When John XXIII solemnly opened the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, he said, “The Bride of Christ prefers to use the medicine of mercy rather than arm herself with the weapons of rigor.”(Gaudet Mater Ecclesia).
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.
“Mercy exists,” the Pope points out, “but if you don’t want to receive it…if you don’t recognize yourself as a sinner, it means you don’t want to receive it, it means that you don’t feel the need for it … The first and only step required to experience mercy,” he then added, ”is to acknowledge that we are in need of mercy. Jesus comes for us, when we recognize that we are sinners.”
Those who are in the habit of judging people from above, who are sure of their own righteousness, who are used to considering themselves just, good, and in the right, don’t feel the need to be embraced and forgiven. And there also are those who feel the need but think they are irredeemable because they have done too many bad things.
“More than half a century ago,” Pope Francis recalls, “Pope Pius XII said that the tragedy of our age was that it had lost its sense of sin, the awareness of sin. Today we add further to the tragedy by considering our illness, our sins, to be incurable, things that cannot be healed or forgiven.”
“Perhaps,” he continued, “we lack the actual concrete experience of mercy. The fragility of our era is this, too: we don’t believe that there is a chance for redemption; for a hand to raise you up; for an embrace to save you, forgive you, pick you up, flood you with infinite, patient, indulgent love; to put you back on your feet. We need mercy.”
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