The heart, like gold, is purified by fire

One day, while watching a storm, I noticed that some birds were flying against the wind. It took me a long time to understand why they did this.

Those birds flew against the wind without much effort, adjusting their wings only when necessary. At first, I thought that it would have been easier for them to fly aided by the wind, but, after more observation and much pondering – without being an expert myself – I came to the conclusion that if those birds had flown with the wind, they would have been blown away and gotten lost.

To go against the wind means, then, to accept the challenge, to learn how to handle bad weather, and to fight to stay the course.

Pope Francis has said that there is no growth without crisis, nor victory without struggle.[1] He explains that the crises in our lives reveal what’s in our hearts and that suffering helps us learn or even change for the better. Suffering is the school of the heart. The heart, like gold, is purified by fire!

On the other hand, if we surrender to suffering – that is, if we break down in the face of crises – we will sink and be swept away, losing the meaning of life.

A new year has begun. 2020 – a year in which the conditions necessary to create a global crisis came together – is over. Today, we look forward, with great expectations, to the solution to the COVID-19 crisis. And we eagerly await the vaccine that will allow us, once again, to feel safe, to breathe freely and without limitations, to give an embrace without fear, and to celebrate together as we did in the past.

In this new year, as we continue facing the current situation, let us not forget the lessons we have learnt. Let us remember how something invisible brought down our false safety nets, forcing us to face our own reality, letting us see that our true treasure lies in the gift of life, in the immense gift of our families, and in our faith in God's providence. Let us not forget that this faith allows us – amid crises, pain, doubts and uncertainties – to have the hope of moving forward without losing heart.

The global crisis also has taught us to view life anew, with eyes filled with gratitude and respect. Let's protect this renewed vision of life! We cannot, during times of calm weather, allow ourselves to be distracted and be carried away by the gentle breezes of the world – breezes which threaten to divert us from our destination, which is to live forever with Him who is Love.

I reiterate, these breezes are treacherous because they, with their subtle and almost unnoticeable ways, make us forget to be grateful, enslaving us in a spiritual amnesia, that make us ignore God – that make us lose the value and meaning of our existence because we believe ourselves to be lord and master of our life. It’s for this reason that we must seek the face of the Lord in each person we encounter.

In this new year let us, aided by the Lord’s grace, look for opportunities to open wide the wings of our hearts and show our faith in God so that we turn all the circumstances and events of our lives into occasions of following the pathways of the Lord. His pathways generally go against what the world offers. The Lord calls us to sanctify ourselves and to sanctify the world – to sow peace and joy with the light of faith and Love in our own lives.

The heart, like gold, is purified with fire.

[1] Address of His Holiness Pope Francis to The Community of The International College of The Gesù, Rome, December 3, 2018