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FRANCIS TO ALL WHO READ THIS APOSTOLIC LETTER MERCY AND PEACE

MISERICORDIAETMISERAisaphraseusedbySaintAugustineinrecounting

thestoryofJesus’meetingwiththewomantakeninadultery(cf.Jn8:1­11).It

wouldbedifficulttoimagineamorebeautifuloraptwayofexpressingthe mysteryofGod’slovewhenittouchesthesinner:“thetwoofthemalone

remained:mercywithmisery”.[1]Whatgreatmercyanddivinejusticeshine

forthinthisnarrative!Itsteachingservesnotonlytothrowlightonthe

conclusionoftheExtraordinaryJubileeofMercy,butalsotopointoutthepath

thatwearecalledtofollowinthefuture.

1.ThispageoftheGospelcouldeasilyserveasaniconofwhatwehave

celebratedduringtheHolyYear,atimerichinmercy,whichmustcontinuetobe

celebratedandlivedoutinourcommunities.Mercycannotbecomeamere

parenthesisinthelifeoftheChurch;itconstitutesherveryexistence,through

whichtheprofoundtruthsoftheGospelaremademanifestandtangible.

Everythingisrevealedinmercy;everythingisresolvedinthemercifulloveofthe

Father.

AwomanandJesusmeet.Sheisanadulteressand,intheeyesoftheLaw, liabletobestoned.Jesus,throughhispreachingandthetotalgiftofhimself thatwouldleadhimtotheCross,returnedtheMosaicLawtoitstrueand originalintent.Herewhatiscentralisnotthelaworlegaljustice,butthelove ofGod,whichiscapableoflookingintotheheartofeachpersonandseeingthe deepestdesirehiddenthere;God’slovemusttakeprimacyoverallelse.This Gospelaccount,however,isnotanencounterofsinandjudgementinthe abstract,butofasinnerandherSaviour.Jesuslookedthatwomanintheeye andreadinherheartadesiretobeunderstood,forgivenandsetfree.The miseryofsinwasclothedwiththemercyoflove.Jesus’onlyjudgementisone filledwithmercyandcompassionfortheconditionofthissinner.Tothosewho wishedtojudgeandcondemnhertodeath,Jesusreplieswithalengthysilence. HispurposewastoletGod’svoicebeheardintheconsciencenotonlyofthe woman,butalsointhoseofheraccusers,whodroptheirstonesandoneby

oneleavethescene(cf.Jn8:9).Jesusthensays:“Woman,wherearethey?

Hasnoonecondemnedyou?…NeitherdoIcondemnyou.Goyourwayand

fromnowondonotsinagain”(vv.10­11).Jesushelpsthewomantolookto

thefuturewithhopeandtomakeanewstartinlife.Henceforth,ifsheso

desires,shecan“walkincharity”(Eph5:2).Onceclothedinmercy,evenifthe

inclinationtosinremains,itisovercomebythelovethatmakesitpossiblefor

hertolookaheadandtoliveherlifedifferently.

2.Jesushadtaughtthisclearlyonanotheroccasion,whenhehadbeeninvited

todineatthehomeofaPharisee(cf.Lk7:36­50)andawoman,knownby

everyonetobeasinner,approachedhim.Shepouredperfumeoverhisfeet,

bathedthemwithhertearsanddriedthemwithherhair(cf.vv.37­38).Tothe

scandalizedreactionofthePharisee,Jesusreplied:“Hersins,whicharemany, areforgiven,forshelovedmuch;buthewhoisforgivenlittle,loveslittle”(v.

47).

ForgivenessisthemostvisiblesignoftheFather’slove,whichJesussoughtto revealbyhisentirelife.EverypageoftheGospelismarkedbythisimperative ofalovethatlovestothepointofforgiveness.Evenatthelastmomentofhis earthlylife,ashewasbeingnailedtothecross,Jesusspokewordsof

forgiveness:“Father,forgivethem;fortheyknownotwhattheydo”(Lk23:34).

NothingofwhatarepentantsinnerplacesbeforeGod’smercycanbeexcluded

fromtheembraceofhisforgiveness.Forthisreason,noneofushastheright

tomakeforgivenessconditional.Mercyisalwaysagratuitousactofour

heavenlyFather,anunconditionalandunmeritedactoflove.Consequently,we

cannotriskopposingthefullfreedomofthelovewithwhichGodentersintothe

lifeofeveryperson.

Mercyisthisconcreteactionoflovethat,byforgiving,transformsandchanges ourlives.Inthisway,thedivinemysteryofmercyismademanifest.Godis

merciful(cf.Ex34:6);hismercylastsforever(cf.Ps136).Fromgenerationto

generation,itembracesallthosewhotrustinhimanditchangesthem,by

bestowingashareinhisverylife.

3.Whatgreatjoywelledupintheheartofthesetwowomen.Forgiveness

madethemfeelfreeatlastandhappyasneverbefore.Theirtearsofshame

andpainturnedintothesmileofapersonwhoknowsthatheorsheisloved.

Mercygivesrisetojoy,becauseourheartsareopenedtothehopeofanew

life.Thejoyofforgivenessisinexpressible,yetitradiatesallaroundus

wheneverweexperienceforgiveness.ItssourceisinthelovewithwhichGod

comestomeetus,breakingthroughwallsofselfishnessthatsurroundus,in

ordertomakeusinturninstrumentsofmercy.

