Do Christians know too much about God?
Some years ago I read an article by a Sister from Hong Kong that I found thought-provoking. The Sister had attended a meeting of religious leaders in China and was impressed by a Taoist Holy Man. Towards the end of the meeting she asked him what he thought of Christians. He replied, “I think you Christians know too much about God.” Now Chinese philosophers are famous for their thought-provoking, enigmatic statements but that statement did make me think. I believe what the Holy Man was saying was, you Christians are doctrine rich but contemplation poor. You know so much about God but do you know God? You know so much that there is hardly anything left to wonder about. You have lots of doctrine but do you know the mystery that is God.
Pope Francis calls for discernment
Pope Francis’ call for discernment will require a deeper faith and new skills and structures. It will be a challenge to Dioceses and Episcopal Conferences to discern for themselves the signs of the times and plan for the future. We will have to develop new structures for listening, consulting and deciding that involves everyone. This will involve structures such as national and diocesan Synods. At the moment we do not have such structures in the Australian Church. There have only been four national synods in our history and the last one was in 1937. One for Australia in 2020 – new hope.
The role of success, power and riches in shaping our minds and hearts
Many of us are working class by birth but education and financial success have made us middle class in lifestyle, interests and recreation. The real demands of justice and of the spiritual life only become clearer in personal contact and practical involvement. We must take seriously the role of success, power and riches in shaping our minds and hearts. It is important that we have personal contact with the poor for otherwise it is almost impossible to see with their eyes or hear with their ears.
True to form, Francis insists that the first step is to draw close to the poor so that we might have the “smell of the sheep”. “It is essential to draw near to new forms of poverty and vulnerability , in which we are called to recognise the suffering of Christ…. I think of the homeless, the addicted, refugees, indigenous peoples, the elderly who are increasingly isolated and abandoned, and many others. Migrants present a particular challenge for me, since I am the pastor of a Church without frontiers, a Church which considers herself mother to all.”
Draw near to the poor
Pope Francis in The Joy of the Gospel uses the words “poor” and “poverty” 91 times. The special place of the poor, the need to include the poor and the necessity of working to eliminate the structural causes of poverty are central themes in his vision of mission. In fact he goes so far as to warn us, “Whenever our interior life becomes caught up in its own interests and concerns, there is no longer room for others, no place for the poor. God’s voice is no longer heard, the quiet joy of his love is no longer felt, and the desire to do good fades.”
A Pope who wants to talk with us
“Unless we train ministers capable of warming people’s hearts, of walking with them in the night, of dialoguing with their hopes and disappointments, of mending their brokenness, what hope can we have for our present and future journey?”
Climate as a common good
The climate is a common good, belonging to all and meant for all. At a global level, it is a complex system linked to many of the essential conditions for human life. A very solid scientific consensus indicates that we are presently witnessing a disturbing warming of the climatic system. In recent decades this warming has been accompanied by a constant rise in the sea level and, it would appear, by an increase of extreme weather events, even if a scientifically determinable cause cannot be assigned to each particular phenomenon. Humanity is called to recognise the need for changes of lifestyle, production and consumption, in order to combat this warming or at least the human causes which produce or aggravate it. I this true that there are other factors (such as volcanic activity, variations in the earth’s orbit and axis, the solar cycle), yet a number of scientific studies indicate that most global warming in recent decades is due to the great concentration of greenhouse gasses (carbon dioxide, methane, nitrogen oxides and others) released mainly as a result of human activity. Concentrated in the atmosphere, these gases do not allow the warmth of the sun’s rays reflected by the earth to be dispersed in space. The problem ism aggravated by a model of development based on the intensive use of fossil fuels, which is at the heart of the worldwide energy system. Another determining factor has been an increase in changed uses of the soil, principally deforestation for agricultural purposes.
Pollution, waste and the throwaway culture
Some forms of pollution are part of people’s daily experience. Exposure to atmospheric pollutants produces a broad spectrum of health hazards, especially for the poor, and causes millions of premature deaths. People take sick, for example, from breathing high levels of smoke from fuels used in cooking or heating.
There is also pollution that affects everyone, caused by transport, industrial fumes, substances which contribute to the acidification of soil and water, fertilisers, insecticides, fungicides, herbicides and agrotoxins in general.
Technology, which, linked to business interests, is presented as the only way of solving these problems, in fact proves incapable of seeing the mysterious network of relations between things and so sometimes solves one problem only to create others.
Pope Francis asks for a new dialogue on how we are shaping the planet
I urgently appeal, then, for a new dialogue about how we are shaping the future of our planet.
We need a conversation which includes everyone, since the environmental challenge we are undergoing, and its human roots, concern and affect us all.
The worldwide ecological movement has already made considerable progress and led to the establishment of numerous organisations committed to raising awareness of these challenges.
