“This is not easy, but Jesus did it and he tells us to do it too,” the pontiff said. “This is turning the other cheek: Jesus’ meekness is a stronger response than the blow he received.”
Pope Francis warned against keeping rancor in our hearts which hurts and destroys. He acknowledged that some people question whether it is possible for a person to love his or her enemies.
“If it depended only on us, it would be impossible,” he said. “But let us recall that, when the Lord asks for something, he wishes to give it. When he tells me to love my enemies, he wants to give me the capacity to do so.”
“What should we ask of him? What is God happy to give us?” the pope asked. “The strength to love, which is not a thing, but rather the Holy Spirit, and with the Spirit of Jesus, we can respond to evil with good. We can love those who do us harm. This is what Christians do. How sad it is, when people and populations proud of being Christians see others as enemies and think to wage war against each other!”
The pope encouraged Christians to think of someone who has harmed them.
“Maybe there is some resentment within us,” he said. “So, alongside this rancor we place the image of Jesus, meek, during the trial, after the slap. And then we ask the Holy Spirit to act in our hearts. Finally, let us pray for that person: pray for those who have hurt us.”
“When they have done something bad to us, we immediately go and tell others and we feel victims. Let us stop, and pray to the Lord for that person, to help him, and so this feeling of resentment disappears,” he continued. “Praying for those who have treated us badly is the first thing to transform evil into good.”
“May the Virgin Mary help us be workers of peace towards everyone, especially those who are hostile to us and do not like us,” he prayed.
In his remarks after the Angelus, Pope Francis expressed his particular closeness to the people affected by natural disasters.
He specifically mentioned the people of Madagascar affected by a series of cyclones. The storms have displaced thousands and killed more than 100 people this month.
The pope sent a telegram to Madagascar’s President Andry Rajoelina on Feb. 19, as the island in the Indian Ocean braced for another potential cyclone hit.
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The Pope also spoke of those affected by landslides and flooding in the Brazilian city of Petropolis. These disasters have claimed at least 146 lives and left almost 200 missing, BBC News reports.
“May the Lord welcome the dead into his peace, comfort family members and support those who help,” the pope said.
Citing Italy’s National Day of Health Personnel, Pope Francis remembered the doctors, nurses, medical workers and volunteers who are close to the sick, treat them, and try to help them.
“Nobody saves himself alone. And in sickness we need someone to save us, to help us,” he said. He praised “heroic” medical staf” who showed their heroism in the Covid-19 pandemic, and he added that their heroism “remains every day.”
“To our doctors, nurses, and volunteers a round of applause and a big thank you!” he said.
Pope Francis greeted various pilgrims and groups, asking those gathered in St. Peter’s square to remember to pray for him.