Photo: Fr. Kaz Chwalek, MIC; Marie Romagnano, RN
Pope Francis' Remarks at Divine Mercy Prayer Vigil
Here below we publish Pope Francis' full address on the eve of the Jubilee of Divine Mercy, on Saturday, April 2, 2016:
Dear brothers and sisters,
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 ardently desired, and 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 ocean of God'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.
God has revealed himself, on many occasions, through his name which is "mercy" (cf. 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 Isaiah: "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). 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! 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 (cf. 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, 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" (cf. Lk 6:36). And this takes a lifetime!
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 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 painful it is when we hear it said: "These people... these people, these poor people, let's throw them out, let's let them sleep on the street ..." Is this of 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 (cf. 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 listened to the Gospel: Thomas was hard-headed. He didn't believe. And he found faith precisely when he touched the Lord's wounds. A faith incapable of entering into the Lord's wounds isn't faith! A faith incapable of being merciful, as the Lord's wounds are a sign of mercy, isn't faith: it's an idea, an ideology. Our faith is incarnate in a God who became flesh, who became sin, who was wounded for us. But if we want to believe seriously, and have faith, we have to approach and touch that wound, caress that wound, and also lower our heads and allow others to caress 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 and reconciled, we will become witnesses to the joy that brims over on finding the risen Lord, alive among us.
[Pope Francis gives his blessing ...]
The other day, in talking with the directors of a charitable aid association, an idea emerged, and I thought: "I'll say it in the square on Saturday." That it would be lovely, as a reminder, let's say, a "monument" of this Year of Mercy, if in every diocese there were a structural work of mercy: a hospital, a home for the elderly, or for abandoned children, a school where there was none, a home for recovering addicts... So many things are possible. It would be lovely if every diocese were to think: What can I leave as a living reminder, as a living work of mercy, as a wound of the living Jesus for this Year of Mercy? Let's think about it and we'll talk about it with the bishops. Thank you.