Entry 0462: Reflections on the Second Sunday of Easter
by Pope Francis
On four occasions during his pontificate, Pope Francis has delivered reflections on the Second Sunday of Easter (Domenica in Albis and Divine Mercy Sunday), on 7 April 2013, 27 April 2014, 12 April 2015, and 3 April 2016. Here are the texts of the three brief reflections prior to the recitation of the prayer Regina Caeli and six homilies delivered by the Holy Father on these occasions.
St. Peter’s Square, Second Sunday of Easter, 7 April 2013
Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good Morning!
On this Sunday which brings the Octave of Easter to a close I renew to everyone my good wishes for Easter in the very words of the Risen Jesus: “Peace be with you” (Jn 20:19, 21, 26). This is not a greeting nor even a simple good wish: it is a gift, indeed, the precious gift that Christ offered his disciples after he had passed through death and hell.
He gives peace, as he had promised: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you” (Jn 14:27). This peace is the fruit of the victory of God’s love over evil, it is the fruit of forgiveness. And it really is like this: true peace, that profound peace, comes from experiencing God’s mercy. Today is Divine Mercy Sunday, as John Paul II—who closed his eyes to the world on the eve of this very day—wanted it to be.
John’s Gospel tells us that Jesus appeared twice to the Apostles enclosed in the Upper Room: the first time on the evening of the Resurrection itself and on that occasion Thomas, who said unless I see and touch I will not believe, was absent. The second time, eight days later, Thomas was there as well. And Jesus said, speaking directly to him, I invite you to look at my wounds, to touch them; then Thomas exclaimed: “My Lord and my God!” (Jn 20:28). So Jesus said: “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe” (v. 29); and who were those who believed without seeing? Other disciples, other men and women of
who, on the testimony of the Apostles and the women, believed, even though they
had not met the Risen Jesus. This is a very important word about faith, we can call
it the beatitude of faith. Blessed are those who have not seen but have believed:
this is the beatitude of faith! In every epoch and in every place blessed are those
who, on the strength of the word of God proclaimed in the Church and witnessed by
Christians, believe that Jesus Christ is the love of God incarnate, Mercy incarnate.
And this applies for each one of us!
As well as his peace Jesus gave the Apostles the Holy Spirit so that they could spread the forgiveness of sins in the world, that forgiveness which only God can give and which came at the price of the Blood of the Son (see Jn 20:21-23). The Church is sent by the Risen Christ to pass on to men and women the forgiveness of sins and thereby make the Kingdom of love grow, to sow peace in hearts so that they may also be strengthened in relationships, in every society, in institutions.
And the Spirit of the Risen Christ drove out fear from the Apostles’ hearts and impelled them to leave the
in order to spread the Gospel. Let us too have greater courage in witnessing to
our faith in the Risen Christ! We must not be afraid of being Christian and living
as Christians! We must have this courage to go and proclaim the Risen Christ, for
he is our peace, he made peace with his love, with his forgiveness, with his Blood
and with his mercy.
Dear friends, this afternoon I shall celebrate the Eucharist in the Basilica of St John Lateran, which is the Cathedral of the Bishop of Rome. Together let us pray the Virgin Mary that she help us, Bishop and People, to walk in faith and charity, ever trusting in the Lord’s mercy: he always awaits us, loves us, has pardoned us with his Blood and pardons us every time we go to him to ask his forgiveness. Let us trust in his mercy!
PAPAL MASS FOR THE POSSESSION
OF THE CHAIR OF THE BISHOP OF
HOMILY OF POPE FRANCIS
Basilica of Saint John Lateran, Second Sunday of Easter, 7 April 2013
It is with joy that I am celebrating the Eucharist for the first time in this Lateran Basilica, the Cathedral of the Bishop of Rome. I greet all of you with great affection: my very dear Cardinal Vicar, the auxiliary bishops, the diocesan presbyterate, the deacons, the men and women religious, and all the lay faithful. I also greet the Mayor, his wife and all the authorities present. Together let us walk in the light of the risen Lord.
1. Today we are celebrating the Second Sunday of Easter, also known as “Divine Mercy Sunday.” What a beautiful truth of faith this is for our lives: the mercy of God! God’s love for us is so great, so deep; it is an unfailing love, one which always takes us by the hand and supports us, lifts us up and leads us on.