Howmeaningfulinthisregardarethewordsofencouragementfoundinan earlyChristiantext:“Clotheyourselvesinjoy,whichalwaysisagreeableand acceptabletoGod,andrejoiceinit.Forallwhoarejoyfuldowhatisgood,think whatisgood,anddespisesadness…Allwhoputasidesadnessandputonjoy

willliveinGod”.[2]Theexperienceofmercybringsjoy.Mayweneverallowthis

joytoberobbedfromusbyourtroublesandconcerns.Mayitremainrootedin

ourheartsandenableustoapproachwithserenitytheeventsofourdailylives.

Inacultureoftendominatedbytechnology,sadnessandlonelinessappearto beontherise,notleastamongyoungpeople.Thefutureseemspreytoan uncertaintythatdoesnotmakeforstability.Thisoftengivesrisetodepression, sadnessandboredom,whichcangraduallyleadtodespair.Weneedwitnesses tohopeandtruejoyifwearetodispeltheillusionsthatpromisequickandeasy happinessthroughartificialparadises.Theprofoundsenseofemptinessfeltby somanypeoplecanbeovercomebythehopewebearinourheartsandbythe joythatitgives.Weneedtoacknowledgethejoythatrisesupinaheart touchedbymercy.Letuskeepinmind,then,thewordsoftheApostle:“Rejoice

intheLordalways”(Phil4:4;cf.1Thess5:16)

4.WehavecelebratedanintenseJubileeYearinwhichwehavereceivedthe

graceofmercyinabundance.Likeagustingbutwholesomewind,theLord’s

goodnessandmercyhavesweptthroughtheentireworld.Becauseeachofus

hasexperiencedatlengththislovinggazeofGod,wecannotremain

unaffected,foritchangesourlives.

WefeeltheneedabovealltothanktheLordandtotellhim:“Lord,youhave beenfavourabletoyourland…Youhaveforgiventheiniquityofyourpeople”

(Ps85:1­2).Soitis.Godhassubduedouriniquitiesandcastalloursinsinto

thedepthsofthesea(cf.Mic7:19).Henolongerremembersthem,sincehe

hascastthembehindhisback(cf.Is38:17).Asfarastheeastisfromthe

west,sofarhasheremovedourtransgressionsfromus(cf.Ps103:12).

InthisHolyYear,theChurchlistenedattentivelyandexperiencedintenselythe presenceandclosenessoftheFather,whowiththeHolySpirithasenabledher toseewithgreaterclaritythegiftandmandateofJesusChristregarding forgiveness.IthastrulybeenlikeanewvisitationoftheLordamongus.We havefelthislife­givingbreathpouredoutupontheChurchand,onceagain,his wordshavepointedoutourmission:“ReceivetheHolySpirit:ifyouforgivethe sinsofany,theyareforgiven;ifyouretainthesinsofany,theyareretained”

(Jn20:22­23).

5.Now,attheconclusionofthisJubilee,itistimetolooktothefutureandto

understandhowbesttocontinue,withjoy,fidelityandenthusiasm,experiencing therichnessofGod’smercy.Ourcommunitiescanremainaliveandactiveinthe workofthenewevangelizationinthemeasurethatthe“pastoralconversion”to

whichwearecalled[3]willbeshapeddailybytherenewingforceofmercy.Let

usnotlimititsaction;letusnotsaddentheSpirit,whoconstantlypointsout

newpathstotakeinbringingtoeveryonetheGospelofsalvation.

First,wearecalledtocelebratemercy.Whatgreatrichnessispresentinthe

Church’sprayerwhensheinvokesGodastheFatherofmercies!Intheliturgy,

mercyisnotonlyrepeatedlyimplored,butistrulyreceivedandexperienced. FromthebeginningtotheendoftheEucharisticcelebration,mercyconstantly appearsinthedialoguebetweentheassemblyatprayerandtheheartofthe Father,whorejoicestobestowhismercifullove.Afterfirstpleadingfor forgivenesswiththeinvocation“Lordhavemercy”,weareimmediately reassured:“MayalmightyGodhavemercyonus,forgiveusoursins,andlead ustoeverlastinglife”.Withthisconfidence,thecommunitygathersinthe presenceoftheLord,particularlyontheholydayoftheresurrection.Manyof the“Collect”prayersaremeanttoremindusofthegreatgiftofmercy.InLent, forexample,wepray:“OGod,authorofeverymercyandofallgoodness,who infasting,prayerandalmsgivinghaveshownusaremedyforsin,look graciouslyonthisconfessionofourlowliness,thatwe,whoareboweddownby

ourconscience,mayalwaysbeliftedupbyyourmercy”.[4]Weareimmersedin

thegreatEucharisticPrayerwiththePrefacethatproclaims:“Yousolovedthe worldthatinyourmercyyousentustheRedeemer,tolivelikeusinallthings

butsin”.[5]TheFourthEucharisticPrayerisahymntoGod’smercy:“Foryou

cameinmercytotheaidofall,sothatthosewhoseekmightfindyou”.“Have

mercyonusall”[6]istheinsistentpleamadebythepriestintheEucharistic

Prayertoimploreashareineternallife.AftertheOurFather,thepriest continuesbyinvokingpeaceandliberationfromsinbythe“aidofyourmercy”. Andbeforethesignofpeace,exchangedasanexpressionoffraternityand mutualloveinthelightofforgivenessreceived,thepriestprays:“Looknotupon

onoursinsbutonthefaithofyourChurch”.[7]Inthesewords,withhumble

trustwebeseechthegiftofunityandpeaceforHolyMotherChurch.The

celebrationofdivinemercyculminatesintheEucharisticSacrifice,thememorial

ofChrist’spaschalmystery,thesourceofsalvationforeveryhumanbeing,for

historyandforthewholeworld.Inaword,eachmomentoftheEucharistic

celebrationreferstoGod’smercy.

