God will forgive everything, always, and never tires of doing so.
During his homily at the Penitential Liturgy in St. Peter's Basilica, the Holy Father told the faithful there's only one we need to forgive our sins: God, who will pardon our every sin if we turn to Him.
"To be touched with tenderness from His hand and shaped by His grace allows us, therefore, to approach the priest without fear for our sins, but with the certainty of being received by him in the name of God, and understood in spite of our miseries."
"Coming out of the confessional, we will feel its strength that restores life and returns us to enthusiasm of faith.We have one real confessor, and He defends us always!"
The Sacrament of Reconciliation, he said, allows the faithful to draw near to God and be certain of his forgiveness. "He really is rich in mercy," he stressed. "He extends it abundantly to those who turn to Him with a sincere heart."
Recalling St. Paul's words, the Pope said the Apostle reminds us, "God never ceases to show the richness of his mercy throughout the ages. The transformation of the heart that leads us to confess our sins is 'God's gift.' It is 'His work.'"
Recalling how Jesus washed away the sins of the sinful woman in today's Gospel, the Pope said despite her being a public sinner, she was forgiven.
"He forgives all! When God forgives, He forgets," the Pontiff said. "It’s a great gift."
Francis said this woman really met the Lord. "For her," he pointed out, "there will be no judgment except that which comes from God, and this is the judgment of mercy."
"The call of Jesus pushes each of us to never stop at the surface of things, especially when we are dealing with a person," he said. "We are called to look beyond, to focus on the heart to see how much generosity everyone is capable."
"No one can be excluded from the mercy of God; everyone knows the way to access it and the Church is the house that welcomes all and no one refuses," he said. "No one can be excluded from the mercy of God."
The larger and greater the sin, the Holy Father stressed, the larger and greater the love that the Church expresses to those who turn to it, seeking conversion.
"He is never scared of our sins!"
The Holy Father reminded those gathered of the prodigal son and how the father welcomes his son. "He will hug you with great love. Don’t be afraid!"
Pope Francis also announced that starting December 8, the Immaculate Conception, and ending Nov. 20, 2016, there will be an Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy.
"I am convinced that the whole Church, because we all are sinners, will find in this Jubilee joy to rediscover and make fruitful the mercy of God, with which we are all called to give consolation to every man and woman of our time."
The Holy Father concluded, reminding those gathered how God always forgives all, and how we are to "walk with open hearts."
"In a society which overlooks and discards the elderly, may the Church acknowledge their contributions and gifts, and help them to foster a fruitful dialogue between the generations."
During his weekly General Audience in St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis conveyed this hope while continuing his catechesis on the family, and his second week focusing on the elderly.
At the start of his remarks, the Holy Father immediately acknowledged he falls into this age category, and reminisced how during his visit to the Philippines this January, they called him 'Lolo,' meaning "Grandpa Francesco."
While last week’s address focused on the elderly's problematic current condition, the Holy Father this week spoke on their value and importance.
Purifying power of prayer and faith, he said, helps us show the young that the true meaning of life is found in self-sacrificing love and concern for others.
“We look at Benedict XVI, who has chosen to spend the last part of his life in prayer and in listening to God!"
While stressing incessant prayer purifies the heart, Francis underscored, “Praise and supplication to God prevent the hardening of the heart in resentment and selfishness. “
“How bad it is to see the cynicism of a senior who has lost the sense of his testimony, despises the young and does not communicate wisdom of life!” he said.
“Instead,” he stressed, “how beautiful is it to see the elderly encourage and manage to convey to the young people the meaning of faith and life!”
This, he said, is really the mission of the grandparents, the vocation of the elderly.
“The words of grandparents have something special for the young. And they know it,” he said. “The words that my grandmother gave me in writing on the day of my priestly ordination, I still carry with me, always in the breviary.”
“I would like a Church that challenges 'the culture of the gap' with the overflowing joy of a new embrace between the young and the elderly!”
The Holy Father outlined various ways in which this can be achieved.
“We can intercede for the expectations of the younger generation and give dignity to the memory and sacrifices of those who are older. We can remind ambitious young that a life without love is arid.”
