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Pope to Prisoners: 'You Can Open a New Chapter of Your Lives'

During Jubilee for Prisoners, Says Never Yield to Temptation of Thinking We Cannot be Forgiven

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‘By learning from past mistakes, you can open a new chapter of your lives.’
Pope Francis told prisoners this during the Mass he celebrated this morning in St. Peter’s Basilica for the Jubilee of Prisoners, encouraging them to start their lives anew, regardless of the past.
In his homily, Francis recalled today’s Gospel according to St. Luke which speaks about resurrection, and how we must have two types of hope: not only that for being born to a new life after death, but for a new life, even today…
“Hope is a gift of God. We must ask for it. It is placed deep within each human heart in order to shed light on this life, so often troubled and clouded by so many situations that bring sadness and pain. We need to nourish the roots of our hope so that they can bear fruit; primarily, the certainty of God’s closeness and compassion, despite whatever evil we have done.”
“There is no corner of our heart that cannot be touched by God’s love,” Francis said, noting, “May none of you allow yourselves to be held captive by the past!”
The Pope acknowledge that we–even if we wanted to–can never rewrite the past.
History Starting Now Has Yet to Be Written
“But the history that starts today, and looks to the future, has yet to be written, by the grace of God and your personal responsibility.”
Learning from our errors, he stressed, can make it possible to start over…
“Let us never yield to the temptation of thinking that we cannot be forgiven. Whatever our hearts may accuse us of, small or great, “God is greater than our hearts” (1 Jn 3:20). We need but entrust ourselves to his mercy.”
The Jesuit Pope reminded them that even faith as small as a mustard seed, has the power to move mountains.
“How many times has the power of faith enabled us to utter the word pardon in humanly impossible situations. People who have suffered violence and abuse, either themselves, or in the person of their loved ones, or their property… there are some wounds that only God’s power, his mercy, can heal.”
Never Abandons
Whenever someone makes a mistake, the Holy Father assured, God’s mercy is all the more present…, “awakening repentance, forgiveness, reconciliation and peace.
The Pope then encouraged those present to realize that this gathering for the imprisoned should have them reflect on mercy, as God’s love expressed, and that Jubilee’s are, by their nature, a time for faithful to find freedom.
“Certainly, breaking the law involves paying the price, and losing one’s freedom is the worst part of serving time, because it affects us so deeply. All the same, hope must not falter. Paying for the wrong we have done is one thing, but another thing entirely is the “breath” of hope, which cannot be stifled by anyone or anything. Our heart always yearns for goodness. We are in debt to the mercy that God constantly shows us, for he never abandons us (cf. Augustine, Sermo 254:1).”
God Hopes…
Recalling that in St. Paul’s letter to the Romans, he speaks of God as “the God of hope” (15:13), Francis observed: “It is as if Paul wants to say also to us: “God hopes”.
While this may seem paradoxical, the Pope underscored,  this is true
“It is true: God hopes! ….His mercy gives him no rest.”
He encouraged the imprisoned to remember that He is like that Father in the parable of the Prodigal Son, who keeps hoping for the return of his son, and that He is God, Who does not rest until He finds the lost sheep (Lk 15:5).
“So if God hopes, then no one should lose hope. For hope is the strength to keep moving forward. It is the power to press on towards the future and a changed life. It is the incentive to look to tomorrow, so that the love we have known, for all our failings, can show us a new path.”
In a word, hope is the proof, lying deep in our hearts, of the power of God’s mercy.
That mercy invites us to keep looking ahead and to overcome our attachment to evil and sin through faith and abandonment in him.
All Make Mistakes ….’Why Them and Not Me?’
“Sometimes, a certain hypocrisy leads to people considering you only as wrongdoers, for whom prison is the sole answer. I want to tell you, every time I visit a prison I ask myself: “Why them and not me?”.
“We can all make mistakes: all of us. And in one way or another we have made mistakes. Hypocrisy leads us to overlook the possibility that people can change their lives; we put little trust in rehabilitation, rehabilitation into society.”
In this way, the Pope said, we forget that we are all sinners and often, without being aware of it, we too are prisoners.
“Pointing the finger against someone who has made mistakes cannot become an alibi for concealing our own contradictions,” he said, adding, “No one can live without the certainty of finding forgiveness!”
Pope Francis concluded, praying that Mary look upon each of the prisoners with a Mother’s love, and that she “intercedes for you, so that your hearts can experience the power of hope for a new life, one worthy of being lived in complete freedom and in service to your neighbour.”
After the recitation of the Angelus prayer at noon, Pope Francis made an appeal for improving prison condition’s worldwide, recalled the Paris Agreement that came into force on Friday, and the 38 Albanian martyrs who were beatified yesterday.
Also as usual, the Holy Father wished all those present a good Sunday, lunch, and reminding them to pray for him.
***
On Zenit’s web page:
Homily:  https://zenit.org/articles/popes-homily-at-jubilee-of-prisoners/
Angelus: https://zenit.org/articles/angelus-address-on-resurrection/

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Deborah Castellano Lubov

Deborah Castellano Lubov is Senior Vatican & Rome Correspondent for ZENIT; author of 'The Other Francis' ('L'Altro Francesco') featuring interviews with those closest to the Pope and preface by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Parolin (currently published in 5 languages); Deborah is also NBC & MSNBC Vatican Analyst. She often covers the Pope's travels abroad, at times from the papal flight (including for historic trips such as to Abu Dhabi and Japan & Thailand), and has done television and radio commentary, including for Vatican Radio, Sky, and BBC. She is a contributor to National Catholic Register, UK Catholic Herald, Our Sunday Visitor, Inside the Vatican, and other Catholic news outlets. She has also collaborated with the Vatican in various projects, including an internship at the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, and is a collaborator with NBC Universal, NBC News, Euronews, and EWTN. For 'The Other Francis': http://www.gracewing.co.uk/page219.html or https://www.amazon.com/Other-Francis-Everything-They-about/dp/0852449348/

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