2. In today’s Gospel, the Apostle Thomas personally experiences this mercy of God, which has a concrete face, the face of Jesus, the risen Jesus. Thomas does not believe it when the other Apostles tell him: “We have seen the Lord.” It isn’t enough for him that Jesus had foretold it, promised it: “On the third day I will rise.” He wants to see, he wants to put his hand in the place of the nails and in Jesus’ side. And how does Jesus react? With patience: Jesus does not abandon Thomas in his stubborn unbelief; he gives him a week’s time, he does not close the door, he waits. And Thomas acknowledges his own poverty, his little faith. “My Lord and my God!” with this simple yet faith-filled invocation, he responds to Jesus’ patience. He lets himself be enveloped by divine mercy; he sees it before his eyes, in the wounds of Christ’s hands and feet and in his open side, and he discovers trust: he is a new man, no longer an unbeliever, but a believer.
Let us also remember Peter: three times he denied Jesus, precisely when he should have been closest to him; and when he hits bottom he meets the gaze of Jesus who patiently, wordlessly, says to him: “Peter, don’t be afraid of your weakness, trust in me.” Peter understands, he feels the loving gaze of Jesus, and he weeps. How beautiful is this gaze of Jesus—how much tenderness is there! Brothers and sisters, let us never lose trust in the patience and mercy of God!
Let us think too of the two disciples on the way to Emmaus: their sad faces, their barren journey, their despair. But Jesus does not abandon them: he walks beside them, and not only that! Patiently he explains the Scriptures which spoke of him, and he stays to share a meal with them. This is God’s way of doing things: he is not impatient like us, who often want everything all at once, even in our dealings with other people. God is patient with us because he loves us, and those who love are able to understand, to hope, to inspire confidence; they do not give up, they do not burn bridges, they are able to forgive. Let us remember this in our lives as Christians: God always waits for us, even when we have left him behind! He is never far from us, and if we return to him, he is ready to embrace us.
I am always struck when I reread the parable of the merciful Father; it impresses me because it always gives me great hope. Think of that younger son who was in the Father’s house, who was loved; and yet he wants his part of the inheritance; he goes off, spends everything, hits rock bottom, where he could not be more distant from the Father, yet when he is at his lowest, he misses the warmth of the Father’s house and he goes back. And the Father? Had he forgotten the son? No, never. He is there, he sees the son from afar, he was waiting for him every hour of every day, the son was always in his father’s heart, even though he had left him, even though he had squandered his whole inheritance, his freedom. The Father, with patience, love, hope and mercy, had never for a second stopped thinking about him, and as soon as he sees him still far off, he runs out to meet him and embraces him with tenderness, the tenderness of God, without a word of reproach: he has returned! And that is the joy of the Father. In that embrace for his son is all this joy: he has returned! God is always waiting for us, he never grows tired. Jesus shows us this merciful patience of God so that we can regain confidence, hope—always! A great German theologian, Romano Guardini, said that God responds to our weakness by his patience, and this is the reason for our confidence, our hope (see Glaubenserkenntnis, Würzburg, 1949, p. 28). It is like a dialogue between our weakness and the patience of God, it is a dialogue that, if we do it, will grant us hope.
3. I would like to emphasize one other thing: God’s patience has to call forth in us the courage to return to him, however many mistakes and sins there may be in our life. Jesus tells Thomas to put his hand in the wounds of his hands and his feet, and in his side. We too can enter into the wounds of Jesus, we can actually touch him. This happens every time that we receive the sacraments with faith. Saint Bernard, in a fine homily, says: “Through the wounds of Jesus I can suck honey from the rock and oil from the flinty rock (see Deut 32:13), I can taste and see the goodness of the Lord” (On the Song of Songs, 61:4). It is there, in the wounds of Jesus, that we are truly secure; there we encounter the boundless love of his heart. Thomas understood this. Saint Bernard goes on to ask: But what can I count on? My own merits? No, “My merit is God’s mercy. I am by no means lacking merits as long as he is rich in mercy. If the mercies of the Lord are manifold, I too will abound in merits” (ibid., 5). This is important: the courage to trust in Jesus’ mercy, to trust in his patience, to seek refuge always in the wounds of his love. Saint Bernard even states: “So what if my conscience gnaws at me for my many sins? ‘Where sin has abounded, there grace has abounded all the more’ (Rom 5:20)” (ibid.) Maybe someone among us here is thinking: my sin is so great, I am as far from God as the younger son in the parable, my unbelief is like that of Thomas; I don’t have the courage to go back, to believe that God can welcome me and that he is waiting for me, of all people. But God is indeed waiting for you; he asks of you only the courage to go to him. How many times in my pastoral ministry have I heard it said: “Father, I have many sins;” and I have always pleaded: “Don’t be afraid, go to him, he is waiting for you, he will take care of everything.” We hear many offers from the world around us; but let us take up God’s offer instead: his is a caress of love. For God, we are not numbers, we are important, indeed we are the most important thing to him; even if we are sinners, we are what is closest to his heart.
