“The Lord never abandons us, even in the worst moments."
During Pope Francis' visit Sunday evening to the parish of Santa Maria Madre del Redentore in the Roman suburb of Tor Bella Monaca, he said these words when speaking to the sick of the parish. He also celebrated Mass and greeted other groups.
When meeting with the sick in the Church of Saint Joan Antide, he thanked them for their welcome, their smiles, and assured them that the Lord is close to them.
"We have faith in Him: He is close to us," he said. When there are bad times, sadness, tears, he suggested, we should be comforted by our Lord's presence.
The Holy Father expressed how Jesus understands this suffering, noting: "He had a very bad experience on the Cross. You remember?"
"Never lose faith. Got It? Yes? But you are not very convinced, eh? Never lose faith! And with the Lord, there is also our Mother. Mothers never leave their children alone, and Our Lady is our mother. Now let us pray: "Hail Mary ..."
Before imparting his blessing, Francis reminded them that the Lord and His mother know what is pain, sadness, loneliness, and so many things, but they are always with and there for us.
To children, young people
The Holy Father also met with children and young people in the sports field of the parish where some young girls asked him three questions: How he felt when he was elected Pope; if God is all good and forgives, how is there Hell; and how to be moral or holy when they have difficulties and get teased.
"When responding, Now I ask myself: God forgives all, or not? [Answer: Yes! Forgive everything!] Because He is good ... or not? [Yes! And 'good!]”
The Pontiff reaffirmed that God is good, but “you know there is an angel who was very proud" and was envious of God. “He wanted the place of God. And God wanted to forgive him, but he said: ‘I have no need for forgiveness, I'm just myself.’”
“This is Hell,” the Pope said, to “say to God: "You arranged that I manage on my own.' Hell is the will away from God because I do not want the love of God. This is Hell. Do you understand?”
The devil, the Jesuit Pope stated, is in hell because he wanted to never have a relationship with God. Yet, the Holy Father pointed out, whether it is someone who has been on death row or the thief next to Jesus on the Cross, we can—even at the very last minute—ask for God’s pardon and mercy, and he will give it.
When that sinner being crucified next to Jesus said, “‘Lord, have mercy on me!’ What did Jesus say? Do you remember what he said? 'Today, this evening, you will be with me in Paradise.'" He then thanked the young girl for asking, telling her she seemed to be a theologian.
Regarding the other question of how to live morally, how to be holy before God, he said, “To live morally is a grace, a response to an encounter with Jesus. If you fall, it is He who gets up and makes you keep going."
"But if we think that the moral life is only 'do this', 'do not do this', 'do this', 'do not do this', 'do this', 'do not do this' ... this is not Christian. This is a moral philosophy, but no, it is not Christian."
Responding to what he felt when he was elected Pope, Francis said, "I do not know ... 'I have changed the diocese" ... [laughs, laughter] I was happy in a diocese and now I am happy in another. I have changed. Here you are."
He then prayed to Mary to bless them all, and told them to never go through life without Jesus.
Meeting with the Parish Pastoral Council
After being thanked for helping bring Jesus Christ to the neighborhood, the Holy Father reflected on the poor, saying, "The people of Tor Bella Monaca are good, good people."
"It only has a defect, but it is the same defect that had Jesus, Mary, Joseph, of being poor. Poverty ... The difference is that Joseph had a job, Jesus had a job. So many people here do not."
The Bishop of Rome lamented that so many people who are good are forced to do bad things, to find "another way," and acknowledged that problems of alcohol and drugs can worsen this cycle.
"But you have understood this, that under the dust, you can see there's a good soul, always. And a caress, a tenderness, a gesture of feeding people, does so much good."
He urged all those present to, "Get close. Do not be afraid of the neighborhood. Do not be afraid."
The Holy Father concluded, asking them to prayer for him, saying he needs their hugs and prayers.