Rome, Italy, Apr 12, 2015 / 04:10 am
In his homily on Divine Mercy Sunday, Pope Francis said that Jesus' scars are full of mercy, and encouraged attendees to imitate the apostle Thomas in touching them and allowing their hearts to be converted.
"The Lord shows us, through the Gospel, his wounds. They are wounds of mercy. It is true: the wounds of Jesus are wounds of mercy," the Pope told attendees of his April 12 Mass on Divine Mercy Sunday.
Jesus, he said, "invites us to behold these wounds, to touch them as Thomas did, to heal our lack of belief. Above all, he invites us to enter into the mystery of these wounds, which is the mystery of his merciful love."
Pope Francis celebrated his Divine Mercy liturgy – which is a feast instituted by St. John Paul II and is celebrated on the Second Sunday of the Church's liturgical Easter season – for faithful of the Armenian rite in honor of the centenary of the Armenian genocide.
Also referred to as the Armenian Holocaust, the mass killings took place in 1915 when the Ottoman Empire systematically exterminated its historic minority Armenian population who called Turkey their homeland, most of whom were Christians. Roughly 1.5 million Armenians lost their lives.
Many faithful and bishops of the Armenian rite were present for Sunday's Mass, including Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of all Armenians Karekin II.
During the Mass, Francis also proclaimed Armenian-rite Saint Gregory of Narek a Doctor of the Church, making the 10th century priest, monk, mystic, and poet the first Armenian to receive the title.
In his homily, during which he referred to the 1915 systematic killing of Armenians as "the first genocide of the 20th century," Francis said that it is through Jesus' wounds that we can see the entire mystery of Christ's incarnation, life and death.
From the first prophecies of Lord to the liberation from Egypt, from the first Passover and the blood of the slaughtered lambs to Abraham and Abel, "all of this we can see in the wounds of Jesus, crucified and risen," he said.
In the face of human history's tragic events, "we can feel crushed at times, asking ourselves, 'Why?'" the Pope noted.
"Humanity's evil can appear in the world like an abyss, a great void: empty of love, empty of goodness, empty of life," he continued, explaining that only God is capable of filling the emptiness that evil brings to both human history, and our own personal hearts.
Francis encouraged attendees to follow the path that leads from slavery and death to a land full of life and peace, saying that "Jesus, crucified and risen, is the way and his wounds are especially full of mercy."
He pointed to the saints as examples that teach us how the world can be changed beginning with the conversion of one's own heart. This conversion, he said, only happens through the mercy of God.
"What sin is there so deadly that it cannot be pardoned by the death of Christ?" he asked.
After his Mass, Pope Francis greeted pilgrims gathered in St. Peter's Square to recite the Regia Coeli – a traditional Marian prayer given special emphasis during the liturgical Easter season.
In his address, the Pope noted how Jesus' encounter with Thomas in the upper room marked the first time the Lord showed the disciples the wounds on his body.
Thomas, who was not there the first time Jesus appeared to the disciples, was not satisfied with the testimony of the others and wanted to see for himself, Francis said, noting that Jesus waited patiently and offered himself to Thomas' disbelief.
"Upon the salvific contact with the wounds of the Risen Lord, Thomas manifests his own wounds, lacerations, humiliations," the Pope said, explaining that in the mark of the nails, the apostle found "sweetness, mercy and decisive proof that he was loved, awaited and understood."
"He finds himself in front of the Messiah full of sweetness, mercy and tenderness," the Pope observed, saying that it was this personal contact with the "kindness and patient mercy" of Jesus that made Thomas realize the true meaning of the Resurrection.
Just like Thomas was transformed by the love of God who is rich in mercy, we are also called to contemplate the Divine Mercy of Jesus that is found in his wounds.
Mercy "overcomes every human limit and shines on the darkness of evil and sin," Francis said, and pointed to the upcoming Extraordinary Jubilee for Mercy as an intense time to welcome and deepen in the love of God.
He referred to the papal Bull of Indiction he released at last night's Vespers for Divine Mercy Sunday, which also served as the official announcement of the upcoming Jubilee for Mercy, and pointed to the bull's title "Misericordiae Vultus," or "The face of Mercy."
"The face of mercy is Jesus Christ. Let us keep our gaze upon him," he prayed, and led pilgrims in the Regina Coeli prayer.