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Lent 2013

Pope Benedict XVI's Message
(1 Jn 4, 16) - in Arabic, English, French, German, Italian, Polish, Portuguese & Spanish

To believe in charity calls forth charity
“We have known and believed in the love God has for us”

Dear Brothers and Sisters,
The celebration of Lent, in the context of the Year of Faith, offers us a precious/invaluable opportunity to meditate on the relationship between faith and charity: between (the fact of) believing in God, in the God of Jesus Christ, and love, which is the fruit of the action of the Holy Spirit and which guides us on the pathway of devotion towards God and others.

1. Faith as the response to the love of God

In my first Encyclical, I offered some elements to grasp/capture on the close link between these two theological virtues, faith and charity. Starting from Saint John’s fundamental affirmation: “We have known and believed the love that God has for us” (1 Jn 4:16), I recalled that “at the beginning of being a Christian there is not an ethical decision or a grand/great idea, but rather the encounter with an event, with a Person, which gives to life a new horizon and thereby a decisive direction … Since God has first loved us (cf 1 Jn 4, 10), love is now no longer just a ‘commandment’, but is the response to the gift of love, with which God comes to meet us” (Deus Caritas Est, 1). Faith constitutes this personal adherence – which involves all our faculties – to the revelation of the gratuitous and “passionate” love that God has for us and which is fully manifested in Jesus Christ. The encounter with God (who is) Love summons not only the heart, but also the intellect: “The recognition of the living God is one way towards love, and the ‘yes’ of our will to his (will) unites our intellect, will and sentiments in the all-embracing act of love. This however is a process that is/stays continually on the pathway; love is never ‘concluded’ and complete” (Deus Caritas Est, 17). From this derives for all Christians and, in particular, for “workers of charity”, the necessity of faith, of this "encounter with God in Christ which awakens in them love and opens their minds/spirits/souls to the other, in a way/cosi/so that for them love of neighbour is no longer a commandment imposed, so to speak, from without, but a consequence deriving from their faith which becomes operative in love” (Deus Caritas Est, 31a). A Christian is a person conquered by the love of Christ and therefore, moved by this love – “caritas Christi urget nos” (2 Cor 5:14) – (and) is open in a profound and concrete way to love for their neighbour (cf Deus Caritas Est, 33). Such an attitude is born above all/originates primarily from the consciousness of being loved, forgiven, even served by the Lord, who stoops to wash the feet of the Apostles and offers his very self on the Cross so as to attract humanity into the love of God.

“Faith shows us the God who has given his Son for us and thus gives rise in us to the victorious certainty that it is really true: God is love! … Faith, which becomes aware of the love of God revealed in the pierced heart of Jesus on the Cross, gives rise in turn to love. It is (Love) is the light – in the end the only one – that illuminates always anew/again and again a dark world and gives us the courage to live and to act” (Deus Caritas Est, 39). All this makes us understand how the principal distinctive attitude of Christians is precisely “love founded on faith and shaped by it” (Deus Caritas Est, 7).

2. Charity as the life in faith

The whole/All of the Christian life is a response to God's love. The first response is precisely faith as the welcome/acceptance full of wonder and gratitude of the unprecedented divine initiative that precedes us and calls/urges us. And the “yes” of faith marks the beginning of a luminous story of friendship with the Lord, which fills and gives full meaning to our whole existence. God, however, does not content himself/is not content with the fact that we welcome his gratuitous love. He does not limit himself to loving us, but wants to attract us to Himself, to transform us in such a profound way as to lead us to say with St Paul: “it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me” (cf Gal 2, 20).

When we leave space for the love of God, we are made similar to Him, participants in his own charity. To open ourselves to his love means to let Him live in us and bring/lead us to love with Him, in Him and like Him; only then does our faith become truly “active through charity” (Gal 5, 6) and He makes his home/dwelling in us (cf 1 Jn 4, 12).

