VATICAN CITY (CNS) – During Lent this year, residents of the Domus Sanctae Marthae, where Pope Francis lives, decided to clean out their closets and give away things other people could use. “You can’t imagine how much stuff there was,” the pope said.

Leading his weekly general audience April 5, the pope said Holy Week is the perfect time to simplify one’s life and let go of things, especially of wounds, sin and past offenses that keep one from living in hope.

“Look at the wardrobe of your soul: How many useless things do you have, how many silly illusions?” he asked.

Pope Francis said that in his “other diocese,” Buenos Aires, when he would go around the city — “now I can’t do that because they won’t let me” — he would look at people’s faces and always was struck by how many seemed sad or completely distracted, “without peace, without hope.”

Pope Francis greets a young woman as he rides in the popemobile in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican during his weekly general audience April 5, 2023. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

So, he said, the sadness and disappointment of Jesus’ disciples after his arrest and death are completely understandable to most people.

People wonder, “Why is there so much evil in the world – look, there is evil in the world. Why do inequalities continue to increase and why is that long-awaited peace not arriving? Why are we so attached to war, to hurting one another?” the pope said. “And there is the feeling that times gone by were better and that in the world, perhaps even in the church, things are not going the way they once were.”

Such thoughts, he said, are signs that “hope sometimes seems to be sealed behind the stone of mistrust” just as Jesus was sealed behind the stone of his tomb.

For Jesus’ disciples, then and now, the cross is the key to restoring hope.

The cross, “the most terrible instrument of torture,” is the greatest sign of God’s love, he said. “Having become the tree of life, that wood of death reminds us that God’s beginnings often begin with our ends.”

“In the black holes of our disappointed expectations,” the pope said, God’s love fills believers with a hope that never disappoints.

With the hope born of the cross, he said, people can be “healed of the sadness with which we are sick, be healed of the bitterness with which we pollute the church and the world.”

Through Jesus’ wounds God heals sinful humanity, Pope Francis said.

“We, too, are wounded; who isn’t wounded in life?” he said. “Who does not bear the scars of past choices, of misunderstandings, of hurts that stay inside and that we struggle to overcome?”

“God does not hide from our eyes the wounds that have pierced his body and soul. He shows them to show us that a new passage can be opened at Easter: to make of one’s wounds holes of light,” the pope said, before imagining someone responding, “But, Your Holiness, don’t exaggerate.”

Pope Francis told the crowd it was not an exaggeration.

“I ask you, what do you do with your wounds, the ones that only you know? You can let them fester in resentment, in sadness, or I can unite them with Jesus’ wounds, so that my wounds also become bright,” he said.

“Yes, our wounds can become springs of hope when, instead of feeling sorry for ourselves or hiding them, we dry the tears shed by others,” the pope said.

The choice, he said, is either to “lick my own wounds” or to reach out “to heal, to help others.”

At the end of the audience, Pope Francis asked people to spend time in Holy Week praying for the conversion of those who foment war.

And, thinking of Mary standing at the foot of the cross, he prayed for “the mothers of Ukrainian and Russian soldiers who have fallen in the war. They are mothers of dead sons. Let us pray for these mothers.”

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – The birth of Jesus in a stable “shows us God’s ‘style,’ which is closeness, compassion, and tenderness,” Pope Francis told visitors and pilgrims at his weekly general audience.

Pope Francis greets a child at his general audience Dec. 28, 2022, in the Vatican audience hall. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

On the church’s calendar Christmas was not over when the pope held his audience Dec. 28, and he insisted it is important for Christians to use the season to contemplate the meaning of Jesus becoming human and being born into the poverty and simplicity of the manger.

“With this style of his, God draws us to himself,” the pope said. “He does not take us by force, He does not impose his truth and justice on us. He wants to draw us with love, with tenderness.”

Basing his Christmas reflections on the teachings of St. Francis de Sales, a bishop and doctor of the church, Pope Francis announced at the audience that he was publishing an apostolic letter that day marking the 400th anniversary of the death of the French saint and theologian.

The letter, titled “Totum Amoris Est” (“Everything Pertains to Love”), would be published later the same day.

But rather than quoting from his apostolic letter, Pope Francis quoted from St. Francis de Sales’ meditations on Christmas and, especially, his focus on the love of God and on the poverty of Jesus’ birth.

“Who is Jesus? Looking at the manger, looking at the cross, looking at his life, his simplicity, we can know who Jesus is,” the pope said. “Jesus is the son of God who saves us by becoming man, stripping himself of his glory and humbling himself.”

In one of his letters to St. Jeanne Frances de Chantal, co-founder with St. Francis de Sales of the Visitation Sisters, the French saint wrote, “I would a hundred times rather see the dear Jesus in his crib, than all the kings of the world on their thrones.”

Pope Francis told people at the audience that the Gospel of Luke’s description of the birth of Jesus and its focus on the manger “means that it is very important not only as a logistical detail, but as a symbolic element to understand what kind of messiah” Jesus is.

His birth in a stable and his death on a cross show the way “God draws us to himself,” the pope said. “He does not take us by force, he does not impose his truth and justice on us. He wants to draw us with love, with tenderness.”

Whatever kind of person God is dealing with, Pope Francis said, “God has found the means to attract us however we are: with love. Not a possessive and selfish love, as unfortunately human love so often is. His love is pure gift, pure grace, it is all and only for us, for our good. And so, he draws us in, with this disarmed and disarming love.”

St. Francis de Sales also writes about the simplicity, the real poverty of the manger, Pope Francis said. “And, really, there is poverty there.”

Writing to the Visitation Sisters, the saint said, “Do you see the baby Jesus in the crib? He accepts all the discomforts of that season, the bitter cold and everything that the Father lets happen to him.”

“Here, dear brothers and sisters, is a great teaching, which comes to us from the child Jesus through the wisdom of St Francis de Sales,” Pope Francis said, and it is “to desire nothing and reject nothing, to accept everything that God sends us. But be careful! Always and only out of love, because God loves us and only ever wants our good.”