Monday, November 4, 2013

“there is no sin or crime of any kind that can erase from the mind or heart of God even one of the children he has created” (Pope Francis)

by Gerard O’Connell, writing for LA STAMPA HERE

“There is no profession or social condition, there is no sin or crime of any kind that can erase from the memory and heart of God even one of his children”, Pope Francis told tens of thousands of pilgrims gathered in St Peter’s Square yesterday, 3rd November.

“God remembers, he never forgets any one of those he has created”, Francis emphasized once again, returning to what has been one of his leitmotivs ever since his election as pope: God is a loving Father, one who wants to save, not condemn people.

Speaking from the study window of the papal apartment which he uses for his Sunday encounter with pilgrims, the Argentinean Pope took his cue from this Sunday’s Gospel which was about a man, Zaccheus, who lived in the city of Jericho which Jesus had entered.

He described Zaccheus as  “a lost sheep”, one “who was despised by everyone and ‘excommunicated’ because he was a tax collector –the chief of the tax-collectors and a publican, the friend of the hated Romans, an exploiter and a thief”.  He was not allowed even to come close to Jesus when he visited Jericho because of all this.  Yet this man wanted to see Jesus, he said, but being small in stature he could not see over the crowd and so he climbed a tree so he could see Jesus.

That seemingly ‘ridiculous” gesture expressed “the interior act of the man who wanted to go above the crowd to have contact with Jesus”, the Pope said. Indeed, Zaccheus man did not really know “the profound sense of his gesture, nor did he hope to overcome the distance that separated him from the Lord”, Francis said; “he just resigned himself to seeing him as he passed by”.

Jesus, however, noticed his gesture and stopped at the tree where he was. Then looking up, he told him, “Zaccheus, come down immediately, today I want to stop at your house”.   Pope Francis said that this man “small in stature, rejected by everyone, is like one lost in anonymity, but Jesus calls him”. The Pope noted that this man has a name that is full of allusions because ‘Zaccheus’ means ‘God remembers’.

Francis recalled that Jesus went to Zaccehus’ home and that very day ‘joy’ and ‘salvation’ came to that house.

Pope Francis went onto remind everyone that God is a “Father who is always waiting, vigilant and loving, to see reborn in the heart of his son the desire to return home”.  Indeed, he said, “whenever” - as in the case of Zaccheus, “he recognizes that desire, even the simple indication (of that desire), however unconscious, he is immediately at the side of that person, and with his pardon he makes the journey of conversion and return lighter”.

Then, abandoning his prepared text, Francis looked out at the vast crowd of pilgrims in the square below, and said: “I tell you that if you have a great weight on your conscience, if you are ashamed of what you have done, then stop and reflect on this: God has never ceased to remember you!”

He encouraged everyone in such a situation, every “lost sheep”, to follow the example of Zaccheus and ‘climb a tree’ or make some similar gesture ‘however ridiculous’, to come to Jesus “and you will not be disappointed.”

“Jesus is merciful. He always pardons you, so allow yourselves to be looked at by Jesus!  Today, he wants to come and stay in your house, that is, in your life”, he told them.

He concluded by inviting everyone listening to allow ourselves “to welcome Jesus with joy, he can transform our hearts of stone into hearts of flesh. He can free us from our egoisms and make our lives a gift of love”.

His words drew warm applause from the big crowd in St Peter’s Square, an applause that was redoubled when he wished them a good lunch.


Post a Comment