Faith is to know the truth and adhere to it (cf 1 Tim 2, 4); charity is “to walk” in the truth (cf Eph 4, 15). With faith one/we enters into friendship with the Lord; with charity one lives and cultivates this friendship (cf Jn 15, 14). Faith makes us welcome the commandment of our Lord and Master; charity gives us the beatitude of putting it into practice (cf Jn 13, 13-17). In faith we are begotten as children of God (cf Jn 1, 12); charity makes us persevere concretely in divine sonship by bearing the fruit of the Holy Spirit (cf Gal 5, 22). Faith makes us recognize the gifts that God, good and generous, has entrusted to us; charity makes them bear fruit/ fruitful (cf Mt 25, 14-30).

3. The indissoluble interweaving of faith and charity

In light of what has been said, it is clear that we can never separate nor, even, oppose faith and charity. These two theological virtues are intimately united and it is misleading to see a contrast or a “dialectic” between them. On the one hand, it is a limiting attitude to put/place so strong an emphasis on the priority and decisiveness of faith as to undervalue and almost despise concrete works of charity and reduce these to a generic humanitarianism. On the other hand, however, it is just as limiting to sustain an exagerrated supremacy of charity and of its work/operation, by thinking that works replace faith. For a healthy spiritual life it is necessary to shun/avoid both fideism and moral activism.

The Christian existence consists in a continuous ascent of the mountain of the encounter with God so as then to redescend/come back down, bringing/bearing the love and strength that derive from it, in order to serve our brothers and sisters with the very love of God/same love as God. In Sacred Scripture we see how the zeal of the Apostles to announce the Gospel and awaken people’s faith is closely related to their charitable concern to be of service to the poor (cf Acts 6:1-4). In the Church, contemplation and action, symbolized in some way by the Gospel figures of Mary and Martha, have to coexist and complement each other (cf Lk 10:38-42). The relationship with God must always be the priority, and any true sharing of goods, in the spirit of the Gospel, must be rooted in faith (cf General Audience, 25 April 2012). Sometimes we tend, in fact, to reduce the term “charity” to solidarity or simply humanitarian aid. It is important, however, to remember that the greatest work of charity is evangelization, which is the “ministry of the word”. There is no action more beneficial – and therefore more charitable – towards one’s neighbour than to break the bread of the word of God, to share with him the Good News of the Gospel, to introduce him to a relationship with God: evangelization is the highest and the most integral promotion of the human person. As the Servant of God Pope Paul VI wrote in the Encyclical Populorum Progressio, the proclamation of Christ is the first and principal contributor to development (cf n 16). It is the primordial truth of the love of God for us, lived and proclaimed, that opens our lives to receive this love and makes possible the integral development of humanity and of every man (cf Caritas in Veritate, 8).

Essentially, everything proceeds from Love and tends towards Love. God’s gratuitous love is made known to us through the proclamation of the Gospel. If we welcome it with faith, we receive the first and indispensable contact with the Divine, capable of making us “fall in love with Love”, and then we dwell within this Love, we grow in it and we joyfully communicate it to others.

Concerning the relationship between faith and works of charity, there is a passage in the Letter to the Ephesians which provides perhaps the best account of the link between the two: “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God; not because of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (2:8-10). It can be seen here that the entire redemptive initiative comes from God, from his grace, from his forgiveness received in faith; but this initiative, far from limiting our freedom and our responsibility, is actually what makes them authentic and directs them towards works of charity. These are not primarily the result of human effort, in which to take pride, but they are born of faith and they flow from the grace that God gives in abundance. Faith without works is like a tree without fruit: the two virtues imply one another. Lent invites us, through the traditional practices of the Christian life, to nourish our faith by careful and extended listening to the word of God and by receiving the sacraments, and at the same time to grow in charity and in love for God and neighbour, not least through the specific practices of fasting, penance and almsgiving.