Inthesacramentallife,mercyisgrantedusinabundance.Itisnotwithout significancethattheChurchmentionsmercyexplicitlyintheformulaeofthetwo “sacramentsofhealing”,namely,thesacramentofPenanceandReconciliation andthesacramentoftheAnointingoftheSick.Inthefirst,theformulaof absolutionreads:“God,theFatherofmercies,throughthedeathand resurrectionofhisSonhasreconciledtheworldtohimselfandsenttheHoly Spiritamongusfortheforgivenessofsins;throughtheministryoftheChurch

mayGodgiveyoupardonandpeace”.[8]Inthesecond,theformulaof

anointingreads:“ThroughthisholyanointingmaytheLordinhisloveandmercy

helpyouwiththegraceoftheHolySpirit”.[9]IntheChurch’sprayer,then,

referencestomercy,farfrombeingmerelyexhortative,arehighlyperformative,

whichistosaythatasweinvokemercywithfaith,itisgrantedtous,andas

weconfessittobevitalandreal,ittransformsus.Thisisafundamental

elementofourfaith,andwemustkeepitconstantlyinmind.Evenbeforethe

revelationofsin,thereistherevelationofthelovebywhichGodcreatedthe

worldandhumanbeings.LoveisthefirstactwherebyGodrevealshimselfand

turnstowardsus.SoletusopenourheartsandtrustinGod’sloveforus.His

lovealwaysprecedesus,accompaniesusandremainswithus,despiteoursin.

6.Inthiscontext,hearingthewordofGodtakesonparticularsignificance.Each

Sunday,God’swordisproclaimedintheChristiancommunitysothattheLord’s

Daymaybeilluminatedbythepaschalmystery.[10]IntheEucharistic

celebration,weseemtowitnessatruedialoguebetweenGodandhispeople. Inthebiblicalreadings,weretracethehistoryofoursalvationthroughthe proclamationofGod’stirelessworkofmercy.TheLordcontinuestospeaktous

todayastofriends;hedwellsinourmidst,[11]inordertoaccompanyusand

showusthepathoflife.Hiswordgivesavoicetoourinmostneedsand worries,andoffersafruitfulresponse,sothatwecanconcretelyexperiencehis closenesstous.Hencetheimportanceofthehomily,inwhich“truthgoeshand

inhandwithbeautyandgoodness”[12]sothattheheartsofbelieversmaythrill

beforethegrandeurofmercy!Istronglyencouragethatgreatcarebegivento

preparingthehomilyandtopreachingingeneral.Apriest’spreachingwillbe

fruitfultotheextentthathehimselfhasexperiencedthemercifulgoodnessof

theLord.CommunicatingthecertaintythatGodlovesusisnotanexercisein

rhetoric,butaconditionforthecredibilityofone’spriesthood.Thepersonal

experienceofmercyisthebestwaytomakeitatruemessageofconsolation

andconversioninthepastoralministry.Bothhomileticsandcatechesisneedto

besustainedbythispulsingheartoftheChristianlife.

7.TheBibleisthegreatstoryofthemarvelsofGod’smercy.Everyoneofits

pagesissteepedintheloveoftheFatherwhofromthemomentofcreation wishedtoimpressthesignsofhisloveontheuniverse.Throughthewordsof theprophetsandthewisdomwritings,theHolySpiritshapedthehistoryof IsraelasarecognitionofGod’sclosenessandlove,despitethepeople’s infidelity.Jesus’lifeandpreachingdecisivelymarkedthehistoryoftheChristian community,whichhasvieweditsmissionintermsofChrist’scommandtobea

permanentinstrumentofhismercyandforgiveness(cf.Jn20:23).Through

SacredScripture,keptalivebythefaithoftheChurch,theLordcontinuesto speaktohisBride,showingherthepathshemusttaketoenabletheGospelof salvationtoreachallmankind.IgreatlydesirethatGod’swordbeincreasingly celebrated,knownanddisseminated,sothatthemysteryoflovestreaming fromthisfontofmercymaybeeverbetterunderstood.AstheApostletellsus clearly:“AllScriptureisinspiredbyGodandprofitableforteaching,forreproof,

forcorrection,andfortraininginrighteousness”(2Tim3:16).

ItwouldbebeneficialifeveryChristiancommunity,ononeSundayofthe

liturgicalyear,couldrenewitseffortstomaketheSacredScripturesbetter

knownandmorewidelydiffused.ItwouldbeaSundaygivenoverentirelytothe

wordofGod,soastoappreciatetheinexhaustiblerichescontainedinthat

constantdialoguebetweentheLordandhispeople.Creativeinitiativescanhelp

makethisanopportunityforthefaithfultobecomelivingvesselsforthe transmissionofGod’sword.Initiativesofthissortwouldcertainlyincludethe practiceoflectiodivina,sothattheprayerfulreadingofthesacredtextwillhelp supportandstrengthenthespirituallife.Suchareading,centredonthemes relatingtomercy,willenableapersonalexperienceofthegreatfruitfulnessof thebiblicaltext–readinthelightoftheChurch’sspiritualtradition–andthus

giverisetoconcretegesturesandworksofcharity.[13]

8.Thecelebrationofmercytakesplaceinaveryparticularwayinthe

SacramentofPenanceandReconciliation.Herewefeeltheembraceofthe Father,whocomesforthtomeetusandgrantusthegraceofbeingoncemore hissonsanddaughters.Wearesinnersandwebeartheburdenof contradictionbetweenwhatwewishtodoandwhatwedoinfact(cf.Rom

7:14­21).Yetgracealwaysprecedesusandtakesonthefaceofthemercy

thateffectsourreconciliationandpardon.Godmakesusunderstandhisgreat loveforuspreciselywhenwerecognizethatwearesinners.Graceisstronger

thansin:itovercomesresistance,becauseloveconquersall(cf.1Cor13:7).

