We have to meet people where they are, Pope Francis says

Pope Francis gives a rosary to a disabled child during his general audience Feb 24 2016 Credit Daniel Ibaez CNA Pope Francis gives a rosary to a disabled child during his general audience Feb. 24, 2016.

On Wednesday Pope Francis said that in order to be more like Jesus, we must not be indifferent to others, but rather meet people where they are and show mercy to those in need, especially the sick and imprisoned.

"We can all be instruments of the mercy of God and this will do more good for us than others because mercy passes through a gesture, a word, a visit and this mercy is an act to restore joy and dignity to those who have lost it," the Pope said Nov. 9 in St. Peter's Square.

"Jesus did it," he said, adding that when we do these things "we do not fall into indifference, but we become instruments of God's mercy."

Continuing his catechesis on the corporal works of mercy, which he has been reflecting on the past few weeks, Pope Francis focused on the works of visiting the sick and the imprisoned.

During the three years of his public ministry, Jesus constantly met with people, the sick always having a special place among them, the Pope noted.

"How many pages of the Gospels tell of these meetings! The lame, the blind, the lepers, the possessed, the epileptic, and countless sick of all kinds," he said. "Jesus became close to each one of them and healed them with his presence."

Therefore, among the works of mercy, we cannot skip visiting the sick, because "with these works of mercy the Lord invites us to an act of great humanity: sharing."

"Those who are sick often feel alone," Francis noted, saying a visit "can make people feel less lonely, and for the sick person a little bit of company is excellent medicine!"

"A smile, a caress, a handshake are simple gestures, but just as important for those who feel to be left on their own."

Visiting the imprisoned is also an important work of mercy, the Pope said, noting that this one is especially important right now when everyone wants to "point a finger" at someone and lay the blame elsewhere.

"Rather, let us all be instruments of mercy, with attitudes of sharing and respect," Francis said, recalling times when he has witnessed prisoners cry, probably for the first time, because they finally felt loved and cared for.

Combined with the often inhumane conditions of prisons, "a lack of freedom is undoubtedly one of the greatest hardships for a human being," he said, adding that a Christian must do "everything to restore their dignity."

Of course if someone is imprisoned because they broke the law then it is just for this person to serve his or her sentence, the Pope noted, "but whatever a prisoner may have done, he still remains loved by God."

Who are we to judge the depths of his conscience, his remorse? Francis asked, explaining that too often it's easy to wash our hands by saying that he or she was wrong. However, we can't forget that Jesus and his apostles were also prisoners at different points, he said.

Jesus was even "captured, dragged like a criminal, mocked, scourged, crowned with thorns" and crucified even though he was completely innocent, the Pope noted.

He explained that whether or not we are physically free, an encounter with the mercy of Jesus is what gives us spiritual freedom and a new perspective on our personal situation. The same goes for visiting the sick and imprisoned.

"When done in the name of the Lord, then it also becomes an eloquent and effective expression of mercy."

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