(Vatican Radio) Mother Church teaches us works of mercy are essential for our salvation, said Pope Francis at his general audience on Wednesday , but “it is not enough to do good to those who do good to us. To change the world for the better we must do good to those who are unable to reciprocate, as the Father did with us, in giving us Jesus".
And once again he had a special thought for the persecuted Christians of the Middle East. In his greeting to Arabic speaking pilgrims and in particular to those from Syria and Iraq, Francis said that "the Church, following the example of her Master, is a teacher of mercy: She faces hatred with love, defeats violence with forgiveness; responds to weapons with prayer! May the Lord reward your fidelity, instill courage in your fight against the forces of evil and open the eyes of those who are blinded by evil, so they may soon see the light of truth and repent for their mistakes. May the Lord bless you and protect you always”.
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Speaking to the thousands of pilgrims who crowded St Peter’s Square for the appointment, the Pope said the Church does not teach us about mercy through theoretic lectures but through the actions of the saints who have visited those in prison, of mothers who teach their children to share what they have with those in need, through women like Blessed Teresa of Calcutta who held the hand of the abandoned so they would not die alone. “This is how the Mother Church teaches her children the works of mercy. She has learned this path from Jesus, she learned that this is essential for salvation”.
The Pope was continuing his catechesis on our Mother Church. "In our previous catechesis, we reflected on the Church as a Mother who nurtures us in the faith, guides us on the way of salvation, and protects us from evil. Today, I wish to reflect on the Church as a Mother who teaches us the works of mercy".
"A good teacher does not get lost in the details, but points to what is essential so that the child or student can find meaning and joy in life. It is the truth. For the Gospel, what is essential is mercy God sent his Son, God became man to save us, that is, to give us His mercy. Jesus clearly says, summing up His teaching to His disciples: "Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful" (Lk 6:36). Can there be a Christian who is not merciful? No. The Christian must necessarily be merciful, because this is the heart of the Gospel. And true to this teaching, the Church can only repeat the same thing to her children: "Be merciful," as the Father is, and as Jesus was. Mercy”.
He continued: "And so the Church acts like Jesus. She does not give lectures on love, on mercy. She does not spread a philosophy, a path of wisdom throughout the world. ... Of course, Christianity is all this, but as a consequence, in reflection. The Mother Church, like Jesus, teaches by example, and uses words to illuminate the meaning of her gestures. The Mother Church teaches us to give food and drink to the hungry and thirsty, to clothe the naked. And how does she do this? With the example of many saints who have done this in an exemplary manner; but she also does so with the example of so many mothers and fathers who teach their children that they must give what they do not need to those who lack even the basic necessities. It is important to know this. Even in the simplest of Christian families rule of hospitality has always been held sacred: may there always be a place at the table and a spare bed for those who need it".
Moving from his scripted speech, the Pope added: "Once a mother told me, in the other dioceses, that she wanted to teach this to her children and told them to help and give food to the hungry. She had three. And one day at lunch – the father was out at work, she was with her three children, little ones, 7,5,4 years or so – and there was a knock on the door and a gentleman was there who asked to eat, and the mother said: ‘Wait a minute'. And she went back in and told her children: 'There is a gentleman out there who is asking for something to eat, what should we do? '-'Give him some, Mom, give him some! '. Each of the children has a steak and fries on their plate: 'Very well, each of you take half of your dinner and give it to him'- ‘Ah, no, Mom, that’s not fair!'-'That’s the way it is you have to give him what you have’. And so this mother taught their children to give of their own food. This is a fine example that has helped me so much. 'But, I haven’t got any extra – ‘No you have to give some of what you have! '. This is what Mother Church teaches us. And you, all of you mothers here today you know what you have to do so that your children learn to share their things with those in need”.
"The Mother Church teaches us to be close to those who are sick. How many saints served Jesus in this way! And how many ordinary men and women, every day, put into practice this work of mercy in a hospital room, or in a nursing home, or in their own home, assisting a sick person. The Mother Church teaches us to be close to those who are in prison".
Again the Pope added speaking off the cuff: "'But, Father, no, this is dangerous, these are bad people'. Each one of us is capable of this. Listen well: each of us is capable of doing the same thing as the man or woman who is in prison. We all have the capacity to sin and to do the same, to make mistakes in life. They are no worse than you or I".
"Mercy - he continued – overcomes every obstacle, knocks down every wall and brings you to always seek the face of the man, the person. And it is mercy that changes hearts and lives, that can regenerate a person and allow them to reintegrate themselves in society. "
"The Mother Church teaches us to stay close to those who are abandoned and die alone. This is what Blessed Teresa of Calcutta did on the streets of Calcutta. This is what many Christians are doing and have done when they are not afraid to shake hands with those who are about to leave this world. And even here, mercy gives peace to those who leave and those who remain, making us feel that God is greater than death, and that by abiding in Him even the final farewell is simply ‘until we meet again’…
Pope Francis added: "Blessed Teresa really understood this. Although they used to say to her, 'Mother, this is wasting time'. She would look for people dying on the street, people whose bodies were being eaten by rats and she would take them home so that they could die clean, in tranquility, with a caress in peace. She bid them farewell, all of these people! And many men and women have done this like her. They are waiting for them there, at the door, to open the gate of Heaven for them. Helping people to die well, in peace. "
"Dear brothers and sisters, this is how the Mother Church teaches her children the works of mercy. She has learned this path from Jesus, she learned that this is essential for salvation. It is not enough to love those who love us. Jesus says that pagans do this. It is not enough to do good to those who do good to us. To change the world for the better we must do good to those who unable to reciprocate, as the Father did with us, in giving us Jesus. "
The Pope looking away from his text asked: "How much have we paid for our redemption? Nothing, it’s all free! Doing good without waiting for something in return, doing a good turn. This is what our Father did for us and so we must to the same. So go on and do some good! How nice it is to live in the Church, our Mother Church teaches us that these things that Jesus taught us. "
Pope Francis concluded: "We thank the Lord, who gives us the grace to have the Church as mother, she teaches us the path of mercy, which is the path of life. We thank the Lord. "
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