4. Priority of faith, primacy of charity

Like any gift of God, faith and charity have their origin in the action of one and the same Holy Spirit (cf 1 Cor 13), the Spirit within us that cries out “Abba, Father” (Gal 4:6), and makes us say: “Jesus is Lord!” (1 Cor 12:3) and “Maranatha!” (1 Cor 16:22; Rev 22:20).

Faith, as gift and response, causes us to know the truth of Christ as Love incarnate and crucified, as full and perfect obedience to the Father’s will and infinite divine mercy towards neighbour; faith implants in hearts and minds the firm conviction that only this Love is able to conquer evil and death. Faith invites us to look towards the future with the virtue of hope, in the confident expectation that the victory of Christ’s love will come to its fullness. For its part, charity ushers us into the love of God manifested in Christ and joins us in a personal and existential way to the total and unconditional self-giving of Jesus to the Father and to his brothers and sisters. By filling our hearts with his love, the Holy Spirit makes us sharers in Jesus’ filial devotion to God and fraternal devotion to every man (cf Rom 5:5).

The relationship between these two virtues resembles that between the two fundamental sacraments of the Church: Baptism and Eucharist. Baptism (sacramentum fidei) precedes the Eucharist (sacramentum caritatis), but is ordered to it, the Eucharist being the fullness of the Christian journey. In a similar way, faith precedes charity, but faith is genuine only if crowned by charity. Everything begins from the humble acceptance of faith (“knowing that one is loved by God”), but has to arrive at the truth of charity (“knowing how to love God and neighbour”), which remains for ever, as the fulfilment of all the virtues (cf 1 Cor 13:13).

Dearest brothers and sisters, in this season of Lent, as we prepare to celebrate the event of the Cross and Resurrection – in which the love of God redeemed the world and shone its light upon history – I express my wish that all of you may spend this precious time rekindling your faith in Jesus Christ, so as to enter with him into the dynamic of love for the Father and for every brother and sister that we encounter in our lives. For this intention, I raise my prayer to God, and I invoke the Lord’s blessing upon each individual and upon every community!

From the Vatican, Feast of St Teresa of Avila, 15 October 2012

BENEDICTUS PP. XVI

Catechesis by Papa Benedetto      
Wednesday General Audience, 13 February 2013
- in Arabic, English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

The Temptations of Jesus and conversion to the Kingdom of heaven

"Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Today, Ash Wednesday, we begin the liturgical time of Lent, forty days that prepare us for the celebration of Holy Easter; it is a time of particular commitment on our spiritual pathway. The number forty occurs several times in Sacred Scripture. In particular, as we know, it recalls the forty years in which the people of Israel wandered in the desert: a long period of formation to become the people of God, but also a long period in which the temptation to be unfaithful to the covenant with the Lord was always present. Forty were also the days of journeying for the prophet Elijah to reach the Mountain of God, Horeb, as well as the period that Jesus spent in the desert before beginning his public life and where he was tempted by the devil. In this catechesis I would like to dwell on this moment of the earthly life of the Lord, which we will read in the Gospel next Sunday.

First of all the desert, where Jesus withdrew to, is a place of silence, of poverty, where man is deprived of material support and finds himself facing the fundamental questions of existence, is driven to go to the essential and exactly because of this it becomes easier for him to meet God. But the desert is also a place of death, because where there is no water there is no life, and it is a place of solitude, in which man more intensely feels temptation. Jesus goes into the desert, and there undergoes the temptation to leave the way indicated by the Father to follow other easier and more worldly roads (cf Lk 4:1-13). Thus He bears our temptations, takes upon Himself our misery, so as to conquer the evil one and to open to us the pathway to God, the pathway of conversion.

