Pope Francis stressed this in the video message he sent for the occasion of the Jubilee Celebration for the Americas, which started Saturday in Bogotá, Colombia, and was sponsored by the Latin American Episcopal Council (CELAM) and the Pontifical Commission for Latin America (CAL), in collaboration with the Bishops’ Conferences of the United States and Canada.
Bishops, priests, religious and laity of the 22 countries of Latin America and the Caribbean, together with delegates from Canada and the United States and representatives of the Holy See, are taking part in the event.
In the video message, Francis drew inspiration from the words of the apostle St. Paul to his disciple Timothy, in which he stresses how Christ showed him mercy and “appointed me to his service, even though I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and a man of violence.” (1 Tim 1:12-16a) Francis underscored that as Paul speaks to Timothy, he wants to speak to each of us.
Francis noted that Paul’s words are an “invitation,” or as he stressed, “I would even say, ‘a provocation.’ They are words that cannot leave us indifferent; rather, they profoundly affect our lives.”
“Paul minces no words: Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners, of whom Paul considers himself the worst. He is clearly aware of who he is, he does not conceal his past or even his present. But he describes himself in this way neither to excuse or justify himself, much less to boast of his condition.”
Turning to those celebrating the Jubilee, the Pope noted how all of us in our lives in some way have received mercy.
Despite Our Failings
“For all our sins, our limitations, our failings, for all the many times we have fallen,” he continued, “Jesus has looked upon us and drawn near to us. He has given us his hand and showed us mercy. To whom? To me, to you, to everyone. All of us can think back and remember the many times the Lord looked upon us, drew near and showed us mercy. All those times that the Lord kept trusting, kept betting on us (cf. Ez 16).”
During this time of the Jubilee, the Pope urged, we ought to reflect on this truth, to think back on how throughout our lives the Lord has always been near us and showed us mercy. “To concentrate on remembering our sin and not our alleged merits, to grow in a humble and guilt-free awareness of all those times we turned away from God – we, not someone else, not the person next to us, much less that of our people – and to be once more amazed by God’s mercy.”
Francis stressed that this is “a sure message,” “sound teaching,” and “never empty talk.”
How God Relates to His Children
Francis explained that experiencing God’s mercy for those who feel crushed by the burden of their sins can feel relieved at being given another chance. “Far from a mere beautiful word, mercy is the concrete act by which God seeks to relate to his children.”
“Paul’s God,” he noted, “starts a movement from heart to hands, the movement of one who is unafraid to draw near, to touch, to caress, without being scandalized, without condemning, without dismissing anyone. A way of acting that becomes incarnate in people’s lives.”
The Pope encouraged all faithful to act out of hope, not fear.
“Acting on the basis of hope for change, for conversion, encourages and incites,” he said, noting, “it looks to the future, it makes room for opportunity, and it keeps us moving forward. Acting on the basis of fear bespeaks guilt, punishment, “you were wrong”. Acting on the basis of hope of transformation bespeaks trusting, learning, getting up, constantly trying to generate new opportunities.”
“How many times? Seventy times seven.”
For that reason, treating people with mercy, he noted, is not “married to one model or recipe, but enjoys a healthy freedom of spirit, and can thus seek what is the best for the other person, in a way they can understand. This engages all our abilities and gifts; it makes us step out from behind our walls. It is never empty talk – as Paul tells us – that entangles us in endless disputes.
“Acting on the basis of hope for change is a restless way of thinking that sets our heart pounding and readies our hands for action. The journey from heart to hands.”
The Holy Father noted that although we are all sinners, the Lord has unfailingly treated us with mercy. Paul, he recalled, never forgot that “he was on the other side.”
“We are part of a fragmented culture, a throwaway culture,” Francis said. “A culture tainted by the exclusion of everything that might threaten the interests of a few. A culture that is leaving by the roadside the faces of the elderly, children, ethnic minorities seen as a threat. A culture that little by little promotes the comfort of a few and increases the suffering of many others. A culture that is incapable of accompanying the young in their dreams but sedates them with promises of ethereal happiness and hides the living memory of their elders. A culture that has squandered the wisdom of the indigenous peoples and has shown itself incapable of caring for the richness of their lands.”
“All of us are aware, all of us know that we live in a society that is hurting; no one doubts this,” he said, noting it is “bleeding, and the price of its wounds normally ends up being paid by the most vulnerable.”
However, he reminded those listening, it is to this society, to this culture, that the Lord sends us. He sends and urges His faithful “to bring the balm of “His” presence,” and with one program alone: “to treat one another with mercy.”
On ZENIT’s Web page:
Full text: https://zenit.org/articles/pope-sends-video-message-to-americas/