On the Works of Mercy: Full Text of Pope Francis' General Audience, Sept. 10

“Mercy overcomes every wall, every barrier and brings you to always seek the face of man.”

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Here below is a translation of Pope Francis’ general audience catechesis, delivered in St. Peter’s Square Sept. 10th. 

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Dear brothers and sisters, good morning.

In our itinerary of catecheses on the Church, we pause to reflect on the Church as a mother. The last time we underlined how the Church makes us grow, and with the light and strength of the Word of God, shows us the path of salvation, and defends us from evil. Today, I would like to highlight one particular aspect of this educational action of the mother Church, that is, how She teaches us the works of mercy.

A good teacher concentrates on the essentials. They are not lost in the details, but wants to transmit that which truly counts so that the child or student finds the meaning and joy of life. it is the truth! And what is essential, according to the Gospel, is mercy. What is essential in the Gospel is mercy! God has sent His Son! God has made Himself man to save us, that is, to give us his mercy. Jesus says it clearly, summing up his teaching to the disciples: “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” (Lk.6, 36).

Can a Christian who is not merciful exist? No! A Christian must be merciful because this is the center of the Gospel.

Faithful to this teaching, the Church can only repeat the same thing to its children: “Be merciful”. as the Father is, and as Jesus has been. Mercy!

And so the Church behaves as Jesus. It does not make theoretical lessons on love, on mercy. It does not spread throughout the world a philosophy, a path of wisdom….Of course, Christianity is all of this, but as a consequence, of reflection. The Mother Church, as Jesus, teaches us by example, the words serve to illuminate the meaning of its gestures.

The Mother Church teaches us to give food and drink to those who are hungry and thirsty, to clothe those who are naked. And how does she do it? By the example of so many saints who have done this in an exemplary way. But also, by the example of so many fathers and mothers, who teach their children that what is leftover to us if for those who are needy.

It is important to know this.

The rule of hospitality has always been sacred to the most ordinary Christian families: there is never a lack of food and a bed for those who are needy.

One time, a mother in a another diocese told me that she wanted to teach this to her children. and she would tell them to help and to give food to those who are hungry. She had three [children]. And one day during lunch, the father was away at work.and she was with her three small children. Seven, five and four years old, more or less. There was a knock at the door and there was a man who asked for something to eat. And the mother told him, “Wait one moment.” She went to her children and said, “There is a man who is asking for something to eat. What should we do?” The children said, “Yes, mom, let’s give him something.” Each one had a steak with fried potatoes on their plate. And the mother said, “Ok then, let’s give him half of each plate and we’ll give him half a steak from each one of you.” The children said, “Oh no, mom, that’s not how it should be done.” And she said, “That is how it is done! You must give of your own [plate].” And like this, the mother taught her children to give others to eat from their own plate. This is a beautiful example that helped me so much. “But I don’t have any left over.” But give from what you have. That is how the mother Church teaches us. And so many mothers here, you know what you must do to teach your children. So that they share their things with those in need.

Mother Church teaches us to be close to those who are sick. How many holy men and women have served Jesus in this way!  How many ordinary men and women, every day, put in practice this work of mercy in a hospital room, or a retirement home, or in their own home, helping the sick.

Mother Church teaches us to be close to those who are imprisoned. “But Father, no, this is dangerous. They are bad people!” But each one of us is capable of the same. Listen well: Each one of us is capable of doing the same thing that man or that woman in prison has done! We all have the ability to sin and to do the same! To make mistakes in life. They are not worse than you or me.

Mercy overcomes every wall, every barrier and brings you to always seek the face of man. And it is mercy that changes the heart and life, that can regenerate a person and allow them to insert themselves in a new way in society.

Mother Church teaches us to be close to those who are abandoned and dying alone. It is what Blessed Teresa did in the streets of Calcutta; and that which many Christians have done and still do who have no fear of holding the hand of those who are leaving this world. Even here, mercy gives peace to those departed and those who stay, making them feel that God is greater than death, and that remaining in Him, even the final moment is a “see you later”. Blessed Teresa understood this very well. But some would say to her, “Mother you are wasting your time.” She would find people who were dying on the streets. People who were being eaten by the mice on the streets. And she would bring them home so they could die clean, calmly, caressed and in peace. She would give them a “farewell”. But all those people that she, and so many women and men like her who do this to, are waiting to open the door of heaven for them. To help people die well, in peace.

Dear brothers and sisters, in this way the Church is a mother, teaching its children the works of mercy. She has learned this path from Jesus, She has learned that this is essential for salvation. It is not enough to love those who love us. It is not enough to do good to those who do good to us. To change the world for the better, doing good to those who are unable to reciprocate, as the Father has done with us, in giving us Jesus.

Let us thank the Lord, who has given us the grace to have the Church as a mother, who teaches us the path of mercy that is the path of life.

[Original: Italian] [Translation by Junno Arocho Esteves]
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