Adam, after his sin, experiences shame, he feels naked, he senses the weight of what he has done; and yet God does not abandon him: if that moment of sin marks the beginning of his exile from God, there is already a promise of return, a possibility of return. God immediately asks: “Adam, where are you?” He seeks him out. Jesus took on our nakedness, he took upon himself the shame of Adam, the nakedness of his sin, in order to wash away our sin: by his wounds we have been healed. Remember what
Paul says: “What shall I boast of, if not my weakness,
my poverty? Precisely in feeling my sinfulness, in looking at my sins, I can see
and encounter God’s mercy, his love, and go to him to receive forgiveness.
In my own life, I have so often seen God’s merciful countenance, his patience; I have also seen so many people find the courage to enter the wounds of Jesus by saying to him: Lord, I am here, accept my poverty, hide my sin in your wounds, wash it away with your blood. And I have always seen that God did just this—he accepted them, consoled them, cleansed them, loved them.
Dear brothers and sisters, let us be enveloped by the mercy of God; let us trust in his patience, which always gives us more time. Let us find the courage to return to his house, to dwell in his loving wounds, allowing ourselves be loved by him and to encounter his mercy in the sacraments. We will feel his wonderful tenderness, we will feel his embrace, and we too will become more capable of mercy, patience, forgiveness and love.
Saint Peter’s Square, Second Sunday of Easter, 27 April 2014
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Before concluding this celebration of faith, I wish to greet and thank all of you!
I thank my brother cardinals and the many bishops and priests from every part of the world.
My appreciation goes to the official delegations from many countries, who have come to pay tribute to two pontiffs who contributed in an indelible way to the cause of human development and peace. A special thank you goes to the Italian authorities for their precious collaboration.
With great affection, I greet the pilgrims from the dioceses of
Bergamo and Krakow! Dear ones, honor the memory of these two holy Popes
by following their teachings faithfully.
I am grateful to all those who, with great generosity, prepared these memorable days: the Diocese of Rome with Cardinal Vallini, the City of Rome with its Mayor Ignazio Marino, the law enforcement officers and various organizations, the associations and the numerous volunteers. Thanks to all!
I extend my greetings to all the pilgrims—here in St Peter’s Square, in the adjacent streets and in other places in Rome—as well as to those who are united to us through radio and television; and thank you to the media directors and personnel, who have given many people the possibility to participate. For the sick and the aged, to whom the new saints were particularly close, I add a special greeting.
And now, we turn in prayer to the Virgin Mary, whom St John XXIII and St John Paul II loved as her true sons.
HOLY MASS AND RITE OF CANONIZATION OF BLESSEDS JOHN XXIII AND JOHN PAUL II
HOMILY OF POPE FRANCIS
St. Peter’s Square, Second Sunday of Easter, 27 April 2014
At the heart of this Sunday, which concludes the Octave of Easter and which Saint John Paul II wished to dedicate to Divine Mercy, are the glorious wounds of the risen Jesus.
He had already shown those wounds when he first appeared to the Apostles on the very evening of that day following the Sabbath, the day of the resurrection. But, as we have heard, Thomas was not there that evening, and when the others told him that they had seen the Lord, he replied that unless he himself saw and touched those wounds, he would not believe. A week later, Jesus appeared once more to the disciples gathered in the Upper Room. Thomas was also present; Jesus turned to him and told him to touch his wounds. Whereupon that man, so straightforward and accustomed to testing everything personally, knelt before Jesus with the words: “My Lord and my God!” (Jn 20:28).
The wounds of Jesus are a scandal, a stumbling block for faith, yet they are also the test of faith. That is why on the body of the risen Christ the wounds never pass away: they remain, for those wounds are the enduring sign of God’s love for us. They are essential for believing in God. Not for believing that God exists, but for believing that God is love, mercy and faithfulness. Saint Peter, quoting Isaiah, writes to Christians: “by his wounds you have been healed” (1 Pet 2:24, see Is 53:5).
Saint John XXIII and Saint John Paul II were not afraid to look upon the wounds of Jesus, to touch his torn hands and his pierced side. They were not ashamed of the flesh of Christ, they were not scandalized by him, by his cross; they did not despise the flesh of their brother (see Is 58:7), because they saw Jesus in every person who suffers and struggles. These were two men of courage, filled with the parrhesia of the Holy Spirit, and they bore witness before the Church and the world to God’s goodness and mercy.
