On Saturday, Pope Francis met in Saint Peter’s Square with participants in the Jubilee of Volunteers and Agents of Mercy, held Sept. 2-4 in Rome. The jubilee events culminated with the ceremony of the canonization of Mother Teresa of Calcutta.
Here is a ZENIT translation of the text of Pope Francis’ address to the participants:
We heard the hymn of love that the Apostle Paul wrote for the community of Corinth, and which is one of the most beautiful and demanding pages for witnessing our faith (cf. 1 Corinthians 13:1-13). How often Saint Paul has spoken of love and of faith in his writings; yet, in this text we are given something extraordinarily great and original. He affirms that, as opposed to faith and hope, love “will never end” (v. 8): it is forever. This teaching should be for us an indestructible certainty; the love of God will never fail in our life and in the history of the world. It is a love that is always young, active, dynamic and that attracts to itself in an incomparable way. It is a faithful love that does not betray, notwithstanding our contradictions. It is a fruitful love that generates and goes beyond all our sluggishness. We are all witnesses of this love. In fact, God’s love comes to meet us; it is like a full river that overwhelms us without, however, doing away with us; instead, on the contrary, it is a condition of life: “If I have no love I am nothing,” says Saint Paul (v. 2). The more we allow ourselves to be enveloped by this love, the more our life is regenerated. We should truly say with all our strength: I am loved, therefore I exist!
The love of which the Apostle speaks is not something abstract and vague; on the contrary, it is a love that is seen, is touched and is experienced personally. The greatest and most expressive form of this love is Jesus. His whole person and His life is nothing other than the concrete manifestation of the Father’s love, up to reaching the culminating moment: “God shows His love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). Love is this! It is not words; it is love. From Calvary, where the suffering of the Son of God reached its culmination, flows the source of love that cancels every sin and that recreates all in a new life. Let us always have indelibly this certainty of the faith: Christ loved me and gave Himself for me” (Galatians 2:20). This is the great certainty: Christ loved me and gave Himself for me, for you, for you, for all, for every one of us! Nothing and no one shall separate us from the love of God (cf. Romans 8:35-39). Therefore, love is the highest expression of our whole life and enables us to exist!
In face of this very essential content of the faith, the Church can never allow herself to act as the priest and Levite did in dealing with the man left half dead on the ground (cf. Luke 10:25-36). One cannot turn one’s gaze and look the other way so as not to see the many forms of poverty that call for mercy. And this turning to go the other way so as not to see hunger, sicknesses, exploited individuals …, this is a grave sin! It is also a modern sin; it is a sin of today! We Christians cannot permit ourselves this. It would not be worthy of the Church or of a Christian to “go beyond” and suppose we have a right conscience only because we have prayed and gone to Mass on Sunday. No. Calvary is always current; in fact it has not disappeared or remained a beautiful painting in our churches. That summit of com-passion, from which the love of God flows in dealing with human misery, still speaks to our days and spurs us to give ever new signs of mercy. I will never tire of saying that God’s mercy is not a beautiful idea, but a concrete action. There is no mercy without concreteness. Mercy is not doing good “in passing,” it is to involve oneself there where there is pain, where there is sickness, where there is hunger, where there is so much human exploitation. And human mercy also does not become such – namely human and mercy – until it has reached concreteness in daily action. The Apostle John’s admonition is always valid: “Little children, let us not love in words or speech but in deed and in truth” (1 John 3:18). The truth of mercy is verified, in fact in our daily gestures, which render visible God’s action in our midst.
Brothers and sisters, you who represent the great and varied world of volunteers. Among the most precious realities of the Church is in fact you, who every day, often in silence and hiddenness, give form and visibility to mercy. You are artisans of mercy: with your hands, with your eyes, with your listening, with your closeness, with your caresses … artisans! You express one of the most beautiful desires in man’s heart, that of having a suffering person feel loved. In the different conditions of need and necessities of so many persons, your presence is Christ’s extended hand that reaches all. You are Christ’s extended hand: have you thought of this? The Church’s credibility passes in a convincing way also through your service to abandoned children, the sick, the poor without food and work, the elderly, the homeless, prisoners, refugees and immigrants, and all those struck by natural calamities … In sum, wherever there is a request for help, your active and selfless witness reaches there. You render Christ’s law visible, that of bearing one another’s burdens (cf. Galatians 6:2; John 13-34).
Dear brothers and sisters, you touch Christ’s flesh with your hands: do not forget this. You touch Christ’s flesh with your hands. Always be ready in solidarity, strong in closeness, active in arousing joy and convincing in consolation. The world is in need of concrete signs of solidarity, especially in face of the temptation to indifference, and it requires individuals capable of opposing with their life individualism, thinking only of oneself, and being indifferent to brothers in need. Always be happy and full of joy for your service, but do not make it a motive for presumption, which leads to thinking oneself better than others. Instead, may your work of mercy be humble and an eloquent prolongation of Jesus Christ who continues to bend over and take care of one who suffers. Love, in fact, “builds” (1 Corinthians 8:1) and day after day it enables our communities to be a sign of fraternal communion.
And talk to the Lord about these things. Call Him. Do as Sister Preyma did, as Sister told us: she knocked on the door of the Tabernacle. She was that courageous! The Lord listens to us: call Him! Lord, look at this … Look at all this poverty, indifference, so much looking the other way; “This doesn’t touch me, I don’t care.” Talk about it with the Lord: “Lord, why? Lord, why? Why am I so weak and You have called me to do this service? Help me, and give me strength, give me humility.” The kernel of mercy is this dialogue with Jesus’ merciful heart.
Tomorrow we will have the joy of seeing Mother Teresa proclaimed a Saint. She merits it! This testimony of mercy of our times is added to the innumerable arrays of men and women that, with their holiness, render Christ’s love visible. Let us also imitate their example, and pray to be humble instruments in God’s hands to alleviate the suffering of the world and to give the joy and the hope of the resurrection. Thank you.
And before giving you a blessing, I invite you all to pray in silence for the many, many people who suffer; for so much suffering, for so many that live rejected by society. Pray also for the many volunteers like you, who go to encounter Christ’s flesh to touch it, cure it and feel it close. And pray also for the many, the many that in face of so much misery look the other way and feel in their heart a voice that says to them: “It doesn’t touch me, I don’t care.” Let us pray in silence.
[Silence] And we do so also with Our Lady: Hail Mary …
[Original text: Italian] [Translation by ZENIT]
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