Pope Francis spoke to pilgrims present in St. Peter’s Square for his general audience. It was his second set of reflections on a new series of catechesis dedicated to mercy according to the bible, which he launched last week in honor of the Jubilee of Mercy.
The Pope’s emphasis on performing both spiritual and corporal works of mercy also formed the heart of his Lenten message for 2016, published Jan. 26. Francis’ main point in the message is that if we receive God’s mercy, we will be able to give it to others.
In his general audience, Francis noted how in the bible, God has been merciful with the people of Israel from the beginning, specifically in accompanying the patriarchs, such as Jacob and Abraham, and blessing them with children, despite their infertility.
He pointed to the story of Joseph and his brothers, the sons of Jacob, and lamented that like them, many families today also have problems, including relatives who are distant and don’t speak to one another.
The Holy Year of Mercy, he said, “is a good occasion to come back, to embrace and forgive one another, and to forget the bad things.”
On the other hand, the Pope noted that even though God had been generous with the people of Israel, life in Egypt was difficult for them. But it was precisely when the Israelites were ready to give in “that the Lord intervened and brought salvation.”
“When the Israelites were suffering, they cried out to God. God heard their cry, God remembered his covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob,” the Pope recalled.
“Mercy cannot remain indifferent in front of the suffering of the oppressed, the cry of those who are subjected to violence, reduced to slavery, condemned to death,” he continued.
Francis then noted that these painful realities effect every age, including ours, and can make one feel powerless. The temptation can also arise to harden one’s heart to suffering and to “think about something else” instead, he said.
But God, on the other hand, “is not indifferent, he never takes his eyes off of human pain. The God of mercy responds and takes care of the poor, of those who cry out in their desperation.”
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“God listens and intervenes in order to save, arousing men who are capable of hearing the groan of suffering and to work in favor of the oppressed,” the Pope said, recalling the figure of Moses.
Just as with Moses, who was God’s instrument in liberating the people of Israel, “the mercy of God always acts to save,” Pope Francis said, adding that this divine mercy “reaches everyone.”
The Lord offers each individual a special relationship of “personal, exclusive and privileged love,” he said, explaining that humanity is like a special treasure for God, his “personal reserve of gold and silver.”
“The mercy of the Lord renders man precious, like a personal wealth that belongs to him, that he cares for and in which he is welcomed,” he said.
We become this treasure, Francis observed, to the extent that we uphold his covenant with us, which has been “consummated” in the blood of Jesus, and to which we allow ourselves to be saved by him.
Since we are children of God, we, like Moses, have the opportunity to receive the inheritance “of goodness and mercy toward others,” the Pope observed.