They were priests, and bishops and popes of the twentieth century. They lived through the tragic events of that century, but they were not overwhelmed by them. For them, God was more powerful; faith was more powerful—faith in Jesus Christ the Redeemer of man and the Lord of history; the mercy of God, shown by those five wounds, was more powerful; and more powerful too was the closeness of Mary our Mother.
In these two men, who looked upon the wounds of Christ and bore witness to his mercy, there dwelt a living hope and an indescribable and glorious joy (1 Pet 1:3,8). The hope and the joy which the risen Christ bestows on his disciples, the hope and the joy which nothing and no one can take from them. The hope and joy of Easter, forged in the crucible of self-denial, self-emptying, utter identification with sinners, even to the point of disgust at the bitterness of that chalice. Such were the hope and the joy which these two holy popes had received as a gift from the risen Lord and which they in turn bestowed in abundance upon the People of God, meriting our eternal gratitude.
This hope and this joy were palpable in the earliest community of believers, in
as we have heard in the Acts of the Apostles (see 2:42-47). It was a community which
lived the heart of the Gospel, love and mercy, in simplicity and fraternity.
This is also the image of the Church which the Second Vatican Council set before us. John XXIII and John Paul II cooperated with the Holy Spirit in renewing and updating the Church in keeping with her pristine features, those features which the saints have given her throughout the centuries. Let us not forget that it is the saints who give direction and growth to the Church. In convening the Council, Saint John XXIII showed an exquisite openness to the Holy Spirit. He let himself be led and he was for the Church a pastor, a servant-leader, guided by the Holy Spirit. This was his great service to the Church; for this reason I like to think of him as the pope of openness to the Holy Spirit.
In his own service to the People of God, Saint John Paul II was the pope of the family. He himself once said that he wanted to be remembered as the pope of the family. I am particularly happy to point this out as we are in the process of journeying with families towards the Synod on the family. It is surely a journey which, from his place in heaven, he guides and sustains.
May these two new saints and shepherds of God’s people intercede for the Church, so that during this two-year journey toward the Synod she may be open to the Holy Spirit in pastoral service to the family. May both of them teach us not to be scandalized by the wounds of Christ and to enter ever more deeply into the mystery of divine mercy, which always hopes and always forgives, because it always loves.
CELEBRATION OF FIRST VESPERS OF THE SECOND SUNDAY OF EASTER
HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS POPE FRANCIS
The greeting of the Risen Christ to his disciples on the evening of Easter, “Peace be with you!” (Jn 20:19), continues to resound in us all. Peace, especially during this Easter season, remains the desire of so many people who suffer unprecedented violence of discrimination and death simply because they bear the name “Christian.” Our prayer is all the more intense and becomes a cry for help to the Father, who is rich in mercy, that he may sustain the faith of our many brothers and sisters who are in pain. At the same time, we ask for the grace of the conversion of our own hearts so as to move from indifference to compassion.
Many question in their hearts: why a Jubilee of Mercy today? Simply because the Church, in this time of great historical change, is called to offer more evident signs of God’s presence and closeness. This is not the time to be distracted; on the contrary, we need to be vigilant and to reawaken in ourselves the capacity to see what is essential. This is a time for the Church to rediscover the meaning of the mission entrusted to her by the Lord on the day of Easter: to be a sign and an instrument of the Father’s mercy (see Jn 20:21-23). For this reason, the Holy Year must keep alive the desire to know how to welcome the numerous signs of the tenderness which God offers to the whole world and, above all, to those who suffer, who are alone and abandoned, without hope of being pardoned or feeling the Father’s love. A Holy Year to experience strongly within ourselves the joy of having been found by Jesus, the Good Shepherd who has come in search of us because we were lost. A Jubilee to receive the warmth of his love when he bears us upon his shoulders and brings us back to the Father’s house. A year in which to be touched by the Lord Jesus and to be transformed by his mercy, so that we may become witnesses to mercy. Here, then, is the reason for the Jubilee: because this is the time for mercy. It is the favorable time to heal wounds, a time not to be weary of meeting all those who are waiting to see and to touch with their hands the signs of the closeness of God, a time to offer everyone, everyone, the way of forgiveness and reconciliation.
May the Mother of God open our eyes, so that we may comprehend the task to which we have been called; and may she obtain for us the grace to experience this Jubilee of Mercy as faithful and fruitful witnesses of Christ.
Saint Peter’s Square, Second Sunday of Easter, 12 April 2015
Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!
