah, a Jew condemned to die in a furnace because he refused to adore a statue erected by King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon (see Daniel 3).

In the biblical passage, persecution appears as a moment of inner purification, in which "desolation is acute, the trial is harsh," he said. However, in "the present tragic situation, hope seeks its roots in the past, namely, in the promises made to the fathers."

"Although justice demands that Israel be punished for its faults, the certainty remains that the last word will be that of mercy and forgiveness," he added.

Thus, in the midst of trial, the believer "approaches the Lord, offering him the most precious and acceptable gift: a 'contrite heart' and a 'humble spirit.'"

The "'I' renewed by trial is offered to God, so that he will receive it as a sign of conversion and consecration to the good," the Pope emphasized.

"With this interior disposition, fear ceases, confusion and shame are overcome, and the spirit opens to confidence in a better future, when the promises made to the fathers will be fulfilled," he stressed.

The "moment has arrived in which we abandon the perverse ways of evil, the crooked paths, and the devious ways. We begin to follow the Lord, moved by the desire to see his face."

"And his face is not angry, but full of love, as the merciful father was revealed in his meeting with the prodigal son," the Pope concluded.

Today's reflection was a continuation of the series of meditations on the Psalms and Canticles of the Old Testament, which John Paul II has been offering at the General Audiences. They may be found in the "Wednesday Audience" section of ZENIT's web page: (http://www.zenit.org/english/audience/).