Many of the saints were great sinners, but that made them become great practitioners of mercy.
Francis stressed this as he gave his second meditation, called, ‘The Vessel of Mercy,’ at Rome’s Papal Basilica of Saint John Lateran this morning as he spoke on the occasion of the Jubilee of priests and seminarians, June 1-3, during their retreat titled, “The Good Shepherd: the Priest as a Minister of Mercy and Compassion, Close to His People and Servant of All.”
The Jesuit Pope delivered three meditations today, starting in St. John Lateran at 10 a.m., the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore at noon, and the Basilica San Paolo Fuori le Mura at 4 p.m.
During the meditation, the Pope reflected on how the vessel of mercy is our sin, which “is usually like a sieve, or a leaky bucket, from which grace quickly drains.” Since God’s people have this habit of falling back into sin, the Lord had to teach Peter the need to “forgive seventy times seven,”the Pontiff said.
“God keeps forgiving, even though he sees how hard it is for his grace to take root in the parched and rocky soil of our hearts. He never stops sowing his mercy and his forgiveness,” Francis said, noting, “The Lord never tires of forgiving us; indeed, he renews the wineskins in which we receive that forgiveness.”
The Pontiff expressed that God recreates our hearts to be good vessels again, no longer “battered and leaky.”
Saints Were Great Sinners
“Almost all the great saints were great sinners or, like Saint Therese, knew that it was by sheer grace that they were not,” Francis reminded the priests, thinking back to Saints Peter and Paul, John, Augustine, Francis, and Ignatius. Those whose were recipients of mercy, the Jesuit Pontiff pointed out, often went on to become the “best practitioners of mercy.”
After reflecting on the saints’ conversion, he recalled the sinless Virgin Mary who is the “simple yet perfect vessel that receives and bestows mercy.” Her free “yes” to grace is the very opposite of the sin that led to the downfall of the prodigal son.
The Holy Father recalled his February visit to Mexico in which he prayed before the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Recalling her gaze, Francis told the clergy present how he prayer to Mary for priests to be good pastors.
The Pontiff noted how Mary’s gaze makes faithful feel her maternal embrace.
“What people seek in the eyes of Mary is “a place of rest where people, still orphans and disinherited, may find a place of refuge, a home.” And that has to do with the way she “gazes” – her eyes open up a space that is inviting, not at all like a tribunal or an office. If at times people realize that their own gaze has become hardened, that they tend to look at people with annoyance or coldness, they can turn back to her in heartfelt humility.”
“For Our Lady can remove every “cataract” that prevents them from seeing Christ in people’s souls,” he continued, “She can remove the myopia that fails to see the needs of others, which are the needs of the incarnate Lord, as well as the hyperopia that cannot see the details, “the small print”, where the truly important things are played out in the life of the Church and of the family.”
Weaving, Complete Attention
Another aspect of Mary’s gaze to do with weaving, he noted. “Mary gazes “by weaving”, by finding a way to bring good out of all the things that her people lay at her feet.”
“Mary’s gaze is one of complete attention,” he said, noting, “She leaves everything else behind, and is concerned only with the person in front of her. Like a mother, she is all ears for the child who has something to tell her. “
To all those who come to the Church, we must show open hearts and concern for them, Francis said. “Only a Church capable of attentive concern for all those who knock on her door can speak to them of God … Unless we can see into people’s suffering and recognize their needs, we will have nothing to offer them. The Pope reminded the priests how he asked their bishops to be attentive to them, “and not to leave you, their priests, ‘exposed to loneliness and abandonment, easy prey to a worldliness that devours the heart.”
“I told the bishops: “Be attentive and learn to read the faces of your priests, in order to rejoice with them when they feel the joy of recounting all that they have ‘done and taught,’ and that, “Your fatherly care for your priests must never be found wanting. Encourage communion among them; seek to bring out the best in them, and enlist them in great ventures, for the heart of an apostle was not made for small things.”
Turning back to Mary’s gaze, Francis noted, it is “integral,” all-embracing. “It brings everything together: our past, our present and our future,” and “is not fragmented or partial.” Since “mercy can see things as a whole and grasp what is most necessary,” Francis recalled how Mary at Cana “’empathetically’ foresaw what the lack of wine in the wedding feast would mean and she asked Jesus to resolve the problem, without anyone noticing.”
Pope Francis concluded, inviting the priests to join him in praying the Salva Regina so that, “with Mary, may we be the sign and sacrament of your mercy.”
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