Today is the eighth day after Easter, and the Gospel according to John documents for us the two appearances of the Risen Jesus to the Apostles gathered in the Upper Room, where on the evening of Easter Thomas was absent, and eight days later, he was present. The first time, the Lord showed them the wounds to his body, breathed on them and said: “As the Father has sent me, even so I send you” (Jn 20:21). He imparts his same mission, through the power of the Holy Spirit.
But that night Thomas, who did not want to believe what the others witnessed, was not there. “Unless I see in his hands the print of the nails, and place my finger in the mark of the nails, and place my hand in his side,” he said, “I will not believe” (see Jn 20:25). Eight days later—which is precisely today—Jesus returned to stand among them and turned immediately to Thomas, inviting him to touch the wounds in his hands and his side. He faced his incredulity so that, through the signs of the passion, he was able to reach the fullness of faith in the Paschal Mystery, namely faith in the Resurrection of Jesus.
Thomas was one who was not satisfied and seeks, intending to confirm himself, to have his own personal experience. After initial resistance and apprehension, in the end even he was able to believe, even though through effort, he came to believe. Jesus waited for him patiently and offered himself to the difficulties and uncertainty of the last to arrive. The Lord proclaimed “blessed,” those who believe without seeing (see v. 29) the first of which is Mary his Mother. He also met the needs of the doubting disciple: “Put your finger here, and see my hands.” (v. 27). In the redeeming contact with the wounds of the Risen One, Thomas showed his own wounds, his own injuries, his own lacerations, his own humiliation; in the print of the nails he found the decisive proof that he was loved, that he was expected, that he was understood. He found himself before the Messiah filled with kindness, mercy, tenderness. This was the Lord he was searching for, he, in the hidden depths of his being, for he had always known He was like this. And how many of us are searching deep in our heart to meet Jesus, just as He is: kind, merciful, tender! For we know, deep down, that He is like this. Having rediscovered personal contact with Christ who is amiable and mercifully patient, Thomas understood the profound significance of his Resurrection and, intimately transformed, he declared his full and total faith in Him exclaiming: “My Lord and my God!” (v. 28). Beautiful, Thomas’ expression is beautiful!
He was able to “touch” the Paschal Mystery which fully demonstrated God’s redeeming love (see Eph 2:4). All of us too are like Thomas: on this second Sunday of Easter we are called to contemplate, in the wounds of the Risen One, Divine Mercy, which overcomes all human limitations and shines on the darkness of evil and of sin. The upcoming Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy will be an intense and extended time to welcome the immeasurable wealth of God’s love and mercy, the Bull of Indiction for which I promulgated yesterday evening here, in St Peter’s Basilica. That Bull begins with the words: “Misericordiae Vultus:” Jesus Christ is the face of the Father’s Mercy. Let us keep our gaze turned to Him, who always seeks us, waits for us, forgives us; so merciful, He is not afraid of our wretchedness. In his wounds He heals us and forgives all of our sins. May the Virgin Mother help us to be merciful with others as Jesus is with us.
MASS FOR THE FAITHFUL OF THE ARMENIAN RITE
GREETING OF THE HOLY FATHER
AT THE BEGINNING OF CELEBRATION
Dear Armenian brothers and sisters,
Dear brothers and sisters.
On a number of occasions I have spoken of our time as a time of war, a third world war which is being fought piecemeal, one in which we daily witness savage crimes, brutal massacres and senseless destruction. Sadly, today too we hear the muffled and forgotten cry of so many of our defenseless brothers and sisters who, on account of their faith in Christ or their ethnic origin, are publicly and ruthlessly put to death—decapitated, crucified, burned alive—or forced to leave their homeland.
Today too we are experiencing a sort of genocide created by general and collective indifference, by the complicit silence of Cain, who cries out: “What does it matter to me? Am I my brother’s keeper?” (see Gen 4:9; Homily in Redipuglia, 13 September 2014).
In the past century our human family has lived through three massive and unprecedented tragedies. The first, which is widely considered “the first genocide of the twentieth century” (John Paul II and Karekin II, Common Declaration, Etchmiadzin, 27 September 2001), struck your own Armenian people, the first Christian nation, as well as Catholic and Orthodox Syrians, Assyrians, Chaldeans and Greeks. Bishops and priests, religious, women and men, the elderly and even defenseless children and the infirm were murdered. The remaining two were perpetrated by Nazism and Stalinism. And more recently there have been other mass killings, like those in
Rwanda, Burundi and Bosnia. It seems that humanity is incapable
of putting a halt to the shedding of innocent blood. It seems that the enthusiasm
generated at the end of the Second World War has dissipated and is now disappearing.