To reflect on the temptations which Jesus underwent in the desert is an invitation for each of us to answer a fundamental question: what really matters in my life? In the first temptation the devil proposes to Jesus that he change a stone into bread so as to sate his hunger. Jesus replies that man also lives by bread, but not by bread alone: ​​without a response to the hunger for truth, to the hunger for God, man cannot be saved (cf v 3-4). In the second temptation, the devil proposes to Jesus the way of power: he leads him up on high and offers him dominion of the world; but this is not God's road: Jesus was very clear that it is not worldly power that saves the world, but the power of the cross, of humility, of love (cf v 5-8). In the third temptation, the devil proposes to Jesus that he throw himself down from the pinnacle of the Temple of Jerusalem and make himself be saved by God through His angels, that is, to do something sensational to put God himself to the test; but the response is that God is not an object on which to impose our conditions: He is the Lord of all (cf v 9-12). What is the core of the three temptations that Jesus undergoes? It is the proposal to manipulate God, to use Him for one's own interests, for one's own glory and for one's own success. And thus, in essence, to put oneself in the place of God, removing Him from one's own existence and making Him seem superfluous. Therefore everyone should ask themselves: what place has God in my life? Is He the Lord or am I?

To overcome the temptation to subordinate God to oneself and to one's own interests or to put Him in a corner, and to convert oneself to the right order of priorities, to give God the first place, is a pathway that every Christian must travel again and again. "To convert", an invitation that we will hear many times in Lent, means to follow Jesus in such a way that his Gospel is the concrete guide of life; it means to let God transform us, to stop thinking that we are the only constructors of our existence; it means to recognize that we are creatures, that we depend on God, on his love, and only by "losing" our life in Him can we gain it. This demands making our choices in the light of the Word of God. Today we can no longer be Christians as a simple consequence of the fact of living in a society that has Christian roots: even those who are born in a Christian family and educated religiously must, every day, renew the choice to be Christian, that is, to give God the first place, in front of the temptations that a secularized culture proposes to them continuously, in front of the critical judgment of many contemporaries.

The tests to which modern society subjects Christians, in fact, are many, and affect both personal and social life. It is not easy to be faithful to Christian marriage, to practice mercy in daily life, to leave space for prayer and inner silence; it is not easy to publicly oppose choices that many consider obvious, such as abortion in the case of unwanted pregnancy, euthanasia in the case of serious illness, or the selection of embryos so as to prevent hereditary diseases. The temptation to set aside one's own faith is always present and conversion becomes a response to God which must be confirmed many times in life.

There are as an example and stimulus the great conversions such as that of St Paul on the way to Damascus, or of St Augustine, but also in our time of eclipses of the sense of the sacred, the grace of God is at work and works wonders in the lives of so many people. The Lord never tires of knocking at the door of man in social and cultural contexts that seem swallowed up by secularization, as happened with the Russian Orthodox Pavel Florensky. After a completely agnostic education, so much so that he felt outright hostility to the religious teachings taught in school, the scientist Florensky found himself exclaiming: "No, one cannot live without God!", and completely changed his life, so much so that he became a priest.

I also think of the figure of Etty Hillesum, a young Dutch girl of Jewish origin who died in Auschwitz. Initially far from God, she discovered him by looking in depth inside herself and wrote: "A very deep well is inside of me. And God is in that well. Sometimes I manage to reach him, more often stones and sand cover the well: then God is buried. I need again to unearth him." (Diary, 97). In her scattered and restless life, she found God right in the midst of the great tragedy of the 20th century, the Holocaust. This fragile and dissatisfied young girl, transfigured by faith, is transformed into a woman full of love and inner peace, capable of affirming: "I live constantly in intimacy with God."

The capacity to oppose the ideological flattery of her time so as to choose the search for truth and to open herself to the discovery of faith is demonstrated by another woman of our time, the American Dorothy Day. In her autobiography, she confesses openly of having fallen into the temptation of resolving everything with politics, adhering to the Marxist cause: "I wanted to go with the protesters, to go to prison, to write, to influence others and to leave my dream to the world. How much ambition and how much self-seeking there was in all this!" The pathway to faith in so secularized an environment was particularly difficult, but Grace acts all the same, as she herself stresses: "It is certain that I felt more often the need to go to church, to kneel down, to bow my head in prayer. A blind instinct, one might say, because I was not conscious of praying. But I went, I slipped into the atmosphere of prayer...". God led her to a conscious adherence to the Church, in a life dedicated to the underprivileged.