Regrettably, many efforts to seek concrete solutions to the environmental crisis have proved ineffective, not only because of powerful opposition but also because of a more general lack of interest.
Obstructionist attitudes, even on the part of believers, can range from denial of the problem to indifference, nonchalant resignation or blind confidence in technical solutions.
We require a new and universal solidarity. As the bishops of Southern Africa have stated: Everyone’s talents and involvement are needed to redress the damage caused by human abuse of God’s creation”. All of us can cooperate as instruments of God for the care of creation, each according to his or her own culture, experience, involvements and talents.
Pope decries ‘relentless exclusion’
Pope Francis has voiced strong support for the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Addressing the UN General Assembly in 2015, the Pope said the misuse and destruction of the environment is accompanied by a “relentless process of exclusion”.
“In effect, a selfish and boundless thirst for power and material prosperity leads both to the misuse of available natural resources and to the exclusion of the weak and disadvantaged.
“Economic and social exclusion is a complete denial of human fraternity and a grave offence against human rights and the environment.
“The poorest are those who suffer most from such offences, for three serious reasons: they are cast off by society; forced to live off what is discarded; and suffer unjustly from the abuse of the environment.
“They are part of today’s widespread and quietly growing ‘culture of waste’.”
Referring to the need for effective solutions, Pope Francis said the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is an important sign of hope that the Paris Conference on Climate Change will secure fundamental and effective agreements.
The Pope called on government leaders to take concrete steps to preserve and improve the natural environment and thus end the phenomenon of social and economic exclusion, “with its baneful consequences”: human trafficking, the marketing of human organs and tissues, the sexual exploitation of boys and girls, drug and weapons trade, terrorism and international organised crime.
Pope Francis and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew joint statement
“We urgently appeal to those in positions of social and economic, as well as political and cultural, responsibility to hear the cry of the earth and to attend to the needs of the marginalised, but above all to respond to the plea of millions and support the consensus of the world for the healing of our wounded creation. We are convinced that there can be no sincere and enduring resolution to the challenge of the ecological crisis and climate change unless the response is concerted and collective, unless the responsibility is shared and accountable, unless we give priority to solidarity and service.”
The urgent challenge to protect our common home includes a concern to bring the whole human family together to seek a sustainable and integral development, for we know that things can change. The Creator does not abandon us; he never forsakes his loving plan or repents of having created us. Humanity still has the ability to work together in building our common home. Here I want to recognise, encourage and thank all those striving in countless ways to guarantee the protection of the home we share. Particular appreciation is owed to those who tirelessly seek to resolve the tragic effects of environmental degradation on the lives of the world’s poorest. Young people demand change. They wonder how anyone can claim to be building a better future without thinking of the environmental crisis and the sufferings of the excluded.
Saint Francis, faithful to Scripture, invites us to see nature as a magnificent book in which God speaks to us and grants us a glimpse of his infinite beauty and goodness. “Through the greatness and the beauty of creatures one comes to know by analogy their maker” (Wis 13:5); indeed, “his eternal power and divinity have been made known through his works since the creation of the world” (Rom 1:20). For this reason, Francis asked that part of the friary garden always be left untouched, so that wild flowers and herbs could grow there, and those who saw them could raise their minds to God, the Creator of such beauty. Rather than a problem to be solved, the world is a joyful mystery to be contemplated with gladness and praise.
Message of his holiness Pope Francis for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees 2017
Dear Brothers and Sisters, “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me; and whoever receives me, receives not me but him who sent me.” (Mk 9:37; cf. Mt 18:5; Lk 9:48; Jn 13:20).
With these words, the Evangelists remind the Christian community of Jesus’ teaching, which both inspires and challenges. This phrase traces the sure path which leads to God; it begins with the smallest and, through the grace of our Saviour, it grows into the practice of welcoming others.
To be welcoming is a necessary condition for making this journey a concrete reality: God made himself one of us. In Jesus God became a child, and the openness of faith to God, which nourishes hope, is expressed in loving proximity to the smallest and the weakest.
Charity, faith and hope are all actively present in the spiritual and corporal works of mercy, as we have rediscovered during the recent Extraordinary Jubilee.
I do not want to write this Encyclical without turning to that attractive and compelling figure, whose name I took as my guide and inspiration when I was elected Bishop of Rome. I believe that Saint Francis is the example par excellence of care for the vulnerable and of an integral ecology lived out joyfully and authentically.
He is the patron saint of all who study and work in the area of ecology, and he is also much loved by non-Christians.
He was particularly concerned for God’s creation and for the poor and outcast.
He loved, and was deeply loved for his joy, his generous self-giving, his openheartedness. He was a mystic and a pilgrim who lived in simplicity and in wonderful harmony with God, with others, with nature and with himself.
