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Pope Francis: Mercy Is “What Pleases God Most”

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At general audience, Pope expresses his hopes for the Holy Year

VATICAN CITY — Why inaugurate a Year of Mercy? According to Pope Francis, because “what pleases God most” is “to forgive his children and to have mercy on them, so that they too might forgive their brothers and sisters, shining like torches of God’s mercy in the world.”

Speaking to pilgrims this morning at the Wednesday general audience in St. Peter’s Square, the Holy Father said: “Today I would like to reflect together with you on the meaning of this Holy Year, by answering the question: Why a Jubilee of Mercy?”

Here are the highlights of the pope’s address.

The heart of the Gospel is Jesus: Mercy made flesh

“The Church needs this extraordinary moment. I’m not saying this extraordinary time is good for the Church … no, no. I’m saying the Church needs this extraordinary time. In our age of profound change, the Church is called to offer its unique contribution, by making visible the signs of the presence and closeness of God. And the Jubilee is a favorable time for us all, for in contemplating the Divine Mercy, which surpasses every human limitation and shines on the darkness of sin, we can become more convincing and effective witnesses. To turn one’s gaze to God, the merciful Father, and to one’s brothers and sisters who need mercy, means focusing one’s attention on the heart of the Gospel: Jesus, Mercy made flesh, who makes visible to our eyes the great mystery of the Trinitarian love of God. Celebrating the Jubilee of Mercy is equivalent to placing again at the center of our personal lives and the lives of our communities what’s distinctive about the Christian faith: Jesus Christ, the merciful God.”

What pleases God most is to forgive

“A Holy Year, then, to experience mercy. Yes, dear brothers and sisters, this Holy Year is offered to us to experience in our lives the sweet and gentle touch of God’s forgiveness, his presence beside us and his closeness especially in times of the greatest need. In short, this Jubilee is a privileged moment for the Church to learn to choose only ‘what pleases God most.’ And what is it that ‘pleases God most’? To forgive his children, to have mercy on them, so that they too might forgive their brothers and sisters, and become shining like torches of God’s mercy in the world.”

God’s joy is to forgive

In off the cuff remarks, he added: “St. Ambrose, in a book of theology he wrote on Adam, takes up the story of the creation of the world, and notes that each day, after having made something — the moon, the son or the animals — God says: ‘And he saw that this was good.’ But when he made man and woman, the Bible says: “He saw that this was very good.’ St. Ambrose asks: ‘But why does he say ‘very good’? Why was God so pleased after the creation of the man and the woman? Because finally he had someone to forgive. It’s beautiful, isn’t it? God’s joy is to forgive. God’s being is mercy. Therefore, over the course of this year we need to open our hearts, so that this love, this joy of God might fill us all with this mercy.”

Renewed Church structures are worthless without mercy

“Even the necessary work of renewal of the institutions and structures of the Church is a means that should lead us to have a living and life-giving experience of God’s mercy, which alone can guarantee that the Church is that city set on a hill that cannot remain hidden (cf. Matt. 5:14). Only a merciful Church shines! Were we to forget, even only for a moment, that mercy is ‘what pleases God most,’ all our efforts would be in vain, for we would become slaves of our institutions and our structures, however renewed they might be. We would always be slaves.”

The root of forgetfulness of mercy is self-love

“Of course, someone might object: ‘But Father, shouldn’t the Church do something more this year? It’s right to contemplate God’s mercy, but there are many urgent needs!’ It’s true, there is much to be done. And I for one never tire of remembering it. But we need to keep in mind that, at the root of the forgetfulness of mercy, there is always self-love. In the world, this takes on the form of looking exclusively after one’s one interests, of pleasure and honor joined to the desire to accumulate wealth, while in the life of Christians it is often clothed in hypocrisy and worldliness. All of these things are opposed to mercy. The movements of self-love, which make mercy a stranger in the world, are so many and so numerous that often we are not even able to recognize them as limitations and sin. We therefore need to recognize that we are sinners, in order to strengthen our certainty of divine mercy.”

Witnesses to mercy

Pope Francis concluded: “Dear brothers and sisters, I hope that, during this Holy Year, each of us might experience the mercy of God, and be witnesses of ‘what pleases God most.’ Is it naive to believe that this could change the world? Yes, humanly speaking it is foolish, but ‘the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men’ (1 Cor. 1:25). Thank you.”

 

Diane Montagna is Rome correspondent for Aleteia’s English edition.

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