In our time there are no few conversions understood as the return of those who, after a perhaps superficial Christian education, are distanced for years from the faith and then rediscover Christ and his Gospel. In the Book of the Apocalypse we read: "Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him, eat with him and he with me" (3:20). Our inner man must prepare to be visited by God, and precisely for this reason must not let himself be invaded by illusions, by appearances, by material things.

In this time of Lent, in the Year of faith, we renew our commitment on the pathway of conversion, so as to overcome the tendency to close in on ourselves and to make, instead, space for God, looking with his eyes at daily reality. The alternative between the closing in of our egoism and the opening to the love of God and others, we could say corresponds to the alternatives of the temptations of Jesus: the alternative, that is, between human power and love of the Cross, between a redemption viewed solely on material well-being and a redemption as the work of God, to whom we give the primacy in existence. Conversion means not closing in on oneself in the search for one's own success, one's own prestige, one's own position, but making sure that every day, in the little things, truth, faith in God and love become the most important thing."

Papa Benedict's Homily at Holy Mass on Ash Wednesday
in St Peter's Basilica, the Vatican - in English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

"Venerable Brothers, Dear Brothers and Sisters!
Today, Ash Wednesday, we begin a new Lenten journey, a journey that extends for forty days and leads us to the joy of Easter, the victory of Life over death. Following the ancient Roman tradition of Lenten stationes, we have gathered for the celebration of the Eucharist. The tradition says that the first statio should take place in the Basilica of Santa Sabina on the Aventine Hill. The circumstances have suggested that we gather in St Peter's Basilica. Tonight we are great in number around the tomb of the Apostle Peter, also to request his intercession for the Church's journey at this particular time, renewing our faith in the Supreme Pastor, Christ the Lord. For me it is a good opportunity to thank everyone, especially the faithful of the Diocese of Rome, as I prepare to conclude my Petrine ministry, and ask for a special remembrance in prayer.

The readings that have been proclaimed provide us with ideas that, with the grace of God, we are called to make concrete attitudes and behaviors during this Lent. The Church proposes to us, first, the strong appeal that the prophet Joel addressed to the people of Israel, "Thus says the Lord, return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning" (2:12). Please note the phrase "with all my heart," which means from the center of our thoughts and feelings, from the roots of our decisions, choices and actions, with a gesture of total and radical freedom. But is this return to God possible? Yes, because there is a force that does not reside in our hearts, but that emanates from the heart of God. It is the power of his mercy. The prophet says, further: "Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, rich in faithful love, ready to repent of evil" (v 13). The return to the Lord is possible as a 'grace', because it is the work of God and the fruit of that faith that we place in His mercy. But this return to God becomes a reality in our lives only when the grace of God penetrates to our inmost being and shakes it, giving us the power to "rend our hearts". The same prophet causes these words from God to resonate: "Rend your hearts and not your garments" (v 13). In fact, even today, many are ready to "rend their garments" before scandals and injustices - of course, made by others - but few seem willing to act on their own "heart", on their own conscience and their own intentions, letting the Lord transform, renew and convert.

That "return to me with all your heart," then, is a reminder that involves not only the individual, but the community. We have heard, also in the first reading: "Play the horn in Zion, proclaim a solemn fast, call a sacred assembly. Gather the people, convoke a solemn assembly, call the old, gather the children and the infants at the breast; let the bridegroom leave his room and the bride her bridal chamber"(v 15-16). The community dimension is an essential element in faith and Christian life. Christ came "to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad" (cf Jn 11:52). The "we" of the Church is the community in which Jesus brings us together (cf Jn 12:32): faith is necessarily ecclesial. And this is important to remember and to live in this time of Lent: each person is aware that he does not face the penitential journey alone, but together with many brothers and sisters, in the Church.