He shows us how inseparable the bond is between concern for nature, justice for the poor, commitment to society, and interior peace.
Pope Francis on care for our Common Home
“Laudato Si’, mi’ signore” – “Praise be to you, my Lord”. In the words of this beautiful canticle, Saint Francis of Assisi reminds us that our common home is like a sister with whom we share our life and a beautiful mother who opens her arms to embrace us.
“Praise be to you, my Lord, through our Sister, Mother Earth, who sustains and governs us, and who produces various fruit with coloured flowers and herbs”.
Pope Francis ‘Wish’ List
- Don’t gossip
- Finish your meals
- Make time for others
- Choose the ‘more humble’ purchase
- Meet the poor ‘in the flesh’
- Stop judging others
- Befriend those who disagree
- Make commitments, such as marriage
- Make it a habit to ‘ask the Lord’
- Be happy
“They did not ask for the seas to rise. Not once did they call for their land to slowly wash away with the changing tide.
We pray that together we can bring real change to help, not hurt our world.
We must not forget the grave social consequences of climate change. It is the poorest who suffer the worst consequences.” Pope Francis
A prayer for Pope Francis
We rejoice in the life and spirit of Pope Francis. We thank You for his courage, his energy, his humility.
We thank You for Your continued guidance of our Church, and we pray You continue to extend your blessings to all your faithful.
We ask that You be with Francis now, as he embarks on a great undertaking, shepherding, stewarding, and renewing the flock as he guides us through turbulent times.
What kind of world do we want to leave to those who come after us, to children who are now growing up?
Creator of heaven and earth, we praise You
for the gift of Mother Earth, its splendour
and beauty; a common home for us all;
You entrusted us with its care; we are
humbled by this honour.
We recognise Father, the changes needed in
We seek your help!
What are we seeing?
- 2016 was by far the hottest year ever recorded.
- Each month more heat and extreme weather records are broken.
- Climate change is the single biggest challenge to ending extreme poverty and adds to stresses of inequality and conflict.
This article from Caritas is expressing the urgency of our world in an environmental crisis. Yet as Pope Francis mentions in Laudate Si, 50 years ago Pope St John XXlll wrote his encyclical Pacem in Terris showing his concerns. Eight years later, Pope Paul Vl wrote on how we were exploiting nature. Then St John Paul LL became increasingly concerned with this issue. So our Popes over many years have been pro-active in warning us of the precious world we have been gifted with and we need to heed the warning.
“For many, many years – well over 20 years – we’ve asked world leaders to take action, to hear our voice, to stop polluting the atmosphere. The truth of it is, we just can’t wait any longer.” Pope Francis has a way to say something or use Scripture to put out his message in such a simple way but you can’t refute it. “Love does no wrong to a neighbour.” Romans 13:10
Climate Change – the poorest suffer the worst consequences
Pope Francis is well aware of the seriousness of this dilemma facing many especially the poor. “Every morning we wake up and see the Pacific ocean. It surrounds our home, our island. But right now, the ocean is pretty much in our living room. Unless something changes, many of our homes are going to be lost to sea level rise . . . ” Amelia Ma’afu, CEO of Caritas Tonga (Caritas Australia’s sister agency) It is the low lying islander people such as in Tonga as Amelia mentions above and why Pope Francis says to all: “We must not forget the grave social consequences of climate change. It is the poorest who suffer the worst consequences.” Pope Francis
The Year of Mercy has sadly come to an end but the Pope has left the doors open in so many areas for us to keep expanding our vision to see what else we can do? One of the most challenging areas has been the launch of Laudato Si. We are now able to combine what we understand in the Scriptures and apply it in practical terms to our environment. The Pope has called this document – Our Common Home. The title itself means that we are all responsible and are called upon to do something, not leave it to someone else or think the problem is beyond us personally. Some of the quotes and prayers from the document are worthy of our reflection if not our response. “The world’s poor, though least responsible for climate change, are most vulnerable and already suffering its impact . . . When we mistreat nature, we also mistreat human beings.” Pope Francis Maybe an explanation of climate change would help to set the scene. This is through Caritas: What is Climate Change? Climate change refers to the changing average weather patterns over time. These changes are caused by both natural and human factors. Climate change is linked to the increase in greenhouse gases in the earth’s atmosphere.