Moreover, he stressed, those with old age--the age to which the Pope belongs, he said--can encourage fearful young people to not be afraid of the future.
“We also can teach young people who are in love with themselves, that there is more joy in giving than in receiving. “
The grandfathers and grandmothers form “a great spiritual sanctuary,” he noted, where their prayers and supplication help support the community through daily life and struggle.
The Holy Father also said he was very impressed by the "Day for the Elderly" held in St. Peter's Square in September last year. Recalling how many he met who were celebrating their 50 or 60-year anniversaries, he encouraged those couples to pass on their example of fidelity to the young people.
In order to experience forgiveness we must also know what it means to forgive others as Jesus taught. This was the central theme of Pope Francis' homily during his morning Mass at Casa Santa Marta today.
The Holy Father reflected on today's Gospel from St. Matthew in which Jesus is asked how often one should forgive.
“I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times," Jesus replied. The Pope said that asking forgiveness is not merely saying 'excuse me' but something much more profound. To make a mistake and to sin are very different: "one has nothing to do with the other."
"Sin is not a simple mistake. Sin is idolatry: it is to worship the idol, the idol of pride, vanity, money, ‘my self’, my own ‘well-being’," he said.
The Pope also made reference to the first reading from the prophet Daniel, in which Azariah appeals for forgiveness to God on behalf of the people.
"So many idols do we have: and for this, Azariah does not apologize: he asks forgiveness," he said.
Reflecting on Jesus' teachings on forgiveness, the Pope said one cannot seek pardon if they at first have not pardoned.
“Jesus teaches us to pray to the Father in this way: ‘Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors', he said.
"If I am not able to forgive, then I am not able to ask for forgiveness. ‘But, Father, I confess, I go to confession ....’ And what do you do before you confess?’ ‘Well, I think of the things I did wrong.’ ‘Alright’ ‘Then I ask the Lord for forgiveness and promise not to do those things again.’ ‘Okay…and then go to the priest? Before you do, however, you’re missing something: have you forgiven those who have hurt you?’”
Concluding his homily, Pope Francis stressed to the faithful present that true forgiveness is not just a mere apology but to be away of our sins and idolatries.
"God always forgives, always – but He asks me to forgive [others]. If I do not forgive, in a sense, I close the door to God’s forgiveness. ‘Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors'", he said.
God does things simply and speaks to the heart of mankind. These were the words of Pope Francis during his homily at Casa Santa Marta this morning.
The Holy Father reflected on today's Gospel from St. Luke, in which the people of Nazareth drove Christ out of his native town after rebuking their lack of faith.
According to Pope Francis, the Pope compared the inhabitants to Naaman who wanted a spectacle, rather than God's humble way of doing things.
The first reading from the second book of Kings recalled the healing of Naaman, the commander of the Syrian army, from his leprosy. Naaman his healed after the prophet Elisha told him to wash himself in the Jordan river seven times.
The Pope said that this humble way of acting can be seen throughout the history of salvation.
“When He desired to free His people, He freed them through the faith and confidence of a man, Moses," he said.
"When He desired to cause the fall of the powerful city of Jericho, He did so through a prostitute. And for the conversion of the Samaritans He required the work of another sinner. When He invited David to fight against Goliath, it seemed crazy: the little David standing before that giant, who had a sword, who had so many things, while David had only a sling and the stones. When He told the Magi that a King was born to them, the Great King, what did they find? A little child, a manger. The simple things, the humility of God… this is the divine style, never the spectacle.”
The Pope went on to say Christ also faced the temptation by Satan to make a spectacle, telling Him to perform a miracle so that people may believe. However, Jesus revealed Himself in simplicity and in humility.
“It would do us good this Lent to consider how the Lord has helped us in our lives, and how the Lord has led us onward. We will find that the Lord has always done this with simple things," he said.
Concluding his homily, Pope Francis called on the faithful to remember the feeling of the Lord's humble and simple style. This is especially reflected in the sacraments.
"It would do us good to journey through our life and to consider the many times the Lord has visited us with His grace, and always with this humble style, the style He calls us, too, to have: humility," he said.
"Worldliness is a sinful state of soul." These were the words of Pope Francis during his homily at Casa Santa Marta this morning.
