In the year since he was elected, Pope Francis’s simple message of mercy, service, and renewal has spread to every corner of the world. Through his gentle demeanor, selfless actions, and welcoming call for service to others, PopeFrancis has captured the attention of a world longing for an authentic message of hope?we want to hear what he has to say.
Collected from Pope Francis’s speeches,homilies, and papers presented during the first year of his papacy, The Church of Mercy is the first Vatican-authorized book detailing his vision for the Catholic Church. From how to be citizens of the world to answering God’s call forevangelization, Pope Francis’s deep wisdom reminds us that the Church must move beyond its own walls and joyfully bring God’s mercy wherever suffering, division, orinjustice exists.
Excerpts from The Church of Mercy: A Vision for the Church by Pope Francis ⌐ 2014 English text published under license from Darton, Longman and Todd Ltd., London, UK, reprinted by permission of Loyola Press, Chicago, IL.
What a beautiful truth of faith this is for our lives: the mercy of God! God’slove for us is so great, so deep; it is an unfailing love, one that always takes us by the hand and supports us, lifts us up and leads us on.
In the Gospel of John, theapostle Thomas personally experiences this mercy of God, which has a concrete face: the face of Jesus, the risenJesus. Thomas does not believe it when the other apostles tell him,?We have seen the Lord.? It isn?t enough for him that Jesus had foretold it, promised it:?On the third day I will rise.? He wants to see, he wants to put his hand in the place of the nails and in Jesus? side. And how doesJesus react? With patience. Jesus does not abandon Thomas in his stubborn unbelief; he gives him a week’s time. He does not close the door; he waits. And Thomas acknowledges his own poverty, his little faith:?My Lord and my God!? With this simple yet faith-filled invocation, he responds to Jesus? patience. He lets himself be enveloped by divine mercy; he sees it before his eyes, in the wounds of Christ’s hands and feet and in his open side, and he discovers trust. He is a new man, no longer an unbeliever, but a believer.
Let us think too of the two disciples on the way to Emmaus: their sad faces, their barren journey, their despair. But Jesus does not abandon them: he walks beside them, and not only that! Patiently he explains the Scriptures, which spoke of him, and he stays to share a meal with them. This is God’s way of doing things: he is not impatient like us, who often want everything all atonce, even in our dealings with other people. God is patient with us because he loves us, and those who love are able to understand, to hope and to inspire confidence. They do not give up, they do not burn bridges, they are always able to forgive. Let us remember this in our lives as Christians: God always waits for us, even when we have left him behind! He is never far from us, and if we return to him, he is ready to embrace us.
I would like to emphasize one thing: God’s patience has to call forth in us the courage to return to him, however many mistakes andsins there may be in our life. Jesus tells Thomas to put his hand in the wounds of his hands and his feet and in his side. We too can enter the wounds of Jesus; we can actually touch him. This happens every time we receive the sacraments with faith.
Maybe someone among us here is thinking, My sin is so great, I am as far from God as the younger son in the parable [of the Prodigal Son]; my unbelief is like that of Thomas. I don?t have the courage to go back, to believe that God can welcome me and that he is waiting for me, of all people. But God is indeed waiting for you; he asks of you only the courage to go to him. How many times in my pastoral ministry have I heard it said,?Father, I have many sins?? And I have always pleaded,?Don?t be afraid, go to him, he is waiting for you, he will take care of everything.? We hear many offers from the world around us; but let us take up God’s offer instead: his is a caress of love. For God, we are not numbers, we are important; indeed we are the most important thing to him. Even if we are sinners, we are what is closest to his heart.