Pope’s Morning Homily: Let God Caress You!

At Casa Santa Marta, Francis Says Those Who Don’t Know God’s Tenderness Don’t Know Christian Doctrine

© PHOTO.VA - Osservatore Romano

He who does not know the tenderness of God does not know the Christian doctrine.  This was the concept at the core of Pope Francis’ homily at morning Mass at the Casa Santa Marta, a homily focused largely on the figure of Judas.

Judas, an evangelical image of the lost sheep

Taking his cue from the Gospel reading of the day which recounts the Parable of the lost sheep, Pope Francis spoke of how the Lord never stops looking for us.

Describing the Lord as a kind of a judge, a judge who caresses and is full of tenderness, he said God does everything to save us.

“He does not come to condemn, but to save” the Pope said, and he loves each and every one of us personally. He knows us by name and loves us for what we are.

And speaking of the lost sheep Francis explained that it did not get lost because it didn’t have a compass but because it “had a sick heart” and was running away “to be distant from the Lord and was satiating an inner darkness.”

And pointing out that the Lord knows these things and never neglects to go out and look for the lost sheep, the Pope said the Lord’s attitude toward Judas is so symbolic:

“Judas is the most perfect lost sheep in the Gospel: a man with a bitter heart, someone who always had something to criticize in others, he was always ‘detached.’  He did not know the sweetness that comes of living without second ends with others. He was an unsatisfied man!” he said.

The Pope said that because of the darkness in his heart Judas was separated from the herd. He said – more in general – that darkness can lead to living a double life: “a double life that, perhaps painfully, many Christians, even priests and bishops lead…”

Pointing out that Judas himself was one of the first bishops, the Pope recalled a beautiful sermon given by Father Mazzolari in which he described Judas as a lost sheep: “Brother Judas, he said, what was happening in your heart?”  Francis said we need to understand lost sheep: each and every one of us has something in us of the lost sheep.

The Repentance of Judas

The Pope went on to explain that is not so much a mistake but a disease of the heart that makes a sheep wander and he said it is something the devil exploits.

Just as it was with Judas whose heart was ‘divided’. And finally when Judas saw what harm his double life had wreaked in the community, when he saw the evil he had sown because of the darkness in his heart that caused him to run away, looking for a light that was not the light of the Lord, but artificial lights like Christmas decorations, he was thrown into despair:

The Pope said that the Bible tells us that “the Lord is good, he never stops looking for the lost sheep” and it tells us that when Judas hanged himself he had repented.

“I believe that the Lord will take that word [repentance] and bring it with Him,” he said. And it tells us that right until the end God’s love was working in that soul.

He said that this is the message, the good news that Christmas brings, asking us to rejoice with a sincerity that brings with it a change of heart that leads us to take comfort in the Lord, and not in other ‘escapist’ consolations.

God’s power is in His tenderness

When Jesus finds the lost sheep he does not insult it although it caused so much harm, the Pope said, and in the Garden of Olives, he calls Judas with the appellative ‘friend’. These, he said, are God’s caresses:

“He who does not know the caresses of the Lord does not know Christian doctrine! He who does not allow himself to be caressed by the Lord is lost!” he said.

Pope Francis concluded saying that the consolation that we seek is in God’s tenderness that saves us and brings us back to the fold of his Church.

“May the Lord give us the grace to sincerely recognize our sins as we await Christmas, as we wait for the power of God who comes to console us with tenderness,” he said.

[From Vatican Radio]

Readings provided by the US bishops’ conference:

Tuesday of the Second Week in Advent
Lectionary: 182

Reading 1 IS 40:1-11

Comfort, give comfort to my people,
says your God.
Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her
that her service is at an end,
her guilt is expiated;
Indeed, she has received from the hand of the LORD
double for all her sins.

A voice cries out:
In the desert prepare the way of the LORD!
Make straight in the wasteland a highway for our God!
Every valley shall be filled in,
every mountain and hill shall be made low;
The rugged land shall be made a plain,
the rough country, a broad valley.
Then the glory of the LORD shall be revealed,
and all people shall see it together;
for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.

A voice says, “Cry out!”
I answer, “What shall I cry out?”
“All flesh is grass,
and all their glory like the flower of the field.
The grass withers, the flower wilts,
when the breath of the LORD blows upon it.
So then, the people is the grass.
Though the grass withers and the flower wilts,
the word of our God stands forever.”

Go up onto a high mountain,
Zion, herald of glad tidings;
Cry out at the top of your voice,
Jerusalem, herald of good news!
Fear not to cry out
and say to the cities of Judah:
Here is your God!
Here comes with power
the Lord GOD,
who rules by his strong arm;
Here is his reward with him,
his recompense before him.
Like a shepherd he feeds his flock;
in his arms he gathers the lambs,
Carrying them in his bosom,
and leading the ewes with care.

Responsorial Psalm PS 96:1-2, 3 AND 10AC, 11-12, 13

R. (see Isaiah 40:10ab) The Lord our God comes with power.
Sing to the LORD a new song;
sing to the LORD, all you lands.
Sing to the LORD; bless his name;
announce his salvation, day after day.
R. The Lord our God comes with power.
Tell his glory among the nations;
among all peoples, his wondrous deeds.
Say among the nations: The LORD is king;
he governs the peoples with equity.
R. The Lord our God comes with power.
Let the heavens be glad and the earth rejoice;
let the sea and what fills it resound;
let the plains be joyful and all that is in them!
Then let all the trees of the forest rejoice.
R. The Lord our God comes with power.
They shall exult before the LORD, for he comes;
for he comes to rule the earth.
He shall rule the world with justice
and the peoples with his constancy.
R. The Lord our God comes with power.

Alleluia

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
The day of the Lord is near:
Behold, he comes to save us.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel MT 18:12-14

Jesus said to his disciples:
“What is your opinion?
If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them goes astray,
will he not leave the ninety-nine in the hills
and go in search of the stray?
And if he finds it, amen, I say to you, he rejoices more over it
than over the ninety-nine that did not stray.
In just the same way, it is not the will of your heavenly Father
that one of these little ones be lost.”

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