YEAR OF MERCY CONCLUDES The Jubilee Year of Mercy declared by Pope Francis will come to a close on 20 November this year. The doors of Saint Peter’s Basilica will close to conclude the Jubilee of Mercy in November. But we as Catholics are called to keep the metaphorical doors of mercy open, the doors of our minds and hearts and homes. When the Holy Year of Mercy began, at the “Presentation of the Jubilee,” Pope Francis said, “I have decided to announce an Extraordinary Jubilee which has at its centre the mercy of God. It will be a Holy Year of Mercy. We want to live in the light of the word of the Lord: ‘Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful’ (cf. Lk 6:36).” With the start of a new liturgical year, Pope Francis’ Jubilee Year of Mercy will come to an end. The official end of the Holy Year of Mercy is November 20. The purpose of this Holy Year of Mercy has been to highlight the importance of being merciful to one another, as God is to us. Jesus said, “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy” (Matthew 5:7). The Holy Year of Mercy presented a wonderful opportunity to catechists and families: time to focus on and practice the virtue of mercy in our daily lives. Mercy is the caring for the needs of people’s minds, hearts, and lives. It means to share in God’s forgiveness and love. As Catholics we are always called to be merciful as God is merciful. The Holy Year of Mercy has presented a special opportunity to learn about and practice mercy in our own lives, homes, classrooms, and communities. The closing of the doors of Saint Peter’s Basilica is an opportunity for all of us to remember to not close our hearts and continue to be merciful to one another.
Religions called to bear ‘the merciful love of God to a wounded and needy humanity
Authentic religions help people understand that they are, in fact, loved and can be forgiven and are called to love and forgive others, Pope Francis has said. “We thirst for mercy, and no technology can quench that thirst,” the Pope told Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Sikh and other religious leaders. “We seek a love that endures beyond momentary pleasures, a safe harbour where we can end our restless wanderings, an infinite embrace that forgives and reconciles,” the Pope told the leaders during an audience at the Vatican. The leaders were in Rome for a conference on religions and mercy organised by the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue and the International Dialogue Centre, which was founded in 2012 by Saudi Arabia, Austria and Spain with the support of the Holy See. “Sadly,” the Pope said, “not a day passes that we do not hear of acts of violence, conflict, kidnapping, terrorist attacks, killings and destruction. It is horrible that at times, to justify such barbarism, the name of a religion or the name of God himself is invoked. “May there be clear condemnations of these iniquitous attitudes that profane the name of God and sully the religious quest of mankind,” he said. Religions are called to bear “the merciful love of God to a wounded and needy humanity,” he said, and to be “doors of hope helping to penetrate the walls erected by pride and fear.” Mercy, Pope Francis told the group, is the foundation of every authentic religion. It is the truest revelation of who God is, but also “the key to understanding the mystery of man, of that humanity which, today too, is in great need of forgiveness and peace.” While many people seem to prefer living as if God does not exist, the Pope said he believes that underneath human bravado, there is a “widespread fear that it is impossible to be forgiven, rehabilitated and redeemed from our weaknesses.” The Catholic Church’s Year of Mercy, which will close on November 20, was meant to help people understand that God’s mercy and forgiveness are accessible to all and that, experiencing God’s mercy, they are called in turn to forgive and show mercy to others, he said. Professing faith in God’s mercy, he said, means very little unless one backs up that profession with actions of love, service and sharing. Engaging in interreligious dialogue and encouraging one’s faithful to meet and get to know their neighbours of other religions are part of preaching mercy, he said. Dialogue helps eliminate “closed-mindedness and disrespect, and drives out every form of violence and discrimination.” Dialogue “is pleasing to God and constitutes an urgent task,” he said, because it responds to the need to make peace in societies and, “above all to the summons to love which is the soul of all authentic religion.” “To bow down with compassionate love before the weak and needy is part of the authentic spirit of religion, which rejects the temptation to resort to force, refuses to barter human lives and sees others as brothers and sisters, and never mere statistics,” the Pope said. Pope Francis also insisted that the mercy believers are called to share also must be extended to the Earth, “which we are called to protect and preserve from unbridled and rapacious consumption.” Religious leaders, he said, must educate their members in the religious obligation of respect for the world God created and encourage “a simpler and more orderly way of life in which the resources of creation are used with wisdom and moderation, with concern for humanity as a whole and for coming generations, not simply the interests of our particular group and the benefits of the present moment.”
SAINT THAT SHOWED GREAT MERCY
Pope Francis has said, “A little mercy makes the world less cold and more just.” St. Pio Who can doubt the example of mercy in action in St. Pio of Pietrelcina? Through as many as 12 hours in the confessional every day, Padre Pio practiced mercy to countless repentant sinners, offering them forgiveness and conversion. As St. John Paul II said of him, “Padre Pio was a generous dispenser of Divine Mercy.” Yet he saw his own need of it, stating, “Jesus continues to love me and to draw me closer to himself. He has forgotten my sins, and I would say that he remembers only his own mercy. Each morning, he comes into my heart and pours out all the effusions of his goodness.”