Finally, the prophet focuses on the prayers of the priests, who, with tears in their eyes, turn to God, saying: "Do not expose your heritage to the reproach and derision of the nations. Why should they say among the peoples, 'Where is their God?' "(v 17). This prayer makes us reflect on the importance of the testimony of faith and Christian life of each of us and our community to show the face of the Church and how that face is sometimes disfigured. I am thinking in particular about sins against the unity of the Church, the divisions in the ecclesial body. Living Lent in a more intense and evident ecclesial communion, overcoming individualism and rivalry, is a humble and precious sign for those who are far from the faith or indifferent.

"Behold, now is the acceptable time, now is the day of salvation" (2 Cor 6:2). The words of the Apostle Paul to the Christians of Corinth resonate for us, too, with an urgency that does not allow omission or inaction. The word "now" repeated several times says that we cannot let this time pass us by, it is offered to us as a unique opportunity. And the Apostle's gaze focuses on the sharing that Christ chose to characterize his life, taking on everything human to the point of bearing the very burden of men's sins. The phrase St Paul uses is very strong: "God made him sin for our sake." Jesus, the innocent one, the Holy One, "He who knew no sin" (2 Cor 5:21), bears the burden of sin, sharing with humanity its outcome of death, and death on the cross. The reconciliation offered to us has cost a high price, that of the cross raised on Golgotha, on which was hung the Son of God made man. In this immersion of God in human suffering and in the abyss of evil lies the root of our justification. The "return to God with all your heart" in our Lenten journey passes through the cross, following Christ on the road to Calvary, the total gift of self. It is a way on which to learn every day to come out more and more from our selfishness and our closures, to make room for God who opens and transforms the heart. And St Paul recalls how the announcement of the Cross resounds to us through the preaching of the Word, of which the Apostle himself is an ambassador; it is a call for us to make this Lenten journey characterized by a more careful and assiduous listening to the Word of God, the light that illuminates our steps.

In the Gospel of Matthew, to which belongs the so-called Sermon on the Mount, Jesus refers to three fundamental practices required by Mosaic Law: almsgiving, prayer and fasting; they are also traditional indications in the Lenten journey to respond to the invitation to "return to God with all your heart." But Jesus emphasizes that it is both the quality and the truth of the relationship with God that determines the authenticity of each religious gesture. For this reason He denounces religious hypocrisy, the behaviour that wants to be seen, attitudes seeking applause and approval. The true disciple does not serve himself or the "public", but his Lord, in simplicity and generosity: "And your Father, who sees in secret, will reward you" (Mt 6:4.6.18). Our witness, then, will always be more effective the less we seek our own glory, and we will know that the reward of the righteous is God himself, being united to Him, here below, on the journey of faith, and, at the end of life, in the peace and light of coming face to face with Him forever (cf 1 Cor 13:12).

Dear brothers and sisters, we begin our Lenten journey, trusting and joyful. May the invitation to conversion resonate strongly in us, to "return to God with all your heart", accepting His grace that makes us new men, with the surprising novelty that is sharing in the very life of Jesus. Let none of us, therefore, be deaf to this appeal, that is addressed to us also in the austere rite, so simple and yet so beautiful, of the imposition of ashes, which we will perform shortly. May the Virgin Mary accompany us in this time, the Mother of the Church and model of every true disciple of the Lord. Amen!"

