As “living writers of the Gospel,” says Pope Francis, Christians should practice the works of mercy

Pope Francis caresses a child as he makes a tour of St. Peter's Square at the end of a Mass for the the Holy Year of Mercy, at the Vatican, Sunday, April 3, 2016. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

Descibing the Gospel as "the book of God’s mercy” and saying that it “remains an open book” Pope Francis, speaking in St Peter’s Square on Divine Mercy Sunday, called on Christians to become "living writers of the Gospel”  by practicing the corporal and spiritual works of mercy.

He reminded Christians of this calling in his homily at open-air mass, under a clear blue sky, in the square on April 3, attended by tens of thousands of pilgrims from many lands and all continents. Many cardinals—including Timothy Dolan of New York—and bishops were present at mass today.  So too was Austrian Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, O.P., chief editor of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, whom Francis has chosen to present his post-synod exhortation on the family at a press conference in the Vatican on April 8.

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“The Gospel is the book of God’s mercy, to be read and reread, because everything that Jesus said and did is an expression of the Father’s mercy,” he said. However, “not everything was written down," he added, because “the Gospel of mercy remains an open book, in which the signs of Christ’s disciples, which are concrete acts of love and the best witness to mercy, continue to be written.” He pointed out that in fact, through “these simple yet powerful gestures, even when unseen, we can accompany the needy, bringing God’s tenderness and consolation,” and so continue the work of Jesus on Easter day.

Francis recalled how on that first Easter the disciples felt fearful and were gathered behind closed doors, but then Jesus came and sent them into the world to proclaim the message of forgiveness. So too in our day, he said, we may experience “an interior struggle between a closed heart and the call of love to open doors closed by sin. It is a call that frees us to go out of ourselves.”

He told the pilgrims in the square and his much larger global audience, that “Christ, who for love entered through doors barred by sin, death and the powers of hell, wants to enter into each one of us to break open the locked doors of our hearts.” By his resurrection, Jesus “overcomes the fear and dread which imprison us” and “wishes to throw open our closed doors and send us out.”

The Jesuit pope emphasized that “the path that the Risen Master shows us is a one way street, it goes in only one direction: this means that we must move beyond ourselves to witness to the healing power of love that has conquered us.”

In today’s world, Francis said, “We see before us a humanity that is often wounded and fearful, a humanity that bears the scars of pain and uncertainty” and Jesus sends us to this very world with its “anguished cry for mercy and peace.”

He affirmed that in God’s mercy we find healing for “all of our infirmities.” His mercy “does not keep a distance: it seeks to encounter all forms of poverty and to free this world of so many types of slavery. Mercy desires to reach the wounds of all, to heal them.”

Saying that Christians are called to be “apostles of mercy,” Francis said this means “touching and soothing the wounds that today afflict the bodies and souls of many of our brothers and sisters,” and that by curing these wounds, Christians  “profess Jesus, we make him present and alive; we allow others, who touch his mercy with their own hands, to recognize him as Lord and God.”

The Gospel of mercy, he said, seeks people “with patient and open hearts, ‘good Samaritans’ who understand compassion and silence before the mystery of each brother and sister.” It requires “generous and joyful servants, people who love freely without expecting anything in return.”

In his homily, the pope reminded his fellow believers that the Risen Jesus “gives us his peace, the peace that has defeated sin, fear and death.” It is a peace “that does not divide but unites; it is a peace that does not abandon us but makes us feel listened to and loved; it is a peace that persists even in pain and enables hope to blossom. This peace, as on the day of Easter, is born ever anew by the forgiveness of God which calms our anxious hearts.”

He recalled that on Easter day Jesus entrusted to his church the mission “to be bearers of his peace,” and so today Christians are called “to be instruments of reconciliation, to bring the Father’s forgiveness to everyone, to reveal his loving face through concrete gestures of mercy.”

Calling for perserverance in trust in God, Francis said, “God’s mercy is forever; it never ends, it never runs out, it never gives up when faced with closed doors, and it never tires. In this forever we find strength in moments of trial and weakness because we are sure that God does not abandon us. He remains with us forever.”

At a prayer vigil of prayer on Divine Mercy on the previous evening, also attended by thousands of pilgrims, Francis concluded his intervention by saying it would be beautiful if every diocese in the world were to make “one work of mercy” in remembrance of this Jubilee Year of Mercy. He suggested that it could mean building a hospital or school, or shelter or something similar, that would stand as a concrete sign of God’s mercy to people in our day.

 

 

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