DON’T RUN AWAY FROM THE NEEDY
A culture of “comfort” often leads people to become closed in on themselves, Pope Francis said today. He therefore called on believers and people of good will to take personal responsibility for the needs of their neighbors, instead of “running away.” The Pope’s appeal came at the Wednesday general audience in St. Peter’s Square, as he continued his final series of catecheses — on the corporal and spiritual works of mercy — before the close of the Year of Mercy on November 20. Today he focused on the first corporal work of mercy: feeding the hungry. Speaking to thousands of pilgrims from all over the world, the pope said we are often presented with “ephemeral lifestyles that disappear after a few years, as if our lives were a fad to follow and change with every season,” But “reality needs to be accepted and dealt with for what it is, and life sometimes sets before us situations of urgent need.” “How often the media informs us about peoples who are suffering from a lack of food and water, with serious consequences particularly for children.” “Faced with this news and especially with certain images,” he continued, “public opinion is touched and from time to time campaigns are launched to stimulate solidarity. People donate generously and, in this way, one can contribute to alleviating the suffering of many people.” “This form of charity is important,” Pope Francis said, “but perhaps it doesn’t involve us directly.” Speaking off the cuff, he then said: “Poverty in the abstract doesn’t call us to respond personally. It makes us think, it makes us complain, but when you see poverty in the flesh of a man, a woman, a child — yes — this calls us to respond personally…. We have the habit of running away, the habit of running away from the needy, of not drawing near, or of ‘touching up’ the reality of the needy with fashionable trends, and so we distance ourselves from this reality.”
“In these cases, how do I react?” the pope asked. “Do I turn away my gaze, do I walk on? Or do I stop and talk, and take interest in how he is? … Do I see if I can welcome this person in some way, or do I seek to free myself from him as soon as possible?” We must never forget that this work of mercy calls us to respond personally to concrete situations of need in our own lives, he said. Saint James warns against ignoring the practical needs of our brothers and sisters, for faith without works is dead (James 2:14-17). In the miracle of the loaves and fishes, Jesus tells his disciples to provide food for the crowds, yet he shows them that, in sharing what they have, he will give it increase. Quoting Pope Benedict XVI’s encyclical on integral human development, Caritas in veritate, he stated: “Feed the hungry (cf. Mt 25: 35, 37, 42) is an ethical imperative for the universal Church … The right to food, like the right to water, has an important place within the pursuit of other rights, beginning with the fundamental right to life. It is therefore necessary to cultivate a public conscience that considers food and access to water as universal rights of all human beings, without distinction or discrimination.” Jesus himself is the bread of life, and he makes it clear that our relationship with the Father depends on the way we respond to the hunger and thirst of our brothers and sisters, he said.
NEVER TIRE OF BEING MERCIFUL
“Today I ask you in the name of Christ and the Church, never tire of being merciful.” When we ourselves have been blessed by mercy, we have the ability to people capable of showing real love to the world. Living out love in our families, workplaces, Churches, schools and everywhere in between, we can reach out to those who feel rejected by the world. As the Pope has stated, “The Church is a mission hospital” where the lost and rejected can find a home. The Church is for everyone. Mercy has no age limits, it is “colour blind” and it is for people of all backgrounds. Jesus is the answer to all the world’s problems through his sacrifice on the cross for humankind. The Catholic Church is “universal” and now is the time to offer our love to the world in this graced “Year of Mercy”. GOD’S MERCY GOES BEYOND THE DESPERATION OF HUMAN SUFFERING: Vatican City, Sep 28, 2016 On Wednesday Pope Francis said that Jesus’ salvific mission reaches its culmination on the Cross in his conversation with the two thieves crucified with him, showing that God’s mercy goes beyond the desperation of human suffering, responding to it with mercy and forgiveness. When the bad thief cries out to Jesus on the Cross, telling him “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us,” this act “bears witness to the anguish of man in front of the mystery of death and the tragic awareness that only God can be the liberating answer,” the Pope said Sept. 28. As he dies on the Cross alongside two criminals, Jesus confirms God’s salvation “can reach any man in any condition, even the most negative and painful.” Because of this, Francis said the ongoing Jubilee of Mercy is a time of grace and of mercy “for all, good and evil, those who are healthy and those who suffer. The good and the bad…because the Church is mercy!” “Nothing can separate us from the love of Christ!” he said, and directed his words to all who are “nailed to a hospital bed, who live closed in a prison, to those who are trapped in war,” telling them: “look to the Crucifix; God is with you, he remains with you on the Cross and offers himself to all as the Savior.” Pope Francis spoke to the thousands of pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square for his weekly general audience, giving special greetings to the American seminarians in Rome who will be ordained deacons Thursday and their families. He continued his ongoing catechesis on mercy, telling attendees that when Jesus forgives those nailing him to the Cross, saying “Lord forgive them, for they know not what they do,” his words “culminate in forgiveness…Jesus forgives.” When confronted with the opposite attitudes of the two thieves he is crucified with, Jesus hears the first one insult him, the Pope said, but explained that this offense was “driven by desperation” caused by suffering. Jesus’ forgiveness, he said, bears witness to the fact that “he who has done terrible things in life has the ability to be forgiven.” The second criminal, known as the “Good Thief,” provides a model of true repentance and “a catechesis focused on learning to ask Jesus for forgiveness,” Francis said. In telling the second criminal “have you no fear of God?” the good thief reveals “the starting point of repentance: fear of the Lord.” Pope Francis stressed that Fear of the Lord is “not being