"God's omnipotence is seen, manifested above all in His mercy and forgiveness." "It is not easy to understand God's mercy, it is not easy. It takes so much prayer to understand this, because it is a grace. "
Vatican City (AsiaNews) - The "rigid", bound by the law, do not understand the mercy of God, forget "that God's righteousness has become flesh in his Son, made mercy and forgiveness" said Pope Francis at mass this morning at Casa Santa Marta. Reflecting, for the second consecutive day, on a reading from the Book of Jonah, Pope Francis concluded that it is God’s mercy that opens our hearts and wins over everything. Recalling the story of the prophet Jonah whom – he said – “was a stubborn man who wanted to teach God how to do things” he described him as “sick with rigidity”, “a starved soul”.
In the Bible story, the Pope said, the Lord asks Jonah to convert the city of Nineveh. First the prophet refuses to do so and runs away; then he carries out God’s orders “and he does it well”. But still, Francis observed, Jonah is “angry” and indignant because the Lord shows forgiveness towards the people who, with open hearts, showed repentance.
“Those who have stubborn souls do not understand what God's mercy is” he said. They are like Jonah, he continued, they do not know how to open their hearts to the Lord. He described them as “faint-hearted” - with little hearts that are closed to mercy - and attached to issues of naked righteousness: “they forget that the justice of God became flesh in his Son, it became mercy and forgiveness; they forget that God’s heart is always open to forgiveness”.
Something else they forget, the Pope added, is that “the omnipotence of God is manifested primarily in His mercy and forgiveness”. “It is not easy to understand God's mercy, it is not easy. Much prayer is needed because it is a grace” he said. And, Francis noted, we are so accustomed to the tit-for-tat attitude - that kind of attitude that implies that justice means paying for what you did, but – he said: “Jesus paid for us and continues to pay.”
Referring again to the story of the Jonah, he said that God could have abandoned the prophet to his stubbornness and to his rigidity. Instead, he went to talk to him and convinced him; he saved him just as he saved the people of Nineveh. “He is the God of patience, He is the God who knows how to give a caress, who knows how to open hearts”.
Pope Francis pointed out that the message at the heart the prophetic Book is to be found in the dialogue between prophecy, penance, mercy and faint-heartedness or stubbornness. And, he said, it is in the fact that God’s mercy always prevails because His omnipotence is manifested in His mercy. I advise you, Francis concluded, to read the Book of Jonah today: “it is very small, only three pages, and see how the Lord acts, how His mercy transforms our hearts, and thank the Lord for being so merciful”.
“[W]e are called to be the living expression of the Church that, as a mother, welcomes anyone who approaches her,” said the pontiff. “Being a confessor in accordance with Christ’s heart is like covering a sinner’s heart with the blanket of mercy, so that he or she may not feel ashamed anymore and regain the joy of their filial dignity". Sadly, “One can do a lot of harm to a soul if it is not accepted as by a father, as by a mother Church."
On the final day of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, Francis said that “there can be no Christian unity without mercy and forgiveness.” Christians are making “important steps towards unity” listening “to the Word of God together and seek[ing] to put it into practice”. As they share the mission of proclaiming God’s merciful love as well as walk and work together, they realise that they are "already united in the name of the Lord.”
Before the Angelus, Francis commented the "Chapter of mercy", the 15th in Luke's Gospel, which presents us with parables with which Christ responds to the whispers of the scribes and the Pharisees: the lost sheep, the coin, and the prodigal son. There is no sin in which we have fallen, the pope said, " from which, by the grace of God, we cannot rise again; there is no individual beyond redemption because God never ceases to want our good, even when we sin!” After the Marian prayer, he dedicates a prayer for Gabon and speaks about the beatification of Ladislaus Bukowinski, in Kazakhstan.
At the General Audience Francis says that "merciful love is the only way forward", "we must be more merciful, we must not speak ill of others, or tease others with criticism, with envy with jealousies, forgive, be merciful, live our life in love and give".