“For Jesus, what matters above all is reaching out to save those far off, healing the wounds of the sick, restoring everyone to God’s family! And this is scandalous to some people!”
The Pope made this statement during his homily at the Mass celebrated today in St. Peter’s Basilica with the newly created Cardinals, underscoring how Jesus was compassionate and reached out to the outcasts, and how following in His footsteps, means doing the same.
Compassion leads Jesus to concrete action, the Holy Father said, noting, “He reinstates the marginalized!”
“Jesus responds immediately to the leper’s plea,” the Pope said, “without waiting to study the situation and all its possible consequences! For Jesus, what matters above all is reaching out to save those far off, healing the wounds of the sick, restoring everyone to God’s family! And this is scandalous to some people!”
Regardless, Jesus wanted to heal him and restore him to the community “without being “hemmed in” by prejudice, conformity to the prevailing mindset or worry about becoming infected.”
Francis noted that Jesus is not afraid of this kind of scandal and does not think of the closed-minded who are scandalized even by a work of healing, openness, or tenderness.
The Jesuit Pope pointed out that there are two ways of thinking which are present throughout the Church’s history: casting off and reinstating.
Saints Peter and Paul in proclaiming the Gospel likewise caused scandal and met powerful resistance and great hostility.
The Church’s way, from the time of the Council of Jerusalem, has always been the way of Jesus, the way of mercy and reinstatement.
“This does not mean underestimating the dangers of letting wolves into the fold,” Francis said, “but welcoming the repentant prodigal son; healing the wounds of sin with courage and determination.”
To fully adopt God’s own approach, he said, requires “rolling up our sleeves and not standing by and watching passively the suffering of the world. The way of the Church is not to condemn anyone for eternity.”
“Charity cannot be neutral, antiseptic, indifferent, lukewarm or impartial! Charity is infectious, it excites, it risks and it engages! For true charity is always unmerited, unconditional and gratuitous!”
Charity, he added, is creative in finding the right words to speak to all those considered incurable and hence untouchable.
“Dear new Cardinals, this is the ‘logic,’ the mind of Jesus, and this is the way of the Church,” he said.
“Whoever says: ‘I abide in Christ’, ought to walk just as he walked,” Francis said. “Total openness to serving others is our hallmark; it alone is our title of honor!”
“Not only are we to welcome and reinstate with evangelical courage all those who knock at our door,” he said, “but to go out and seek, fearlessly and without prejudice, those who are distant, freely sharing what we ourselves freely received.”
He urged them to serve Jesus in every person who is emarginated, for whatever reason and to all who are excluded, including those who have lost or turned away from their faith, and call themselves atheists.
“We will not find the Lord unless we truly accept the marginalized!” he stressed.
“May we always have before us the image of Saint Francis, who was unafraid to embrace the leper and to accept every kind of outcast.”
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