afraid of God, but that respect that one must give to God because he is God.” “The good thief calls attention to the fundamental attitude which opens to trust in God: the awareness of his omnipotence and of his infinite goodness,” he said, noting that “this is the trusting respect which helps to make space for God and to entrust oneself to his mercy, even in the thickest darkness.” Francis pointed to the “tenderness” and “humanity” of the good thief in asking Jesus to remember him, explaining that it’s necessary for the human being to know they are not abandoned, and that God is always close. Jesus’ response that “today you will be with me in paradise,” shows that even a man condemned to death “becomes a model of Christianity who entrusts himself to Jesus.” It is while Jesus hangs on the Cross that his salvation culminates, the Pope said, noting that his promise to the good thief “reveals the fulfillment of his mission: to save sinners.” “On the cross, the final act confirms the final realization of his saving plan. From the beginning to the end he proved himself to be mercy, the definitive and unrepeatable love of the Father,” he said. “Jesus is truly the face of the mercy of the Father,” Francis said, and, closing his address, noted how the good thief called Jesus by name, and led pilgrims in repeating the name of Jesus three times as a short prayer. After his address, Francis turned his thoughts to the ongoing conflict in “the beloved and martyred Syria.” Upon hearing of continued airstrikes in Aleppo, he voiced his “deep sorrow and lively concern” over the fact that innocent children, elderly, sick and youth continue to lose their lives in the bombings. He assured his spiritual closeness to those suffering, and renewed his appeal for everyone to commit themselves to protecting civilians, “which is a committed and urgent obligation.” Francis also issued an appeal “to the consciences” of those responsible for the bombings, saying “they must answer before God” for their actions. THE LORD IS MERCIFUL “If we—all of us—accept the grace of Jesus Christ, he changes our heart and from sinners makes us saints. To become holy we do not need to turn our eyes away and look somewhere else, or have as it were the face on a holy card! No, no, that is not necessary. To become saints only one thing is necessary: to accept the grace that the Father gives us in Jesus Christ. There, this grace changes our heart. We continue to be sinners for we are weak, but with this grace which makes us feel that the Lord is good, that the Lord is merciful, that the Lord waits for us, that the Lord pardons us—this immense grace that changes our heart.” Pope Francis,MERCY IN MOTION Corporal Works – The Corporal Works of Mercy are found in the teachings of Jesus and give us a model for how we should treat all others, as if they were Christ in disguise. They “are charitable actions by which we help our neighbors in their bodily needs”. They respond to the basic needs of humanity as we journey together through this life. To Feed the Hungry To Give Drink to the Thirsty To Shelter the Homeless To Visit the Sick To Visit Prisoners To Clothe the Naked To Bury the Dead SPIRITUAL WORKS – The Spiritual Works of Mercy have long been a part of the Christian tradition, appearing in the works of theologians and spiritual writers throughout history. Just as Jesus attended to the spiritual well-being of those he ministered to, these Spiritual Works of Mercy guide us to “help our neighbor in their spiritual needs” To Caution Sinners To Instruct the Ignorant To Counsel the Doubtful To Comfort the Afflicted To Bear Wrongs Patiently To Forgive Willingly To Pray for the Living and Dead
DON’T USE GOD TO DEFEND YOUR OWN INTERESTS Vatican City, Sep 7, 2016 / 08:56 am. On Wednesday, Pope Francis warned against making Jesus into the person we want him to be, and thus creating obstacles to a true relationship with Christ and his mercy. “The admonition of Jesus is always present: even today man constructs images of God that prevent him from enjoying his real presence,” the Pope said during the general audience Sept. 7. “Some carve out a ‘do it yourself’ faith that reduces God in the limited space of their own desires and their own beliefs. But this faith is not conversion to the Lord that is revealed, in fact, it prevents him from arousing our life and our conscience.” In his catechesis, Pope Francis named several different ways in which people create false images of God, such as those who invoke his name in defense of their own interests, or in the interest of hatred and violence, or those who deny Christ’s divinity, considering him just a good ethical teacher and leader. “For still others God is just a psychological refuge,” Francis said, “where he is reassurance in difficult times: it is a faith turned in on itself, impervious to the power of merciful love of Jesus which pushes brothers.” Pope Francis also mentioned those who he said “stifle faith” by making it entirely about their personal, intimate relationship with Jesus while ignoring the missionary aspect of the Church, “capable of transforming the world and history.” Continuing his theme of discussing mercy, Pope Francis spoke about the difference between the justice John the Baptist expected the Messiah to wield and the mercy which Jesus actually practiced, a mercy which was the manifestation of God’s justice. Pointing to the Gospel of Matthew, the Pope said Jesus responded to John the Baptist’s question of whether or not he was the Messiah with, “Go and tell John what you hear and see.” “The blind, the lame, the lepers, the deaf, regain their dignity and are no longer excluded for their disease, the dead return to life, while the poor have the good news,” Francis said. “And this becomes the summary action of Jesus, who in this way makes visible and tangible the act of God.” “The message that the Church receives from this account of the life of Christ is very clear. God did not send his Son into the world to punish sinners, nor to destroy the wicked,” he continued. “They are instead addressed the invitation to conversion so that, seeing the signs of divine goodness, they can find their way back.” The Pope concluded his catechesis by urging those present to not place themselves above the mercy of Christ by believing in a false image of the Messiah. “We Christians believe in the God of Jesus Christ, and our desire is to grow in the living experience of the mystery of love,” he said. “We commit ourselves, therefore, to not place any obstacle in the way of the action of the merciful Father, but we ask the gift of a great faith to become ourselves signs and instruments of mercy.”
