Take the Road of Mercy to God’s Heart :Pope Francis at Mass

Christians the memory of their origins and of their sins must accompany them throughout their lives  told Pope Francis on Friday.Speaking to those gathered for Holy Mass, the Pope reflected on the liturgical reading that tells of how Jesus invited Matthew, the tax collector, and other sinners to join him at his table.

“One may think that Jesus lacked the good sense to choose the right people as his followers” Francis said, but then he remarked on how in the life of the Church, so many Christians, so many saints have been chosen by Jesus from the ‘lowest ranks’.

Thus, the Pope said, Christians should always be aware of where they come from and they should never forget their sins; they must cherish the memory of the Lord “who had mercy of their sins and chose them to be a Christian, an apostle”.

Matthew never forgot his origins
Describing the tax collector Matthew ’s reaction to the Lord’s call, the Pope said he did not dress in luxury, he did not begin to tell others “I am the prince of the apostles, I issue orders… No! He lived the rest of his life for the Gospel”.

When an apostle forgets his origins and starts off on a career path, the Pope explained, he distances himself from the Lord and become an ‘official’. An official who perhaps does a good job, but he is not an apostle. He is incapable of ‘transmitting’ Jesus; he is someone who organizes pastoral projects and plans and many other things; he is what he called an “affarista” -  a “wheeler-dealer” -  of the Kingdom of God because he has forgotten from where he was chosen.

That’s why, Francis continued, it is important to preserve the memory of our origins: “this memory must accompany the life of the apostle and of every Christian”.

We lack generosity, the Lord does not
Instead of looking at ourselves, Pope Francis said,  we tend to look at others, at their sins, and to talk about them. This, he said, is a harmful habit.  It’s better to accuse oneself, the Pope suggested, and keep in mind from where the Lord chose us from.

“When the Lord chooses it is for something great. To be a Christian is a great thing, a beautiful thing” he said.

It is us, the Pope said, who distance ourselves: “we lack generosity and we negotiate with the Lord, but He awaits us”.

The doctors of the Law were scandalized
When Matthew was called by Jesus he renounced all to follow Him, the Pope said, noting that he invited his friends to sit with Jesus to celebrate the Master.  At that table, he said, sat “the very worst of society.  And Jesus with them".

The doctors of the Law, Francis continued, were scandalized. They called the disciples and said: "Why does your teacher eat with these people? Eating with some who is unclean contaminates you”. But, Jesus heard this and said “Go and learn the words:  ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice’.

“God's mercy seeks everyone, forgives everyone. The only thing he asks of you is to say: ‘Yes, help me’. That’s all” he said.

The mystery of mercy
To those who were scandalized, Pope Francis concluded, Jesus said that “those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do”.

"The Lord's mercy is a mystery; God’s heart is the greatest and most beautiful mystery.  If you want to make your way to God’s heart, take the road of mercy, and allow yourself be treated with mercy”.

Pope urges Lithuania to welcome differences and work for common good

Pope Francis on Saturday invited Lithuanians to draw strength and vigour from their past experience and welcome differences through dialogue, openness and understanding, something which the international community and especially the European Community can learn from.

The Pope’s invitation came at the start of his apostolic visit to the Baltic states of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia.  Addressing Lithuanian authorities, representatives of civil society and the diplomatic corps at the presidential palace in the capital, Vilnius, the pontiff recalled that his visit was taking place in centenary year of the declaration of their independence in 1918, at the end of World War I.

Lithuania lost its independence to Soviet Russia in 1940.  The following year the Nazis took over until 1944, following which Soviet Russia again occupied the nation. With the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1990, Lithuania regained its freedom.

Lessons from the past
Pope Francis remarked that it has been a century marked by numerous trials and sufferings: “detentions, deportations, even martyrdom.”  Celebrating the hundredth anniversary of independence, he said, “means taking time to stop and revive the memory of all those experiences,” in order to be in touch with everything that forged you as a nation, and find the key to assessing present challenges and looking to the future in a spirit of dialogue and unity with all those who dwell here, careful to ensure that no one remains excluded.”

Lithuania’s hospitality
The Pope commended Lithuania’s hospitality in sheltering, receiving and accepting peoples of various ethnic groups and religions.  They lived together in peace until the totalitarian ideologies arrived and sowed violence, lack of trust and undermined its ability to accept and harmonize differences.

The Pope  urged Lithuanians to tolerance, hospitality, respect and solidarity, saying these qualities from their past helped them to grow and not succumb as a nation.  He also encouraged them to desire the common good and strive towards it, saying they suffered because the totalitarian ideologies tried to impose a single model that wanted to annul differences under the pretence of believing that the privileges of a few are more important than the dignity of others or the common good.

All conflicts presently emerging, the Pope said, will find lasting solutions only if those solutions are grounded in the concrete recognition of the dignity of persons, especially the most vulnerable, and in the realization that all of us are challenged “to broaden our horizons and see the greater good which will benefit us all.”

Pope Francis also urged Lithuania to pay special attention to its young people, saying promoting policies that encourage their active participation in building up the social and communitarian fabric, will be a seed of hope that will generate hospitality towards the stranger, hospitality toward the young, towards the elderly and the poor, and, ultimately, hospitality toward the future.