The Holy Father celebrated mass today, robed in green vestments and a large white pallium, in the plaza in front of the Basilica of St. Francis, in Assisi. The Pope’s message to the civil officials, priests, nuns, and many pilgrims was that they will find themselves according to the measure that they give themselves to God.
The Pope celebrated the 800 year anniversary of the conversion of St. Francis, and he used this event to speak about personal conversion in his homily. The Word of God today, the Holy Father noted, offers us “three converted figures.”
The first is David, who, being at the apex of his political power, “is also at the lowest point of his moral life.” Benedict reflected on how man is truly both greatness and misery: “he is greatness because he bears within himself the image of God and is the object of his love; he is misery because he can make poor use of his freedom which is his great privilege, even to the point of setting himself against his Creator.”
Struck by the prophet Nathan’s words, “You are that man!”, the king “enters into sincere repentance and opens himself to the offer of mercy.” Together with David, today’s festival offers us the figure of St. Francis.
As Francis’s conversion shows, “to convert ourselves to love means to pass from bitterness to sweetness, from sadness to the true joy. Man is truly himself, and fulfils himself most truly, in the measure in which he lives with God and for God,” Benedict affirmed. Francis discovered “in the face of the lepers, the mystery of the self-offering of the Son of God.”
Francis’s conversion occurred through a strong encounter with the Risen Lord: “Francis fell in love with Christ.” After his conversion, Benedict affirmed, “his path was none other than the daily effort to immerse himself in Christ…The wounds of the Crucified one wounded his heart.”
Finally, the Holy Father cited the ‘sinful woman’ of today’s Gospel as an example of conversion. The woman “loved much because she had been forgiven much”, and was fortunate to find Christ. For this woman, “who had been so often taken advantage of, and so often judged”, found “in Jesus a pure eye, a heart capable of loving without taking advantage. In the gaze and in the heart of Jesus she receives the revelation of God-Love!”