JESUS’ MERCY EXTENDS TO EVEN THE GREATEST OF SINNERS
Jesus’ mercy extends to all who seek forgiveness no matter how great or small their sins may be, Pope Francis said in his weekly general audience last week. While many often feel “cast aside” because of their sins, Jesus offers encouragement and “tells us, ‘Courage, come to me,’” the Pope said to a crowd who braved driving rain in St Peter’s Square. “It is the moment of forgiveness, of inclusion in Jesus’ life and the life of the Church. All of us are sinners; whether great or small, we all are. The Lord tells us, ‘Courage, come, you are no longer discarded. I forgive you, I embrace you.’ This is mercy,” he said. Reflecting on the Gospel reading of Jesus’ miraculous healing of a woman suffering from haemorrhages, Pope Francis noted the woman’s persistence in trying to reach out to Jesus despite the fact that she was excluded from society because of her condition. “She was a woman discarded from society. It is important to consider this condition – discarded – to understand her state of mind,” he said. “She senses that Jesus can free her from her sickness and from the state of marginalisation and indignity in which she has found herself for years. In short, she knows and feels that Jesus can save her.” “After touching Jesus’ cloak, the woman tried to hide and expected to be reproached, the pope said. Instead, she was met with his gaze of “mercy and tenderness” that not only welcomes her, but also “acknowledges her dignity.” This gaze and encouragement from Christ, he added, also is experienced by all those who feel discarded and marginalised by their own sins. The woman is not saved by touching Jesus’ cloak but by his words which “consoled her, healed her and restored her to a relationship with God and with her people,” Pope Francis said. “Once again Jesus, with his merciful behavior, shows the church the path it must take to reach out to every person so that each one can be healed in body and spirit and recover his or her dignity as a child of God,” the Pope said. Trusting God and the power of silence In an article published by Paulo Suess, Pope Francis was asking his fellow Bishops, “How can you fearlessly navigate the streets of the contemporary world if your driver’s licence is expired, your vision limited and your street maps out of date?” For Pope Francis that answer is mercy. “The Church, guided by the Gospel of mercy and by love mankind, hears the cry for justice and intends to respond to it with all her might”. We just have to respond honestly with tenderness and mercy. We do not always need words. The patience to listen and to serve is more important than preaching. God’s mercy is infectious and must be shared with others.
