In Wednesday’s General Audience, Pope Francis returned to his favorite subject…mercy, and gave his reasons for doing so.
“Like a good mother and educator, the Church focuses on the essential, and the essential, according to the Gospel, is mercy, as Jesus clearly tells his disciples: ‘Be merciful, just as your father is.’ Is it possible for a Christian not to be merciful,” asked Pope Francis. “No. The Christian must necessarily be merciful, because this is at the center of the Gospel.”
Following the advice of Aristotle (Rhetoric), who advised speakers to tell them what you’re going to tell them, tell them and then tell them what you told them, the Holy Father is dedicated to clarifying the core message of the Gospel, “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” (Luke 6:36)
Continuing, Pope Francis added, “And so the Church behaves like Jesus. She does not give theoretical lessons on love or on mercy. She does not spread throughout the world a philosophy or a path to wisdom. Certainly, Christianity is all of this, too,” the pope remarked, “but as a consequence, a reflection. The mother Church, like Jesus, teaches by example and words serve to cast light on the meaning of her gestures.”
Referring to the Last Judgment passage in Matthew 25:35-46, Pope Francis explained that mercy is witnessed by parents who teach their children that what is left over is for those in need, by those who visit the sick and elderly in hospitals and rest homes, by the people who care for those who have been abandoned, and by those who are close to the imprisoned, recalling that “each of us is capable of doing what these (imprisoned) have done.”
Concluding the reflection, the Holy Father said, “The Church is a mother teaching her children the works of mercy. She has learned this path from Jesus; she has learned that this is essential for salvation. It is not enough to love those who love us. It is not enough to do good to those who do good to us in return. To change the world for the better, it is necessary to do good to those who are not able to do the same for us, as our Father did for us, in giving us Jesus. How much have we paid for our redemption? Nothing. It was all free. Doing good without expecting anything in return – this is what our Father did for us and what we too must do.”
Jesus is the incarnation of the Father’s mercy. As his disciples let us be witnesses to his Gospel of mercy and love.
Image Credit: CNS photo/Paul Haring