According to Vatican Radio, the Holy Father reflected on today's Gospel from St. Luke, which recalled the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, a poor man who would eat the scraps that fell from the rich man's table. The Pope noted that while the man is noted for his wealth and indifference towards Lazarus, there is no mention in the Gospel that he was a bad person.
“He was, perhaps, a religious man, in its own way: he prayed, perhaps, a few prayers and two or three times a year definitely went to the temple to make the sacrifices and gave large offerings to the priests, and they – with their clerical pusillanimity – gave him to sit in the place of honor," the Pope said.
“When he went about town, we might imagine his car with tinted windows so as not [to be] seen from without – who knows – but definitely, yes, his soul, the eyes of his soul were darkened so that he could not see out. He saw only into his life, and did not realize what had happened to [himself]. He was not bad: he was sick, sick with worldliness – and worldliness transforms souls."
The Pope went on to say that those caught up in worldliness live in an "artificial world" that numbs the soul, thus allowing people to be blind to the sufferings of others.
"With a worldly heart you can go to church, you can pray, you can do so many things. But Jesus, at the Last Supper, in the prayer to the Father, what did He pray? ‘But please, Father, keep these disciples from falling into the world, from falling into worldliness.’"
Worldliness – he said – "is a subtle sin. It is more than a sin: it is a sinful state of the soul.”
The Jesuit Pope added that the emptiness of the rich man's soul becomes a curse while the poor man's trust in the Lord turned into a blessing. He also noted that while the poor man was given a name in the Gospel, the rich man did not.
“[The rich man] had no name, because the worldly lose their name. They are just one of the crowd affluent, who do not need anything. The worldly lose their name.”
Concluding his homily, Pope Francis said that Abraham serves as a figure of God the Father. Despite the sins of the worldly, he added, they still have a father.
"We are not orphans, however: until the end, until the last moment there is the confidence that we have a Father who awaits us," he said. "Let us entrust ourselves to Him. ‘Son,’ he says: ‘son’, in the midst of that worldliness; ‘son.’ We are not orphans.”
“Where there is no honor for the elderly, there is no future for young people.”
During his weekly General Audience in St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis made this strong statement while continuing his catechesis on the family, with this and next week focusing on the elderly.
Confining this week’s address to their problematic current condition, the Holy Father said the elderly are ignored and that a society that does this is perverse.
While noting that life has been lengthened thanks to advances in medicine, he lamented that while the number of older people has multiplied, "our societies are not organized enough to make room for them, with proper respect and concrete consideration for their fragility and their dignity.”
“As long as we are young, we are led to ignore old age, as if it were a disease to be taken away.”
"Then when we become older,” he continued, “especially if we are poor, sick and alone, we experience the shortcomings of a society planned on efficiency, which consequently ignores the elderly.”
He went on to quote his predecessor Pope Benedict XVI, who, when visiting a nursing home in November 2012, “used clear and prophetic words: ‘The quality of a society, I would say of a civilization, is judged also on how the elderly are treated and the place reserved for them in the common life.’" Without a space for them, Francis highlighted, society dies.
Cultures, he decried, see the elderly as a burden who do not produce and should be discarded.
“You do not say it openly, but you do it!” he exclaimed. "Out of our fear of weakness and vulnerability, we do not tolerate and abandon the elderly," he said. “It’s sickening to see the elderly discarded. It is ugly. It’s a sin. Abandoning the elderly is a mortal sin.”
“Children who do not visit their elderly and ill parents have mortally sinned. Understand?”
The Pope expressed his dismay at children who go months without seeing a parent, or how elderly are confined to little tables in their kitchens alone, without anyone caring for them.
He noted that he observed this reality during his ministry in Buenos Aires. Unwilling to accept limits, society, he noted, doesn’t allow elderly to participate and gives into the mentality that only the young can be useful and enjoy life.
The whole society must realize, the Pope said, the elderly contain the wisdom of the people.
The tradition of the Church, Pope Francis reaffirmed, has always supported a culture of closeness to the elderly, involving affectionately and supportively accompanying them in this final part of life.
The Church cannot, and does not want to, Francis underscored, comply with a mentality of impatience, and even less of indifference and contempt towards old age.