The Pontiff told the faithful that Christians must demonstrate to the world how to display acts of mercy towards others
Mercy is “a journey that departs from the heart to arrive at the hands,” the Pope said. In his main audience talk, Pope Francis focused on the Gospel story of Jesus raising from the dead the son of the widow of Nain, giving renewed hope not just to the woman and her son, but to all. “The powerful word of Jesus can make us rise again and takes us, too, from death to life,” the Pope said. “His word revives us, gives hope, refreshes weary hearts and opens us to a vision of the world and of life that goes beyond suffering and death.” Pope Francis ended his main talk by insisting that “Jesus watches you, heals you with his mercy and says, ‘Arise,’ and your heart is new.” “And what do I do now with this new heart healed by Jesus?” he asked. “I do the works of mercy with my hands and I try to help, to heal the many who are in need. Mercy is a journey that departs from the heart and arrives at the hands, at the works of mercy.” Each of us must respond to the gift of mercy in our hearts by getting up and putting mercy into action. THE PARISH – AN OASIS OF MERCY Pope Francis’ vision for a worldwide Holy Year of Mercy, brings inspiration, challenge and encouragement to parishes. Pope Francis reminds us we are called to be disciples and missionaries: “Being a disciple means being constantly ready to bring the love of Jesus to other, and this can happen unexpectedly and in any place: on the street, in a city square, during work, on a journey.” (EG127). We must have a special care for the poor, the disadvantaged, those on the margins of our communities for whatever reason: “there is an inseparable bond between our faith and the poor. May we never abandon them.” (EG 48) Every person is worth of our attention and our giving. They are “God’s handiwork, his creation . . . the object of God’s infi”nite tenderness, and he himself is present in their lives.” (EG274) Every parish, therefore, is called to be the local Church of welcome and mercy a place where people can come “with all their problems”: “Everyone can share in some way in the life of the Church; everyone can be part of the community.” (EG47) POPE FRANCIS URGES YOUTH TO DREAM Pope Francis recently told young people in Poland to look beyond the instant gratification afforded by technology and instead try to change the world. Pope says youth cannot respond to challenges by “texting a few words” and he urged young people to be dreamers that refuse to see borders as barriers. Pope Francis, 79, who has said he is a “disaster” with technology, sprinkled his sermon with social media and technology terms. He urged the young people to “download the best link of all, that of a heart which sees and transmits goodness without growing weary”. WHY, IN YOUR OPINION, IS HUMANITY SO IN NEED OF MERCY? Pope Francis: Because humanity is wounded, deeply wounded. Either it does not know how to cure its wounds or it believes that it’s not possible to cure them. Mostly, people are looking for someone to listen to them. Someone willing to grant them time, to listen to their dramas and difficulties. This is what I call the “apostolate of the ear.” I feel compelled to say to confessors: talk, listen with patience, and above all tell people that God loves them. Be tender with people. Do not push them away. People are suffering. I believe that this is a time for mercy. The Church is showing her maternal side, her motherly face, to a humanity that is wounded. She does not wait for the wounded to knock on her doors, she looks for them on the streets, she gathers them in, she embraces them, she takes care of them, she makes them feel loved. This is explained well by St Paul: If we are unfaithful, he remains faithful, for he cannot deny himself.” You can deny God, you can sin against him, but God cannot deny himself he remains faithful.
We should open up to the Mercy of God, open up our heart and ourselves, and allow Jesus to come toward us by approaching the confessional with faith. And we should try and be merciful with others.
“An evangelising community gets involved by word and deed in people’s daily lives; it bridges distances, it is willing to abase itself if necessary, and it embraces human life, touching the suffering flesh of Christ in others. Evangelisers thus take on the “smell of the sheep” and the sheep are willing to hear their voice.” (EG 24)
Where did the inspiration for the Year of Mercy come?
I can say that the centrality of mercy, which for us is Jesus’ most important message, has slowly evolved over the years in my work as a priest, as a consequence of my experience as a confessor, and thanks to the many positive and beautiful stories that I have known. I believe that this is a time for mercy. The Church is showing her maternal side, her motherly face, to a humanity that is wounded. She does not wait for the wounded to knock on her doors, she looks for them on the streets, she gathers them in, she embraces them, she makes them feel loved. Pope Francis
What is mercy for you?
For me this is one of the most important revelations: you will continue to be the chosen people and all your sins will be forgiven. So mercy is deeply connected to God’s faithfulness. The Lord is faithful because he cannot deny himself. This is explained well by St Paul: “If we are unfaithful, he remains faithful, for he cannot deny himself.” You can deny God, you can sin against him, but God cannot deny himself. He remains faithful.
Prayer of Mercy
Lord Jesus Christ, you have taught us to be merciful like the heavenly Father, and have told us that whoever sees you sees Him. Show us your face and we will be saved. Your loving gaze freed Zacchaeus and Matthew from being enslaved by money; the adulteress and Magdalene from seeking happiness only in created things; made Peter weep after his betrayal, and assured Paradise to the repentant thief. Let us hear, as if addressed to each one of us, the words that you spoke to the Samaritan woman: “If you knew the gift of God!” You are the visible face of the invisible Father, of the God who manifests his power above all by forgiveness and mercy: let the Church be your visible face in the world, its Lord risen and glorified. You willed that your ministers would also be clothed in weakness in order that they may feel compassion for those in ignorance and error: let everyone who approaches them feel sought after, loved, and forgiven by God. Send your Spirit and consecrate every one of us with its anointing, so that the Jubilee of Mercy may be a year of grace from the Lord, and your Church, with renewed enthusiasm, may bring good news to the poor, proclaim liberty to captives and the oppressed, and restore sight to the blind. We ask this through the intercession of Mary, Mother of Mercy, you who live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit for ever and ever. Amen. © Copyright Pontifical Council for the Promotion of New Evangelization, Vatican State. All rights reserved.