It seems that the human family has refused to learn from its mistakes caused by
the law of terror, so that today too there are those who attempt to eliminate others
with the help of a few and with the complicit silence of others who simply stand
by. We have not yet learned that “war is madness,” “senseless slaughter” (see Homily
in Redipuglia, 13 September 2014).
Dear Armenian Christians, today, with hearts filled with pain but at the same time with great hope in the risen Lord, we recall the centenary of that tragic event, that immense and senseless slaughter whose cruelty your forebears had to endure. It is necessary, and indeed a duty, to honor their memory, for whenever memory fades, it means that evil allows wounds to fester. Concealing or denying evil is like allowing a wound to keep bleeding without bandaging it!
I greet you with affection and I thank you for your witness.
With gratitude for his presence, I greet Mr Serž Sargsyan, the President of the
. Republic of Armenia
My cordial greeting goes also to my brother Patriarchs and Bishops: His Holiness Karekin II, Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians; His Holiness Aram I, Catholicos of the Great House of Cilicia, His Beatitude Nerses Bedros XIX, Patriarch of Cilicia of Armenian Catholics; and Catholicosates of the Armenian Apostolic Church and the Patriarchate of the Armenian Catholic Church.
In the firm certainty that evil never comes from God, who is infinitely good, and standing firm in faith, let us profess that cruelty may never be considered God’s work and, what is more, can find absolutely no justification in his Holy Name. Let us continue this celebration by fixing our gaze on Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, victor over death and evil!
HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS POPE FRANCIS
Saint John, who was in the Upper Room with the other disciples on the evening of the first day after the Sabbath, tells us that Jesus came and stood among them, and said, “Peace be with you!” and he showed them his hands and his side (Jn 20:19-20); he showed them his wounds. And in this way they realized that it was not an apparition: it was truly him, the Lord, and they were filled with joy.
On the eighth day Jesus came once again into the Upper Room and showed his wounds to Thomas, so that he could touch them as he had wished to, in order to believe and thus become himself a witness to the Resurrection.
To us also, on this Sunday which Saint John Paul II wished to dedicate to Divine Mercy, the Lord shows us, through the Gospel, his wounds. They are wounds of mercy. It is true: the wounds of Jesus are wounds of mercy. “With his stripes we are healed” (Is 53:5).
Jesus invites us to behold these wounds, to touch them as Thomas did, to heal our lack of belief. Above all, he invites us to enter into the mystery of these wounds, which is the mystery of his merciful love.
Through these wounds, as in a light-filled opening, we can see the entire mystery of Christ and of God: his Passion, his earthly life—filled with compassion for the weak and the sick—his incarnation in the womb of Mary. And we can retrace the whole history of salvation: the prophecies—especially about the Servant of the Lord, the Psalms, the Law and the Covenant; to the liberation from Egypt, to the first Passover and to the blood of the slaughtered lambs; and again from the Patriarchs to Abraham, and then all the way back to Abel, whose blood cried out from the earth. All of this we can see in the wounds of Jesus, crucified and risen; with Mary, in her Magnificat, we can perceive that, “His mercy extends from generation to generation” (see Lk 1:50).
Faced with the tragic events of human history we can feel crushed at times, asking ourselves, “Why?” Humanity’s evil can appear in the world like an abyss, a great void: empty of love, empty of goodness, empty of life. And so we ask: how can we fill this abyss? For us it is impossible; only God can fill this emptiness that evil brings to our hearts and to human history. It is Jesus, God made man, who died on the Cross and who fills the abyss of sin with the depth of his mercy.
Saint Bernard, in one of his commentaries on the Canticle of Canticles (Sermon 61, 3-5: Opera Omnia, 2, 150-151), reflects precisely on the mystery of the Lord’s wounds, using forceful and even bold expressions which we do well to repeat today. He says that “through these sacred wounds we can see the secret of [Christ’s] heart, the great mystery of love, the sincerity of his mercy with which he visited us from on high.”
Brothers and sisters, behold the way which God has opened for us to finally go out from our slavery to sin and death, and thus enter into the land of life and peace. Jesus, crucified and risen, is the way and his wounds are especially full of mercy.
The saints teach us that the world is changed beginning with the conversion of one’s own heart, and that this happens through the mercy of God. And so, whether faced with my own sins or the great tragedies of the world, “my conscience would be distressed, but it would not be in turmoil, for I would recall the wounds of the Lord: ‘he was wounded for our iniquities’ (Is 53:5). What sin is there so deadly that it cannot be pardoned by the death of Christ?” (ibid.)