Sooner or later, we will all be old, he said. If we do not treat the elderly well, he stressed we will not be treated well either.
“We must awaken the collective sense of gratitude, of appreciation, of hospitality, which make them feel the elderly living part of his community.”
Concluding his address, Pope Francis noted how old age will come to all one day and reminded the faithful how much they have received from their elders. He also challenged them to not take a step back and abandon them to their fate.
In his homily at Casa Santa Marta this morning, Pope Francis called on the faithful to follow Christ's invitation to conversion.
The Holy Father began by reflecting on the first reading from the prophet Isaiah in which he calls "the princes of Sodom" and the "people of Gomorrah" to turn from their evil ways.
"Wash yourselves clean! Put away your misdeeds from before my eyes; cease doing evil; learn to do good. Make justice your aim: redress the wronged, hear the orphan’s plea, defend the widow," the reading states.
According to Vatican Radio, the Holy Father told those present that the reading is an invitation from God to conversion by learning to do right.
"You cannot remove the filth of the heart as you would remove a stain: we go to the dry cleaner and leave cleansed," he said. "This filth is removed by 'doing': taking a different path, a different path from that of evil. Learn to do right! That is, the path of doing good."
Citing the first reading, the Holy Father said that in order to good one must protect those most in need which will allow one to "cleanse your heart." Those whose hearts are cleansed, he stressed, are forgiven by God.
"If you do this, if you take this path to which I invite you - the Lord tells us - 'though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow'. It is an exaggeration, the Lord exaggerates: but it is the truth!" he exclaimed. "The Lord gives us the gift of His forgiveness. The Lord forgives generously. 'I forgive you this much, then we'll see about the rest....' No, no! The Lord always forgives everything! Everything! But if you want to be forgiven, you must set out on the path of doing good. This is the gift!'"
The 78 year old Pontiff went on to reflect on today's Gospel in which Christ denounces the hypocrisy of the Pharisees, who like many today "say all the right things, but do the exact opposite."
"They pretend to convert, but their heart is a lie: they are liars! It 'a lie ... Their heart does not belong to the Lord; their heart belongs to the father of all lies, Satan. And this is fake holiness," he said.
"Jesus preferred sinners a thousand times to these. Why? Because sinners told the truth about themselves. 'Get away from me, Lord, I am a sinner!': Peter once said. One of those [the hypocrites] never says that! 'Thank you Lord, that I am not a sinner, that I am righteous."
Concluding his homily, Pope Francis called on the faithful to reflect during this time of Lent on conversion, forgiveness and to beware of "pretending to convert, while choosing the path of hypocrisy."
"When we learn to accuse ourselves of our sins, we can become merciful with others."
These were Pope Francis' words during his homily at Casa Santa Marta this morning. According to Vatican Radio, the Holy Father reflected on today's Gospel from St. Luke, in which Jesus preaches on being merciful with others.
“Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Stop judging and you will not be judged. Stop condemning and you will not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven," Jesus says.
The Pope said that mankind is "master…in justifying ourselves."
"We all have an alibi that explains out shortcomings, our sins, and many times we are capable of making that face of 'I don't know', a face that says 'I didn't do it, maybe somebody else did': to pretend to be innocent. And one cannot go forward in Christian life like this."
Continuing his reflection on mercy, the 78 year old Pontiff stressed that the first step in being merciful with others is to reflect on one's own sins instead of judging those who have sinned.
"Have you thought that you have been capable of doing those things they did, maybe even worse?', he asked. "This is to accuse oneself, to not hide from oneself the roots of sin that is in us, the many things that we are capable of doing, even if we don't see it."
The Holy Father went on to say that the Lenten season offers an opportunity to Christians to reflect and "accuse" themselves.
"The phrase – "Who am I to judge the other?" – he said, obeys Jesus' exhortation: "Do not judge and you will not be judged; do not condemn and you will not be condemned; forgive and you will be forgiven."
"May the Lord, in this Lent give us the grace to learn to accuse ourselves."
This is a modest effort at a "blog" my attempt to offer some brief reflections each day that come from various sources that I find interesting - primarily the daily reflections of Pope Francis as found on Zenit and Rome Reports. Fr. John