InthesacramentofForgivenessGodshowsusthewaytoturnbacktohimand invitesustoexperiencehisclosenessanew.Thispardoncanbeobtainedby beginning,firstofall,toliveincharity.TheApostlePetertellsusthiswhenhe

writesthat“lovecoversamultitudeofsins”(1Pet4:8).OnlyGodforgivessins,

butheasksthatwebereadytoforgiveothersevenashehasforgivenus:

“Forgiveusourtrespasses,asweforgivethosewhotrespassagainstus”(Mt

6:12).Howsaditiswhenourheartsareclosedandunabletoforgive!

Resentment,angerandrevengegaintheupperhand,makingourlives

miserableandblockingajoyfulcommitmenttomercy.

9.AnexperienceofgracelivedoutbytheChurchwithgreateffectivenessin

theJubileeYearhascertainlybeentheserviceoftheMissionariesofMercy. TheirpastoralactivitysoughttoemphasizethatGodplacesnoroadblocksinthe wayofthosewhoseekhimwithacontriteheart,becausehegoesouttomeet everyonelikeafather.Ihavereceivedmanytestimoniesofjoyfromthosewho encounteredtheLordoncemoreinthesacramentofConfession.Letusnot misstheopportunitytoliveourfaithalsoasanexperienceofreconciliation.

Todaytoo,theApostleurgesus:“BereconciledtoGod”(2Cor5:20),sothat

allwhobelievecandiscoverthepoweroflovewhichmakesus“anewcreation”

(2Cor5:17).

IthankeveryMissionaryofMercyforthisvaluableserviceaimedatrendering

effectivethegraceofforgiveness.Thisextraordinaryministrydoesnotendwith

theclosingoftheHolyDoor.Iwishittocontinueuntilfurthernoticeasa

concretesignthatthegraceoftheJubileeremainsaliveandeffectivetheworld

over.AsadirectexpressionofmyconcernandproximitytotheMissionariesof

Mercyinthisperiod,thePontificalCouncilforthePromotionoftheNew

Evangelizationwillsupervisethemandfindthemostsuitableformsforthe

exerciseofthisvaluableministry.

10.Iinvitepriestsoncemoretopreparecarefullyfortheministryofconfession,

whichisatruepriestlymission.Ithankallofyoufromtheheartforyour

ministry,andIaskyoutobewelcomingtoall,witnessesoffatherlylove

whateverthegravityofthesininvolved,attentiveinhelpingpenitentstoreflect

ontheeviltheyhavedone,clearinpresentingmoralprinciples,willingtowalk

patientlybesidethefaithfulontheirpenitentialjourney,far­sightedindiscerning

individualcasesandgenerousindispensingGod’sforgiveness.JustasJesus

chosetoremainsilentinordertosavethewomancaughtinadulteryfromthe

sentenceofdeath,soeverypriestintheconfessionalshouldbeopen­hearted,

sinceeverypenitentisareminderthathehimselfisasinner,butalsoaminister

ofmercy.

11.IwouldlikeusalltomeditateuponthewordsoftheApostle,written

towardstheendofhislife,whenheconfessestoTimothythathewasthe

greatestofsinners,“butforthisreasonIreceivedmercy”(1Tim1:16).Paul’s

words,powerfulastheyare,makeusreflectonourlivesandseeGod’smercy atworkinchanging,convertingandreformingourhearts.“Ithankhimwhohas givenmestrengthforthis,ChristJesusourLord,becausehejudgedmefaithful byappointingmetohisservice,thoughIformerlyblasphemedandpersecuted

andinsultedhim.ButIreceivedmercy”(1Tim1:12­13).

LetusrecallwithrenewedpastoralzealanothersayingoftheApostle:“God hasreconciledustohimselfthroughChristandhasentrustedtousthe

messageofreconciliation”(2Cor5:18).Wewerethefirsttobeforgiveninview

ofthisministry,madewitnessesatfirsthandoftheuniversalityofGod’s forgiveness.NolaworpreceptcanpreventGodfromoncemoreembracingthe sonwhoreturnstohim,admittingthathehasdonewrongbutintendingtostart hislifeanew.Remainingonlyatthelevelofthelawisequivalenttothwarting

faithanddivinemercy.Thelawhasapropaedeuticvalue(cf.Gal3:24)with

charityasitsgoal(cf.1Tim1:5).Nonetheless,Christiansarecalledto

experiencethenewnessoftheGospel,the“lawoftheSpiritoflifeinChrist

Jesus”(Rom8:2).Eveninthemostcomplexcases,wherethereisatemptation

toapplyajusticederivedfromrulesalone,wemustbelieveinthepower

flowingfromdivinegrace.

Weconfessorshaveexperiencedmanyconversionsthattookplacebeforeour veryeyes.Wefeelresponsible,then,foractionsandwordsthatcantouchthe heartofpenitentsandenablethemtodiscovertheclosenessandtendernessof theFatherwhoforgives.Letusnotlosesuchoccasionsbyactinginawaythat cancontradicttheexperienceofmercythatthepenitentseeks.Rather,letus

helplightupthespaceofpersonalconsciencewithGod’sinfinitelove(cf.1Jn

TheSacramentofReconciliationmustregainitscentralplaceintheChristian life.Thisrequirespriestscapableofputtingtheirlivesattheserviceofthe

“ministryofreconciliation”(2Cor5:18),insuchawaythat,whilenosincerely

repentantsinnerispreventedfromdrawingneartotheloveoftheFatherwho

awaitshisreturn,everyoneisaffordedtheopportunityofexperiencingthe

liberatingpowerofforgiveness.

