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Sunday, September 11, 2016

Angelus about the parables of mercy

At noon today, the Holy Father, Pope Francis appeared at the window of his study in the Vatican Apostolic Palace to recite the Angelus with the faithful and with pilgrims gathered in Saint Peter's Square for the usual Sunday appointment.

Greetings of the Holy Father, Pope Francis
prior to the recitation of the Angelus

Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!

Today's liturgy proposes chapter 15 of the gospel of Luke, considered as the chapter of mercy, which gathers together three parables with which Jesus responds to the murmuring of the scribes and the Pharisees.  They were criticizing his behaviour, saying: This man welcomes sinners and eats with them (Lk 15:2).  With these three stories, Jesus wants to make them understand that God, our Father is the first to have an attitude of welcome and mercy toward sinners.  God has this attitude.  In the first parable, God is presented as a shepherd who leaves ninety-nine sheep in order to go in search of the one who is lost.  In the second he is portrayed as a woman who has lost a coin and searches for it until she finds it.  In the third parable, God is imagined as a father who welcomes his son who has been away; the father figure reveals the heart of God, our merciful God, made visible in the person of Jesus.

One element that is common to all three parables is the presence of verbal expressions portraying the sharing of joy with others, having a party.  There is no talk of fighting.  They rejoice, they celebrate.  The shepherd calls his friends and neighbours and says to them: Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep, the one that was lost (Lk 15:6); the woman calls her friends and neighbours and says: Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin I had lost (Lk 15:9); and the father says to the other son: We must celebrate and rejoice, for your brother who was dead has come back to life, he was lost and now he is found (Lk 15:32).  In the first two parables, the accent is placed on joy that cannot be contained and must be shared with friends and neighbours.  In the third parable, the emphasis is placed on the celebration which begins in the heart of the merciful father and expands to include all those who are in the house.  God's feast for those who return to him with repentance is even more significant for us within the context of the Jubilee Year that we are currently living; this is the same connotation that we find in the word jubilee! or jubilation!

With these three parables, Jesus presents us with the true face of God: a Father with open arms, who treats sinners with tenderness and compassion.  This is the most moving parable - it moves us all - because it shows us the infinite love of God, and the love of the father who cuddles, hugs the son he has found.   What is striking is not so much the sad story of the young man who falls into degradation, but his decisive words: I will get up and go to my Father (Lk 15:18).  The path of return toward the house is the path of hope and of new life.  God always waits for us to continue the journey, he waits patiently, he sees us when we are still a long way off, he runs to meet us, he embraces us, kisses us, forgives us.  This is the way God is!  This is how our Father is!  His forgiveness cancels out our past and restores us in love.  He forgets the past: this is God's weakness.  When he embraces us and forgives us, he loses his memory, he has no memory!  He forgets the past.  When we sinners turn back and return to God, he is not waiting to chastise us with accusations, because God saves, he welcomes us home with joy and with a celebration.  Jesus himself says so in today's gospel: There will be joy in heaven over one sinner who repents, more than for ninety nine just ones who have no need of conversion (Lk 15:7).  I ask you a question: have you ever considered that every time we approach the confessional, there is joy and celebration in heaven?  Have you ever thought about that?  It's beautiful!

This gives us great hope, because there is no sin to which we have fallen prey from which, with the grace of God, we cannot rise again; there is no person who is beyond redemption!  For God never ceases to look out for our best interests, even when we have sinned!  May the Virgin Mary, Refuge of Sinners, arouse in our hearts the trust that was kindled in the heart of the prodigal son: I will rise and go to my Father and say to him: Father, I have sinned (Lk 15:18).  In this way, we can give joy to God, and his joy can become his and our celebration.

Following the recitation of the Angelus, the Holy Father continued:

Dear brothers and sisters,

I want to invite you to pray especially for Gabon, which is experiencing at this very moment a serious political crisis.  I entrust to the Lord all the victims of the clashes as well as their families.  I unite myself with the Bishops of that beloved African nation to invite the parties involved to reject all violence and to always maintain an objective of the common good of all people.  I encourage all people, especially Catholics, to be artisans of peace within the confines of the law, in a spirit of dialogue and fraternity.

Today, in Karaganda (Kazakhstan), Ladislao Bukowinski, a priest and a pastor has been proclaimed Blessed.  He was persecuted for his faith.  How much he suffered!  How very much!  During his life, he always demonstrated great love to those who were weak and most in need.  His witness appears as an integration of the works of spiritual and corporal works of mercy.

With great affection, I greet all of you, Romans and pilgrims from various countries: families, parish groups and associations.

I greet the faithful from Romania, those from the Dioceses of Ferrara-Cormacchio, the Fides Vita Movement, the groups from Venice, cologna Veneta, Caprino Veronese, Serravalle Scrivia and Novara; as well as the cyclists who have come from Borgo Val di Taro and the young people who have recently been confirmed and have come from Rocco Sambuceto.

I wish you all a good Sunday.  Please, don't forget to pray for me.  Enjoy your lunch and good bye!
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