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“The Gospel of mercy remains an open book, in which the signs of Christ’s disciples, which are concrete acts of love and the best witness to mercy, continue to be written.” Francis repeated Jesus’ words to his disciples: “Peace be with you!” “This same peace awaits men and women of our own day,” Francis explained in St. Peter’s Square. “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.” Essentially, Christ’s peace unites, it does not divide.
“So many people ask to be listened to and to be understood. We see before us a humanity that is often wounded and fearful”, God wants to heal it but it is us who must write the Gospel of mercy,” the Pope urged, calling on Christians to go out and be bearers of a peace that unites. Mercy is the essence of his pontificate. It is to mercy that Francis dedicated the Extraordinary Holy Year and his invitation to be merciful as God is with his people rings through in the homilies Francis pronounces off the cuff in St. Martha’s House every morning.
The Pope encouraged faithful to console “a humanity that is often wounded and fearful”. This is a Sunday unlike any other. The Pope celebrated mass in a packed St. Peter’s Square on the occasion of the feast of Divine Mercy established by St. John Paul II who was inspired by St. Faustina Kowalska. An embrace of faith and sharing in front of St. Peter’s Basilica on the occasion of the Jubilee of those who adhere to the spirituality of Divine Mercy inspired by the message of the Polish saint. 11 years on, the feast of Divine Mercy falls on the same days as in 2005, when Karol Wojtyla passed away during the first vespers of the liturgical celebration, on the evening of Saturday April 2nd, as a visibly moved Jorge Mario Bergoglio recalled during yesterday evening’s prayer vigil.
Francis’ words on the feast that links together the pontificates of Wojtyla, Ratzinger and Bergoglio, struck a chord in the hearts of faithful. “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.” “Being apostles of mercy means touching and soothing the wounds that today afflict the bodies and souls of many of our brothers and sisters.”
The Pope recalled that God’s mercy “seeks to encounter all forms of poverty and to free this world of so many types of slavery”. All Christians are called to write the Gospel of mercy. So the mission Jesus gives his disciples also applies to mankind today, when Jesus “sends them into the world to proclaim the message of forgiveness”. Francis explained: “the Gospel of mercy remains an open book, in which the signs of Christ’s disciples, which are 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 today.” “We do this,” the Pope added, “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 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 brings joy.” “The Gospel,” he continued, “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.”
Francis then sent out a heartfelt appeal for solidarity towards others. “Before the anguished cry for mercy and peace, Jesus confidently exhorts us: ‘As the Father has sent me, even so I send you’.” “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.” “ 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.” The Pope’s appeal for mercy not to keep a distance will remain etched in faithful’s hearts.
The Pope concluded by saying: “Let us ask for the grace to never grow tired of drawing from the well of the Father’s mercy and bringing it to the world: let us ask that we too may be merciful, to spread the power of the Gospel everywhere.” “To write the pages of the Gospel which the apostle John did not write,” he added off the cuff.
After the mass, while reciting the Regina Coeli, the Pope prayed for Ukraine, asking for “peace and respect for the law of this tried land”. He also announced that “a collection is to be held in all Catholic Churches across Europe”, to offer “humanitarian aid” to “those living in territories torn apart by wars that have caused thousands of deaths” and to those – more than a million – who were forced to leave as a result of the ongoing critical situation”.
He added: “As we pray for peace, we remember that tomorrow is the International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action. Too many people continue to be killed or mutilated by these terrible arms and courageous men and women risk their lives to clear mined areas. Let us please renew our efforts for a mine-free world.”