Afavourableoccasionforthiscouldbethe24HoursfortheLord,acelebration

heldinproximitytotheFourthSundayofLent.Thisinitiative,alreadyinplacein

manydioceses,hasgreatpastoralvalueinencouragingamorefervent

experienceofthesacramentofConfession.

12.Giventhisneed,lestanyobstaclearisebetweentherequestfor

reconciliationandGod’sforgiveness,Ihenceforthgranttoallpriests,invirtueof theirministry,thefacultytoabsolvethosewhohavecommittedthesinof procuredabortion.TheprovisionIhadmadeinthisregard,limitedtothe

durationoftheExtraordinaryHolyYear,[14]isherebyextended,notwithstanding

anythingtothecontrary.IwishtorestateasfirmlyasIcanthatabortionisa

gravesin,sinceitputsanendtoaninnocentlife.Inthesameway,however,I

canandmuststatethatthereisnosinthatGod’smercycannotreachandwipe

awaywhenitfindsarepentantheartseekingtobereconciledwiththeFather.

Mayeverypriest,therefore,beaguide,supportandcomforttopenitentson

thisjourneyofspecialreconciliation.

FortheJubileeYearIhadalsograntedthatthosefaithfulwho,forvarious reasons,attendchurchesofficiatedbythepriestsofthePriestlyFraternityof SaintPiusX,canvalidlyandlicitlyreceivethesacramentalabsolutionoftheir

sins.[15]Forthepastoralbenefitofthesefaithful,andtrustinginthegoodwill

oftheirprieststostrivewithGod’shelpfortherecoveryoffullcommunionin

theCatholicChurch,Ihavepersonallydecidedtoextendthisfacultybeyondthe

JubileeYear,untilfurtherprovisionsaremade,lestanyoneeverbedeprivedof

thesacramentalsignofreconciliationthroughtheChurch’spardon.

13.Anotherfaceofmercyisconsolation.“Comfort,comfortmypeople”(Is

40:1)istheheartfeltpleathattheprophetcontinuestomaketoday,sothata

wordofhopemaycometoallthosewhoexperiencesufferingandpain.Letus

neverallowourselvestoberobbedofthehopebornoffaithintheRisenLord.

True,weareoftensorelytested,butwemustneverloseourcertaintyofthe

Lord’sloveforus.Hismercyfindsexpressionalsointhecloseness,affection

andsupportthatmanyofourbrothersandsisterscanofferusattimesof

sadnessandaffliction.Thedryingoftearsisonewaytobreaktheviciouscircle

ofsolitudeinwhichweoftenfindourselvestrapped.

Allofusneedconsolationbecausenooneissparedsuffering,painand

misunderstanding.Howmuchpaincanbecausedbyaspitefulremarkbornof

envy,jealousyoranger!Whatgreatsufferingiscausedbytheexperienceof

betrayal,violenceandabandonment!Howmuchsorrowinthefaceofthedeath

ofalovedone!AndyetGodisneverfarfromusatthesemomentsofsadness

andtrouble.Areassuringword,anembracethatmakesusfeelunderstood,a

caressthatmakesusfeellove,aprayerthatmakesusstronger…allthese

thingsexpressGod’sclosenessthroughtheconsolationofferedbyourbrothers

andsisters.

Sometimestoo,silencecanbehelpful,especiallywhenwecannotfindwordsin

responsetothequestionsofthosewhosuffer.Alackofwords,however,can

bemadeupforbythecompassionofapersonwhostaysatourside,who

lovesusandwhoholdsoutahand.Itisnottruethatsilenceisanactof

surrender;onthecontrary,itisamomentofstrengthandlove.Silencealso

belongstoourlanguageofconsolation,becauseitbecomesaconcretewayof

sharinginthesufferingofabrotherorsister.

14.Atatimelikeourown,markedbymanycrises,includingthatofthefamily,

itisimportanttoofferawordofcomfortandstrengthtoourfamilies.Thegift

ofmatrimonyisagreatcallingtowhichspouses,withthegraceofChrist,

respondwithalovethatisgenerous,faithfulandpatient.Thebeautyofthe

familyenduresunchanged,despitesomanyproblemsandalternativeproposals:

“ThejoyofloveexperiencedbyfamiliesisalsothejoyoftheChurch”.[16]The

journeyoflifethatleadsamanandawomantomeetoneother,toloveone

anotherandtopromisemutualfidelitybeforeGod,isofteninterruptedby

suffering,betrayalandloneliness.Joyatthegiftofchildrenisaccompaniedby

concernabouttheirgrowthandeducation,andtheirprospectsforhappiness

andfulfilmentinlife.

ThegraceofthesacramentofMarriagenotonlystrengthensthefamilytobea privilegedplaceforpractisingmercy,butalsocommitstheChristiancommunity andallitspastoralactivitytoupholdthegreatpositivevalueofthefamily.This JubileeYearcannotoverlookthecomplexityofthecurrentrealitiesoffamilylife. Theexperienceofmercyenablesustoregardallhumanproblemsfromthe

standpointofGod’slove,whichnevertiresofwelcomingandaccompanying.[17]

Wehavetoremembereachofuscarriestherichnessandtheburdensofour

personalhistory;thisiswhatmakesusdifferentfromeveryoneelse.Ourlife,

withitsjoysandsorrows,issomethinguniqueandunrepeatablethattakes

placeunderthemercifulgazeofGod.Thisdemands,especiallyofpriests,a

careful,profoundandfar­sightedspiritualdiscernment,sothateveryone,none

excluded,canfeelacceptedbyGod,participateactivelyinthelifeofthe

communityandbepartofthatPeopleofGodwhichjourneystirelesslytowards

thefullnessofhiskingdomofjustice,love,forgivenessandmercy.

