Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Pope: "The Church is for everyone, especially for the bad"

"The Church is for everyone, especially for the bad " and " God’s salvation can reach any man in any condition, even the most negative and painful".

Pope Francis focused his catechesis for the general audience today on forgiveness as a central element to Christ’s teaching, indicating in the "good thief" a "witness of Grace; the unthinkable happened: God loved me so much that he died on the cross for me. " And with his repentance "he succeeded in stealing Heaven, this is a good thief."
The reflection that Francis made for the 30 thousand people present in St Peter's Square, began with the affirmation that " sus’ words during His Passion culminate in forgiveness: “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Lk 23:34).  For the good thief, these are not mere words, for Jesus truly forgives him. Saint Luke tells of two criminals crucified with Jesus, who turn to Him with opposing attitudes. The first insults him, like  all the people present there insulted him, like the rulers of the people, but prompted by despair: "Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us! "(Lk 23,39). This cry testifies to the anguish of man before the mystery of death and the tragic awareness that only God can provide the liberating answer: it is therefore unthinkable that the Messiah, the one sent by God, should hang from the cross while doing nothing to save himself . They did not understand the mystery of Jesus' sacrifice. But Jesus saved us by staying on the cross. And we all know it is not easy to stay on the cross on our small daily crosses, He remained on this great Cross and suffering there, He saved us, He showed his great omnipotence and has forgiven us.

"There He makes his gift of love, gushing forth always our salvation. By dying on the Cross, innocent between two criminals, he proves that God’s salvation can reach any man in any condition, even the most negative and painful. God's salvation is for everyone: for all! Without exception. And it is offered to all. This is why the Jubilee is a time of grace and mercy for all, good and bad, those who are healthy and those who suffer. But remember the parable that Jesus tells us of the wedding feast of a powerful man’s son: when the guests did not want to come, he said to his servants: 'Go out to the crossroads, call everyone, good and bad ...'. We are all called: good and bad. The Church is not just for good or for those who seem to think they are good. The Church is for everyone, and preferably also for the bad, because the Church is mercy ".

"And this time of grace and mercy reminds us that nothing can separate us from the love of Christ! (Cf. Rom 8:39). Those who are nailed to a hospital bed, who live locked in a prison, who are trapped by war, I say: look at the Crucifix; God is with you, He stays with you on the Cross and offers Himself to all as Savior. He accompanies us, all of us, who suffer so much, He is crucified for you, for us, for everybody. Let the power of the Gospel penetrate into your heart and console you, give you hope and the intimate certainty that no one is excluded from His forgiveness. You may wonder: 'But tell me, Father, do even those who have done the worst possible things in life have a chance to be forgiven?' - 'Yes! Yes: no one is excluded from God's forgiveness. Only those who draw near to Jesus, who repent and desire to be embraced".

"This was the case with the first thief. The other is the so-called "good thief". His words are a wonderful model of repentance, a catechesis focused on learning how to ask for forgiveness from Jesus. First, he turns to his companion: " Don't you fear God," he said, "since you are under the same sentence?" ( Lk 23,40). This is the starting point of repentance: fear of God. But not being afraid of God, no: filial fear of God. It is not being afraid, rather it is the respect that is due to God because He is God. A filial respect because He is the Father. The good thief recalls the fundamental attitude that is openness to trust in God: awareness of His omnipotence and His infinite goodness. This then gives us the confidence that helps to make room for God and trust in his mercy. Then, the good thief declares the innocence of Jesus and openly confesses his guilt: " We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong"(Lk 23,41): thus he says. Therefore, Christ is on the Cross to be with the guilty: proximity, He offers them salvation. This is a scandal for the leaders and for the first thief, for those who were there and made fun of Jesus, however this is the foundation of His faith. And so the good thief becomes a witness of grace; the unthinkable happened: God loved me so much that he died on the cross for me. The faith of this man is the result of the grace of Christ: his eyes contemplate the Crucified and the love of God for him, a poor sinner. It’s true, he was thief, he was a thief: it is true. He had stolen all his life. But in the end, he regretted what he had done, by contemplating the good and merciful Jesus he succeeded in stealing Heaven: he is a good thief! ".

"The good thief finally addresses Jesus directly, imploring help:" Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom "(Lk 23,42). He calls him by name, Jesus, confidently, and so confesses what the name indicates: 'the Lord saves': this is what 'Jesus' means. The man asks Jesus to remember him. How much tenderness in this expression, how much humanity! It is the human being’s need not be abandoned, that God always be near. In this way a condemned man becomes the Christian model that relies on Jesus. Oh ... this is deep: a man condemned to death is a model for us. A model of a man, a Christian who trusts in Jesus; and even model of the Church in the liturgy that so often invokes the Lord saying, 'Remember ... Remember ... Remember your love ...'. While the good thief speaks to the future: "When you come into your kingdom," Jesus' answer immediate, when he says: "Today you will be with me in Paradise" (v. 43). The hour of the cross, the salvation of Christ reaches its climax; and His promise to the good thief reveals the fulfillment of His mission: that is, to save sinners. At the beginning of his ministry, in the synagogue of Nazareth, Jesus had proclaimed he would "release to the captives" (Lk 4:18); in Jericho, in the house of the tax collector Zacchaeus a sinner, he had declared that "the Son of man - that is, He - has come to seek and to save that which was lost" (Lk 19,9). On the Cross, the last act confirms the realization of this plan of salvation. From beginning to end he poured out Mercy, revealing Himself to be the definitive  and unrepeatable incarnation of the Father. Jesus really is the face of the merciful Father. And the good thief called him by name: 'Jesus'. It 'a short prayer, and we can all do it so many times during the day:' Jesus'. 'Jesus', simply. Let's  do this three times, all together? So:'Jesus, Jesus, Jesus'. Do this all day. "

In his greetings in Spanish, Francis turned to Mexico, "I must spare a thought for the Mexican people. I heard you sing the Guadalupana before - he continued – praying for the suffering of this people, can you sing this again? ". 

The group sang a verse of the Guadalupana, and in the end the Pope said "Thanks".

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