PRAYER VIGIL ON THE OCCASION OF THE
EXTRAORDINARY JUBILEE OF DIVINE MERCY
ADDRESS OF HIS HOLINESS POPE FRANCIS
Saint Peter’s Square, Saturday, 2 April 2016
Good evening! With joy and thanksgiving we come together to share this time of prayer that begins Mercy Sunday. It is a liturgical feast which Saint John Paul II—he left us on this day in 2005—ardently desired as a response to the request of Sister Faustina. The testimonies offered—for which we are grateful—and the readings we have just heard provide us the light and hope needed to enter the great
’s mercy. How many are
the expressions of mercy with which God encounters us? They are numerous and it
is impossible to describe them all, for the mercy of God continually increases.
God never tires of showing us mercy and we should never take for granted the opportunity
to receive, seek and desire this mercy. It is something always new, which inspires
awe and wonder as we see God’s immense creativity in the ways he comes to meet us. ocean
God has revealed himself, on many occasions, through his name which is “merciful” (see Ex 34:6). How great and infinite is the nature of God, so great and infinite his mercy, to the point that it is greatly challenging to describe it in all its entirety. Through Sacred Scriptures, we find that mercy is above all the closeness of God to his people. It is a closeness expressed essentially through help and protection. It is the closeness of a father or mother reflected in the beautiful words of the prophet Hosea: “I led them with cords of compassion, with the bands of love, and I became to them as one who eases the yoke on their jaws, and I bent down to them and fed them” (11:4). A father and mother’s embrace of their child. This image is extremely evocative: God picks each one of us up and holds us to his cheek. How much tenderness and love is expressed here! Tenderness: a word almost forgotten and one which the world today needs, all of us need. I had these words of the prophet in mind when I saw the image for the Jubilee. Jesus not only carries humanity on his shoulders, but his face is so closely joined to Adam’s face that it gives the impression they are one.
We do not have a God who is incapable of understanding and sharing our weaknesses (see Heb 4:15). Quite the contrary! Precisely because of his mercy God became one of us: “For by his incarnation the Son of God has united himself in some fashion with every man. He worked with human hands, he thought with a human mind, acted by human choice and loved with a human heart. Born of the Virgin Mary, he has truly been made one of us, like us in all things except sin” (Gaudium et Spes, no. 22). In Jesus, therefore, we are able not only to touch the mercy of God with our hands, but we are inspired to become instruments of his mercy. It is easy to speak of mercy, yet more difficult to become its witness. This is a path that is lifelong and which should not be interrupted. Jesus has said to us that we must be “merciful as the Father” (see Lk 6:36). It is a lifelong endeavor.
How many expressions there are, therefore, of God’s mercy! This mercy comes to us as closeness and tenderness, and because of this, comes also as compassion and solidarity, as consolation and forgiveness. The more we receive, the more we are called to share it with others; it cannot be kept hidden or kept only for ourselves. It is something which burns within our hearts, driving us to love, thus recognizing the face of Jesus Christ, above all in those who are most distant, weak, alone, confused and marginalized. Mercy does not remain still: it seeks out the lost sheep, and when one is found, a contagious joy overflows. Mercy knows how to look into the eyes of every person; each one is precious, for each one is unique. How much pain do we feel in our hearts when we hear: “These people … these people, these poor souls, let’s throw them out, let them sleep on the streets.” Are these words from Jesus?
Dear brothers and sisters, mercy never allows us to feel satisfied. It is the love of Christ which makes us restless until we reach the goal; it impels us to embrace, welcome and include those who need mercy, so that all may be reconciled with the Father (see 2 Cor 5:14-20). We ought not to fear for it is a love which comes to us and involves us to such an extent that we go beyond ourselves, enabling us to see his face in our brothers and sisters. Let us allow ourselves to be humbly guided by this love; then we will become merciful as the Father is merciful.
We have heard the Gospel: Thomas was hard-headed. He did not believe. And he found his faith at precisely the moment he touched the wounds of the Lord. A faith that is not able to touch the Lord’s wounds, is not faith! A faith that cannot be merciful, as the Lord’s wounds were a sign of mercy, is not faith: it is an idea, an ideology. Our faith is incarnated in a God who was made man, who became sin, who was wounded for us. But if we really want to believe and have faith, we must draw near and touch those wounds, caress those wounds and even lower our head and allow others to sooth our wounds.