15.Heretoo,weseetheparticularimportanceofthemomentofdeath.The

ChurchhasalwaysexperiencedthisdramaticpassageinthelightofChrist’s

resurrection,whichopenedthewaytothecertaintyofthelifetocome.We

haveagreatchallengetoface,especiallyincontemporaryculture,whichoften

tendstotrivializedeathtothepointoftreatingitasanillusionorhidingitfrom

sight.Yetdeathmustbefacedandpreparedforasapainfulandinescapable

passage,yetonechargedwithimmensemeaning,foritistheultimateactof

lovetowardsthoseweleavebehindandtowardsGodwhomwegoforthto

meet.Inallreligions,themomentofdeath,likethatofbirth,isaccompaniedby

areligiouspresence.AsChristians,wecelebratethefuneralliturgyasahope­

filledprayerforthesoulofthedeceasedandfortheconsolationofthosewho

sufferthelossofalovedone.

Iamconvincedthatourfaith­filledpastoralactivityshouldleadtoadirect experienceofhowtheliturgicalsignsandourprayersareanexpressionofthe Lord’smercy.ItistheLordhimselfwhoofferswordsofhope,sincenothingand

noonecaneverseparateusfromhislove(cf.Rom8:35).Thepriest’ssharing

inthismomentisanimportantformofpastoralcare,foritrepresentsthe

closenessoftheChristiancommunityatamomentofweakness,solitude,

uncertaintyandgrief.

16.TheJubileenowendsandtheHolyDoorisclosed.Butthedoorofmercyof

ourheartcontinuestoremainwideopen.WehavelearnedthatGodbends

downtous(cf.Hos11:4)sothatwemayimitatehiminbendingdowntoour

brothersandsisters.Theyearningofsomanypeopletoturnbacktothehouse

oftheFather,whoawaitstheirreturn,hasalsobeenawakenedbyheartfeltand

generoustestimoniestoGod’slove.TheHolyDoorthatwehavecrossedinthis

JubileeYearhassetusonthepathofcharity,whichwearecalledtotravel

dailywithfidelityandjoy.Itistheroadofmercy,onwhichwemeetsomanyof

ourbrothersandsisterswhoreachoutforsomeonetotaketheirhandand

becomeacompanionontheway.

ThedesireforclosenesstoChristrequiresustodrawneartoourbrothersand sisters,fornothingismorepleasingtotheFatherthanatruesignofmercy.By itsverynature,mercybecomesvisibleandtangibleinspecificacts.Oncemercy hasbeentrulyexperienced,itisimpossibletoturnback.Itgrowsconstantlyand itchangesourlives.Itisanauthenticnewcreation:itbringsaboutanewheart, capableoflovingtothefull,anditpurifiesoureyestoperceivehiddenneeds. HowtruearethewordsoftheChurch’sprayerattheEasterVigil,afterthe readingofthecreationaccount:“OGod,whowonderfullycreatedhumannature

andstillmorewonderfullyredeemedit”.[18]

Mercyrenewsandredeemsbecauseitisanencounterbetweentwohearts:the heartofGodwhocomestomeetusandahumanheart.Thelatteriswarmed andhealedbytheformer.Ourheartsofstonebecomeheartsofflesh(cf.Ezek

36:26)capableoflovedespiteoursinfulness.IcometorealizethatIamtrulya

“newcreation”(Gal6:15):Iamloved,thereforeIexist;Iamforgiven,therefore

Iamreborn;Ihavebeenshownmercy,thereforeIhavebecomeavesselof

mercy.

17.DuringtheHolyYear,especiallyonthe“FridaysofMercy”,Iwasableto

experienceinatangiblewaythegoodnesspresentinourworld.Oftenit

remainshidden,sinceitisdailyexpressedindiscreetandquietgestures.Evenif

rarelypublicized,manyconcreteactsofgoodnessandtendernessareshownto

theweakandthevulnerable,tothosemostlonelyandabandoned.Thereare

truechampionsofcharitywhoshowconstantsolidaritywiththepoorandthe

unhappy.LetusthanktheLordforthesepreciousgiftsthatinviteustodiscover

thejoyofdrawingneartohumanweaknessandsuffering.Ialsothinkwith

gratitudeofthemanyvolunteerswhodailydevotetheirtimeandeffortsto

showingGod’spresenceandcloseness.Theirserviceisagenuineworkof

mercy,onethathelpsmanypeopledrawclosertotheChurch.

18.Nowisthetimetounleashthecreativityofmercy,tobringaboutnew

undertakings,thefruitofgrace.TheChurchtodayneedstotellofthose“many

othersigns”thatJesusworked,which“arenotwritten”(Jn20:30),sothatthey

toomaybeaneloquentexpressionofthefruitfulnessoftheloveofChristand

thecommunitythatdrawsitslifefromhim.Twothousandyearshavepassed,

yetworksofmercycontinuetomakeGod’sgoodnessvisible.