 

"Cari fratelli e sorelle,
come sapete - grazie per la vostra simpatia! - ho deciso di rinunciare al ministero che il Signore mi ha affidato il 19 aprile 2005. Ho fatto questo in piena libertà per il bene della Chiesa, dopo aver pregato a lungo ed aver esaminato davanti a Dio la mia coscienza, ben consapevole della gravità di tale atto, ma altrettanto consapevole di non essere più in grado di svolgere il ministero petrino con quella forza che esso richiede. Mi sostiene e mi illumina la certezza che la Chiesa è di Cristo, il Quale non le farà mai mancare la sua guida e la sua cura. Ringrazio tutti per l’amore e per la preghiera con cui mi avete accompagnato. Grazie! Ho sentito quasi fisicamente in questi giorni, per me non facili, la forza della preghiera, che l’amore della Chiesa, la vostra preghiera, mi porta. Continuate a pregare per me, per la Chiesa, per il futuro Papa. Il Signore ci guiderà."

Papa Francisco's Homily on 5th Sunday of Lent
(Francis' 1st Sunday homily after becoming Pope) Sunday 17 March 2013 - in English, French, German, Italian, Polish, Portuguese, Spanish   

"This is a beautiful story. First we have Jesus alone on the mountain, praying. He was praying alone (cf Jn 8, 1). Then he went back to the Temple, and all the people went to him. Jesus in the midst of the people. And then, at the end, they left him alone with the woman. That solitude of Jesus! But it is a fruitful solitude: the solitude of prayer with the Father, and the beautiful solitude that is the Church’s message for today: the solitude of his mercy towards this woman.

And among the people we see a variety of attitudes: there were all the people who went to him; he sat and began to teach them: the people who wanted to hear the words of Jesus, the people with open hearts, hungry for the word of God. There were others who did not hear anything, who could not hear anything; and there were those who brought along this woman: Listen, Master, this woman has done such and such ... we must do what Moses commanded us to do with women like this (cf v 4-5).

I think we too are the people who, on the one hand want to listen to Jesus, but on the other hand, at times, like to find a stick to beat others with, to condemn others. And Jesus has this message for us: mercy. I think – and I say it with humility – that this is the Lord’s most powerful message: mercy. It was he himself who said: "I did not come for the righteous". The righteous justify themselves. Go on, then, even if you can do it, I cannot! But they believe they can. "I came for sinners" (Mk 2, 17).

Think of the gossip after the call of Matthew: he associates with sinners! (cf Mk 2v 16). He comes for us, when we recognize that we are sinners. But if we are like the Pharisee, before the altar, who said: I thank you Lord, that I am not like other men, and especially not like the one at the door, like that publican (cf Lk 18, 11-12), then we do not know the Lord’s heart, and we will never have the joy of experiencing this mercy! It is not easy to entrust oneself to God’s mercy, because it is an abyss beyond our comprehension. But we must! "Oh, Father, if you knew my life, you would not say that to me!" "Why, what have you done?" "Oh, I am a great sinner!" "All the better! Go to Jesus: he likes you to tell him these things!" He forgets, he has a very special capacity for forgetting. He forgets, he kisses you, he embraces you and he simply says to you: "Neither do I condemn you; go, and sin no more" (Jn 8, 11). That is the only advice he gives you. After a month, if we are in the same situation ... Let us go back to the Lord. The Lord never tires of forgiving: never! It is we who tire of asking his forgiveness. Let us ask for the grace not to tire of asking forgiveness, because he never tires of forgiving. Let us ask for this grace."

After Mass and the greetings of the parish priest and Cardinal Angelo Comastri, the Pope concluded with these words:

"There are some here who are not parishoners, including a few from Argentina — one is my Auxiliary Bishop — but today they are parishoners. I want to introduce to you a priest who comes from far away, a priest who works with children and with drug addicts on the street. He opened a school for them; he has done many things to make Jesus known, and all those boys and girls off the street, they today work with the studies they have done; they have the ability to work, they believe and they love Jesus. I ask you Gonzalo, come greet the people: pray for him. He works in Uruguay; he is the founder of Jubilar Juan Pablo II. This is his work. I do not know how he came here, but I will find out! Thanks. Pray for him."