It is good that it is the Holy Spirit who guides us: he is love, he is the mercy that is poured into our hearts. May we not place obstacles to his life-giving work but with docility follow the path he shows us. Let us open our hearts so that the Spirit can transform us; thus forgiven, reconciled, and sheltered in our Lord’s wounds, we will become witnesses to the joy that brims over on finding the risen Lord, alive among us.
[The Holy Father imparts his Apostolic Blessing].
The other day, speaking with the directors of a charitable agency, the following idea surfaced. I thought it would be good to share it with you this evening. How beautiful it would be to have as a reminder, a “memorial” as it were, in every diocese during this Year of Mercy, an institutional expression of mercy: a hospital, a home for the elderly, for abandoned children, a school where none exists, a home for the recovery of addicts… There are so many things that could be done… It would be very good for each diocese to consider: what can we leave as a living memory, as a work of living mercy, as a wound of the living Jesus for this Year of Mercy? Let us reflect on this and speak to the Bishops about it. Thank you.
EXTRAORDINARY JUBILEE OF DIVINE MERCY
HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS POPE FRANCIS
Saint Peter’s Square, Sunday, 3 April 2016
“Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book” (Jn 20:30). The Gospel is the book of God’s mercy, to be read and reread, because everything that Jesus said and did is an expression of the Father’s mercy. Not everything, however, was written down; the Gospel of mercy remains an open book, in which the signs of Christ’s disciples—concrete acts of love and the best witness to mercy—continue to be written. We are all called to become living writers of the Gospel, heralds of the Good News to all men and women of today. We do this by practicing the corporal and spiritual works of mercy, which are the hallmarks of the Christian life. By means of these simple yet powerful gestures, even when unseen, we can accompany the needy, bringing God’s tenderness and consolation. Thus continues the great work of Jesus on Easter day, when he poured into the hearts of his fearful disciples the Father’s mercy, bringing them the Holy Spirit who forgives sins and bestows joy.
At the same time, the story we have just heard presents an evident contrast: there is the fear of the disciples, who gathered behind closed doors; and then there is the mission of Jesus, who sends them into the world to proclaim the message of forgiveness. This contrast may also be present in us, experienced as an interior struggle between a closed heart and the call of love to open doors closed by sin. It is a call that frees us to go out of ourselves. Christ, who for love entered through doors barred by sin, death and the powers of hell, wants to enter into each one of us to break open the locked doors of our hearts. Jesus, who by his resurrection has overcome the fear and dread which imprison us, wishes to throw open our closed doors and send us out. The path that the Risen Master shows us is a one way street, it goes in only one direction: this means that we must move beyond ourselves to witness to the healing power of love that has conquered us. We see before us a humanity that is often wounded and fearful, a humanity that bears the scars of pain and uncertainty. Before the anguished cry for mercy and peace, we hear Jesus’ inspiring invitation: “As the Father has sent me, even so I send you” (Jn 20:21).
In God’s mercy, all of our infirmities find healing. His mercy, in fact, does not keep a distance: it seeks to encounter all forms of poverty and to free this world of so many types of slavery. Mercy desires to reach the wounds of all, to heal them. Being apostles of mercy means touching and soothing the wounds that today afflict the bodies and souls of many of our brothers and sisters. Curing these wounds, we profess Jesus, we make him present and alive; we allow others, who touch his mercy with their own hands, to recognize him as “Lord and God” (Jn 20:28), as did the Apostle Thomas. This is the mission that he entrusts to us. So many people ask to be listened to and to be understood. The Gospel of mercy, to be proclaimed and written in our daily lives, seeks people with patient and open hearts, “good Samaritans” who understand compassion and silence before the mystery of each brother and sister. The Gospel of mercy requires generous and joyful servants, people who love freely without expecting anything in return.
“Peace be with you!” (Jn 20:21) is the greeting of Jesus to his disciples; this same peace awaits men and women of our own day. It is not a negotiated peace, it is not the absence of conflict: it is his peace, the peace that comes from the heart of the Risen Lord, the peace that has defeated sin, fear and death. It is a peace that does not divide but unites; it is a peace that does not abandon us but makes us feel listened to and loved; it is a peace that persists even in pain and enables hope to blossom. This peace, as on the day of Easter, is born ever anew by the forgiveness of God which calms our anxious hearts. To be bearers of his peace: this is the mission entrusted to the Church on Easter day. In Christ, we are born to be instruments of reconciliation, to bring the Father’s forgiveness to everyone, to reveal his loving face through concrete gestures of mercy.
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For reflections on the Second Sunday of Easter
by Pope Benedict XVI,
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For reflections on the Second Sunday of Easter
by Pope Benedict XVI,
please scroll down to the bottom of this page.
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