Inourownday,wholepeoplessufferhungerandthirst,andwearehauntedby

picturesofchildrenwithnothingtoeat.Throngsofpeoplecontinuetomigrate

fromonecountrytoanotherinsearchoffood,work,shelterandpeace.Disease

initsvariousformsisaconstantcauseofsufferingthatcriesoutfor

assistance,comfortandsupport.Prisonsareoftenplaceswhereconfinementis

accompaniedbyserioushardshipsduetoinhumanelivingconditions.Illiteracy

remainswidespread,preventingchildrenfromdevelopingtheirpotentialand

exposingthemtonewformsofslavery.Thecultureofextremeindividualism,

especiallyintheWest,hasledtoalossofasenseofsolidaritywithand

responsibilityforothers.TodaymanypeoplehavenoexperienceofGodhimself,

andthisrepresentsthegreatestpovertyandthemajorobstacletorecognition

oftheinviolabledignityofhumanlife.

Toconclude,thecorporalandspiritualworksofmercycontinueinourownday tobeproofofmercy’simmensepositiveinfluenceasasocialvalue.Mercy impelsustorollupoursleevesandsetaboutrestoringdignitytomillionsof people;theyareourbrothersandsisterswho,withus,arecalledtobuilda“city

whichisreliable”.[19]

19.ManyconcretesignsofmercyhavebeenperformedduringthisHolyYear.

Communities,familiesandindividualshaverediscoveredthejoyofsharingand

thebeautyofsolidarity.Butthisisnotenough.Ourworldcontinuestocreate

newformsofspiritualandmaterialpovertythatassaulthumandignity.Forthis

reason,theChurchmustalwaysbevigilantandreadytoidentifynewworksof

mercyandtopractisethemwithgenerosityandenthusiasm.

Letusmakeeveryeffort,then,todevisespecificandresponsiblewaysof practisingcharityandtheworksofmercy.Mercyisinclusiveandtendsto expandinawaythatknowsnolimits.Hencewearecalledtogivenew expressiontothetraditionalworksofmercy.Formercyoverflows,keepsmoving forward,bearsrichfruit.Itisliketheleaventhatmakesthedoughrise(cf.Mt

13:33),orthemustardseedthatgrowsintoatree(cf.Lk13:19).

Weneedbutthinkofonecorporalworkofmercy:“toclothethenaked”(cf.Mt

25:36,38,43,44).Thisbringsusbacktothebeginning,intheGardenofEden,

whenAdamandEverealizethattheyarenakedand,hearingtheLord

approaching,feelshameandhidethemselves(Gen3:7­8).WeknowthatGod

punishedthem,yethealso“madeforAdamandforhiswifegarmentsofskins,

andclothedthem”(Gen3:21).Hecoveredtheirshameandrestoredtheir

dignity.

LetusthinktooofJesusonGolgotha.TheSonofGodhangsnakedonthe

cross;thesoldierstookhistunicandcastlotsforit(cf.Jn19:23­24).Hehas

nothingleft.ThecrossistheextremerevelationofJesus’sharingthelotof thosewhohavelosttheirdignityforlackofthenecessitiesoflife.Justasthe

Churchiscalledtobethe“tunicofChrist”[20]andtoclotheherLordonce

more,soSheiscommittedtosolidaritywiththenakedoftheworld,tohelp themrecoverthedignityofwhichtheyhavebeenstripped.Jesus’words:“Iwas

nakedandyouclothedme”(Mt25:36),obligeusnottoturnourbacksonthe

newformsofpovertyandmarginalizationthatpreventpeoplefromlivingalife

ofdignity.

Beingunemployedornotreceivingasufficientsalary;notbeingabletohavea

homeoralandinwhichtolive;experiencingdiscriminationonaccountofone’s

faith,raceorsocialstatus:thesearejustafewofthemanyexamplesof

situationsthatattackthedignityoftheperson.Inthefaceofsuchattacks,

Christianmercyrespondsaboveallwithvigilanceandsolidarity.Howmany

situationsexisttodaywherewecanrestoredignitytoindividualsandmake

possibleatrulyhumanelife!Letusthinkonlyaboutthemanychildrenwho

sufferfromformsofviolencethatrobthemofthejoyoflife.Ikeepthinkingof

theirsorrowfulandbewilderedfaces.Theyarepleadingforourhelptobeset

freefromtheslaveryofthecontemporaryworld.Thesechildrenaretheyoung

adultsoftomorrow.Howarewepreparingthemtolivewithdignityand

responsibility?Withwhathopecantheyfacetheirpresentortheirfuture?

Thesocialcharacterofmercydemandsthatwenotsimplystandbyanddo

nothing.Itrequiresustobanishindifferenceandhypocrisy,lestourplansand

projectsremainadeadletter.MaytheHolySpirithelpustocontributeactively

andselflesslytomakingjusticeandadignifiedlifenotsimplyclichésbuta

concretecommitmentofthosewhoseektobearwitnesstothepresenceofthe

KingdomofGod.

20.Wearecalledtopromoteacultureofmercybasedontherediscoveryof

encounterwithothers,acultureinwhichnoonelooksatanotherwith

indifferenceorturnsawayfromthesufferingofourbrothersandsisters.The

worksofmercyare“handcrafted”,inthesensethatnoneofthemisalike.Our

handscancrafttheminathousanddifferentways,andeventhoughtheone

Godinspiresthem,andtheyareallfashionedfromthesame“material”,mercy

itself,eachonetakesonadifferentform.

Theworksofmercyaffectaperson’sentirelife.Forthisreason,wecansetin motionarealculturalrevolution,beginningwithsimplegesturescapableof reachingbodyandspirit,people’sverylives.Thisisacommitmentthatthe Christiancommunityshouldtakeup,intheknowledgethatGod’sword constantlycallsustoleavebehindthetemptationtohidebehindindifference andindividualisminordertoleadacomfortablelifefreeofproblems.Jesustells

hisdisciples:“Thepoorwillalwaysbewithyou”(Jn12:8).Thereisnoalibito

justifynotengagingwiththepoorwhenJesushasidentifiedhimselfwitheach

ofthem.

