Pope Francis says we are to open our hearts and find new ways to help meet others’ needs, and has warned against the trap of closing in ourselves.
The Pontiff encouraged faithful to do this today, during his address at his weekly General Audience, in which he continued his catechesis on the theme of mercy as the Jubilee Year nears its end. This week, Francis focused on the fact that among the works of mercy, are those of welcoming the stranger and clothing the naked.
Jesus, the Holy Father reminded, mentions both of these will be considered during the Last Judgement.
While observing that nowadays, the “stranger” is often the immigrant in our midst, the Latin American Pontiff underscored that in every age, immigration calls for a response of openness and solidarity.
As he reflected on this, Francis departed from his prepared remarks to share an anecdote, of an elderly woman who helped an immigrant. As the lady came across this young man, who was without shoes, they began to speak and she asked him, “What are you searching for?”
“Saint Peter’s to go through the Holy Door,” he responded to her question.
Moved with sympathy, she thought to herself: “But how can he walk? .. He doesn’t even have shoes. She insisted on offering a taxi to bring him. When the taxi driver stopped however, he was hesitant to accept the passenger, as he smelled very badly.
However, the driver agreed, as the immigrant and the lady got in and chatted on the way to the Vatican. They spoke about his history, what he has lived through, the trials, the war, etc.
By the end of the ride, the lady went to pay, and the driver, who hesitated to accept them, said: “No, Signora. It is I who must pay for you, because you made me listen to a story that changed my heart.”
In our own day, the Pontiff observed, the growing influx of refugees fleeing war, famine and dire poverty is a summons to welcome and care for these brothers and sisters.
Moreover, Francis encouraged those present to be inspired by the many committed Christians who have gone before us, such as Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini, and like them, “find generous and creative ways of meeting their immediate needs.”
“Clothing the naked,” he stressed, implies caring for those whose dignity has been stripped from them, and ensuring it is safeguarded and upheld.
As Christians, the Pope underscored, we are never to close our hearts to those in need.
Pope Francis concluded, praying we are open to others, restoring their God-given dignity, so our lives are enriched and our societies, more peaceful.
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