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Wednesday, August 10, 2016

General Audience on consoling a mother

This morning's General Audience began at 10:00am in the Paul VI Hall at the Vatican.  The Holy Father, Pope Francis met there with groups of pilgrims and the faithful from Italy and from every corner of the world.

During his speech, the Pope continued his catechesis on mercy from the perspective of the gospel, adding a meditation on the miracle of the raising of the son of the widow of Nain (Consolation for a mother - cf Lk 7:11-17).

After having summarized his catechesis in various languages, the Holy Father addressed greetings to each group of the faithful in attendance.

The General Audience concluded with the chanting of the Pater Noster and the Apostolic Blessing.

Catechesis of the Holy Father, Pope Francis
for the General Audience

Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!

The passage from the gospel of Luke which we have just heard (Lk 7:11-17) presents one of Jesus' greatest miracles: the resurrection of a young man.  And yet, the important part of this story is not the miracle, but the tenderness that Jesus has for the mother of this young man.  In this case, mercy takes the form of great compassion shown to the woman who had lost her husband and who was now accompanying her son to the cemetery.  This great sadness suffered by a mother moved Jesus and called forth the miracle of the resurrection.

At the beginning of the story, the Evangelist focuses on many details.  At the entrance to the city of Nain - a village - we find two large groups of people coming from opposite directions and they have nothing in common.  Jesus, followed by his disciples and a great crowd of people are about to enter the town, while there is a sad procession coming out of the town, accompanying the dead man - including his mother who is a widow and many other people.  Near the city gate, the two groups pass close by to each other, intending to go on their own way, but then Saint Luke notes Jesus' sentiment: Seeing (the woman), the Lord was filled with great compassion for her and said to her: 'Do not cry!'  He drew near and touched the bier, and the bearers stood still (Lk 7:13-14).  Great compassion guides Jesus' actions: he stops the procession by touching the bier and, moved by profound mercy for that mother, he decides to face death - as it were - face to face.  He would face it again definitively - face to face - on the Cross.

During this Jubilee, it would be good if, as they passed through the Holy Door, the Door of Mercy, pilgrims were to remember this gospel passage, which took place at the door to the town of Nain.  When Jesus sees this mother in tears, he enters into her heart!  At the Holy Door, every person arrives, bringing his life with its joys and its sufferings, its plans and its failures, its doubts and its fears, and presents them to the mercy of the Lord.  We are sure that, at the Holy Door, the Lord comes close to us to meet each one of us, to bring us and to offer to us his powerfully consoling word: Do not cry! (Lk 7:13).  This is the Door of meeting between the sufferings of humanity and the compassion of God.  Crossing the threshold, we accomplish our pilgrimage in the mercy of God who, as he said to the dead man, repeats to us: I say to you, arise (Lk 7:14).  To each of us, he says: Arise!  God wants us to stand up.  He created us to be standing on our feet: this is the reason why Jesus' compassion leads to a gesture of healing, to our healing: the key word is Arise!  Stand on your own two feet, just as God created you to do.  Stand up.  But Father, we fall down so many times - Keep going, get up!  This is the word spoken by Jesus, always.  At the threshold of the Holy Door, let us listen for this word in our hearts: Get up!  The powerful word of Jesus can raise us up and we too can participate in the passage from death to life.  His word restores our life, gives us hope, revives tired spirits, opens us up to a vision of the world and of life that surpasses suffering and death.  At the Holy Door, there awaits for each of us the inexhaustible treasure of God's mercy!

Having heard Jesus' words, the dead man sat up and began to speak.  Jesus gave him back to his mother (Lk 7:15).  This phrase is very beautiful:  it shows the tenderness of Jesus: He gave him back to his mother.  The mother had her son again.  Having received this gift from the hands of Jesus, she became a mother for the second time, but this time, her son had not received the gift of life from her.  Mother and son had both received their respective identities from the grace of the powerful word of Jesus and through his gesture of love.  So it is that, especially during the Jubilee, the mother Church receives her children, recognizing within them the life given by God's grace.  It is through the strength of this grace, the grace of Baptism, that the Church becomes a mother and that each of us becomes her child.

Seeing the son who had come back to life and been given back to his mother, they were all amazed and glorified God saying: 'A great prophet has arisen among us' and 'God has visited his people'.  What Jesus did was therefore not only a saving act meant for the widow and her son, or a gesture of goodness limited to those townsfolk.  In the merciful action of Jesus, God reaches out to all his people, in Jesus, the fullness of God's grace appears and will continue to appear to all of humanity.  The celebration this Jubilee, which I desired to be the case in all the particular Churches, that is to say all the churches throughout the world and not only here in Rome, it is as though the whole Church throughout the world is united in one song of praise to the Lord.  Even today, the Church understands that we are being visited by God.  For this reason, as we draw close to the Door of Mercy, everyone knows that we are drawing close to the merciful heart of Jesus: and He is in fact the true Door that leads us to salvation and restores us to new life.  Mercy, both in Jesus and in us, is a journey that begins n the heart and leads to the hands.  What does this mean?  Jesus looks at you, heals you with his mercy, and says: Arise!, and your heart is renewed.  What does it mean to undertake a journey from the heart to the hands?  It means that with a renewed heart, with a heart that has been healed by Jesus we can perform the works of mercy with our hands, seeking to help, to care for all those who are in need.  Mercy is a journey that begins in the heart and leads to the hands: to the works of mercy.

At the conclusion of his catechesis, speaking to the Italian-speaking pilgrims, the Holy Father said:

I said that mercy is a journey from the heart to the hands.  In our hearts, we receive the mercy of Jesus, who gives us the gift of his forgiveness, because God forgives everyone and saves us, he gives us new life and infects us with his compassion.  From this forgiven heart and with the compassion of Jesus, our journey toward our hands begins, the journey toward the works of mercy.  The other day, a bishop told me that in his cathedral and in other churches, he had installed doors of mercy at the entrance and at the exits.  I asked him: Why did you do that? - Because one door is to go in, to ask for forgiveness and the mercy of Jesus; the other is the door of mercy going out, in order to take the gift of mercy to others, through our works of mercy.  This is a very intelligent bishop!  We too can do the same with the journey that travels from our hearts to our hands: we enter into the church through the door of mercy in order to receive the forgiveness of Jesus, who says to us: Arise! Go, go!; and with this word: Go! - standing on our feet - we go out and carry the gift of mercy to others.  This is the Church going out: the journey of mercy that goes from the heart to the hands.  Set out on this journey!

Following the conclusion of his catechesis, the Holy Father's words were summarized and His Holiness addressed greetings to each of the groups of pilgrims in attendance.  To English-speaking pilgrims, he said:

I greet the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors taking part in today’s Audience, particularly those from England, Malta, Indonesia and the United States of America. With prayerful good wishes that the present Jubilee of Mercy will be a moment of grace and spiritual renewal for you and your families, I invoke upon all of you joy and peace in our Lord Jesus Christ.
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