Thecultureofmercyisshapedinassiduousprayer,indocilitytotheworkingof theHolySpirit,inknowledgeofthelivesofthesaintsandinbeingclosetothe poor.Iturgesusnottooverlooksituationsthatcallforourinvolvement.The temptationtotheorize“about”mercycanbeovercometotheextentthatour dailylifebecomesoneofparticipationandsharing.Norshouldweeverforget whattheApostletellsusabouthismeetingwithPeter,JamesandJohnafter hisconversion.Hiswordshighlightanessentialaspectofhisownmissionand oftheChristianlifeasawhole:“Theyaskedonlyonething,thatweremember

thepoor,whichwasactuallywhatIwaseagertodo”(Gal2:10).Wecannot

forgetthepoor:thisisaninjunctionasrelevanttodayasever,andonethat

compelsbyitsevangelicalwarrant.

21.TheJubileeimpressesuponusthewordsoftheApostlePeter:“Onceyou

hadnotreceivedmercy,butnowyouhavereceivedmercy”(1Pet2:10).Letus

notholdonjealouslytowhatwehavereceived,butshareitwithourbrothers

andsistersinneed,sothattheycanbesustainedbythepoweroftheFather’s

mercy.Mayourcommunitiesreachouttoallwholiveintheirmidst,sothat

God’scaressmayreacheveryonethroughthewitnessofbelievers.

Thisisthetimeofmercy.EachdayofourjourneyismarkedbyGod’spresence.

HeguidesourstepswiththepowerofthegracethattheSpiritpoursintoour

heartstomakethemcapableofloving.Itisthetimeofmercyforeachandall,

sincenoonecanthinkthatheorsheiscutofffromGod’sclosenessandthe

powerofhistenderlove.Itisthetimeofmercybecausethosewhoareweak

andvulnerable,distantandalone,oughttofeelthepresenceofbrothersand

sisterswhocanhelpthemintheirneed.Itisthetimeofmercybecausethe

poorshouldfeelthattheyareregardedwithrespectandconcernbyotherswho

haveovercomeindifferenceanddiscoveredwhatisessentialinlife.Itisthe

timeofmercybecausenosinnercanevertireofaskingforgivenessandallcan

feelthewelcomingembraceoftheFather.

Duringthe“JubileeforSociallyExcludedPeople”,astheHolyDoorsofMercy werebeingclosedinallthecathedralsandshrinesoftheworld,Ihadtheidea that,asyetanothertangiblesignofthisExtraordinaryHolyYear,theentire Churchmightcelebrate,ontheThirty­ThirdSundayofOrdinaryTime,theWorld DayofthePoor.Thiswouldbetheworthiestwaytoprepareforthecelebration oftheSolemnityofourLordJesusChrist,KingoftheUniverse,whoidentified withthelittleonesandthepoorandwhowilljudgeusonourworksofmercy

(cf.Mt25:31­46).Itwouldbeadaytohelpcommunitiesandeachofthe

baptizedtoreflectonhowpovertyisattheveryheartoftheGospelandthat,

aslongasLazarusliesatthedoorofourhomes(cf.Lk16:19­21),therecanbe

nojusticeorsocialpeace.ThisDaywillalsorepresentagenuineformofnew

evangelization(cf.Mt11:5)whichcanrenewthefaceoftheChurchasShe

perseveresinherperennialactivityofpastoralconversionandwitnesstomercy.

22.TheHolyMotherofGodalwayslooksuponuswithhereyesofmercy.She

isthefirsttoshowusthewayandtoaccompanyusinourwitnessoflove.As

sheisoftenshowninworksofart,theMotherofMercygathersusallunderthe

protectionofhermantle.Letustrustinhermaternalassistanceandfollowher

perennialcounseltolooktoJesus,theradiantfaceofGod’smercy.

GiveninRome,atSaintPeter’sBasilica,on20November,theSolemnityofour

LordJesusChrist,KingoftheUniverse,intheyear2016,thefourthofmy

Pontificate.

FRANCIS

[1]OntheGospelofJohn,XXXIII,5.

[2]ShepherdofHermas,XLII,1­4.

[3]Cf.ApostolicExhortationEvangeliiGaudium,27.

[4]RomanMissal,OpeningPrayerfortheThirdSundayofLent.

[5]Ibid.,PrefaceforSundaysinOrdinaryTimeVII.

[6]Ibid.,EucharisticPrayerII.

[7]Ibid.,CommunionRite.

[8]RiteofPenance,No.46.

[9]SacramentofAnointingandPastoralCareoftheSick,No.76.

[10]Cf.SECONDVATICANECUMENICALCOUNCIL,ConstitutionontheSacred

LiturgySacrosanctumConcilium,106.

[11]ID.,DogmaticConstitutionDeiVerbum,2.

[12]ApostolicExhortationEvangeliiGaudium,142.

[13]Cf.BENEDICTXVI,Post­SynodalApostolicExhortationVerbumDomini,86­

87.

[14]Cf.LetterAccordingtoWhichanIndulgenceisGrantedtotheFaithfulon

theOccasionoftheExtraordinaryJubileeofMercy,1September2015.

[15]Cf.ibid.

[16]Post­SynodalApostolicExhortationAmorisLaetitia,1.

[17]Cf.ibid.,291­300.

[18]RomanMissal,EasterVigil,PrayeraftertheFirstReading.

[19]EncyclicalLetterLumenFidei,50.

[20]Cf.CYPRIAN,OntheUnityoftheCatholicChurch,7.

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