A reflection from Pope Francis’ homily on Divine Mercy Sunday, April 7, 2013
3. I would like to emphasize one other thing: God’s patience has to call forth in us the courage to return to him, however many mistakes and sins there may be in our life. Jesus tells Thomas to put his hand in the wounds of his hands and his feet, and in his side. We too can enter into the wounds of Jesus, we can actually touch him. This happens every time that we receive the sacraments with faith. Saint Bernard, in a fine homily, says: "Through the wounds of Jesus I can suck honey from the rock and oil from the flinty rock (cf. Deut 32:13), I can taste and see the goodness of the Lord" (On the Song of Songs, 61:4). It is there, in the wounds of Jesus, that we are truly secure; there we encounter the boundless love of his heart. Thomas understood this. Saint Bernard goes on to ask: But what can I count on? My own merits? No, "My merit is God’s mercy. I am by no means lacking merits as long as he is rich in mercy. If the mercies of the Lord are manifold, I too will abound in merits" (ibid., 5). This is important: the courage to trust in Jesus’ mercy, to trust in his patience, to seek refuge always in the wounds of his love. Saint Bernard even states: "So what if my conscience gnaws at me for my many sins? ‘Where sin has abounded, there grace has abounded all the more’ (Rom 5:20)" (ibid.). Maybe someone among us here is thinking: my sin is so great, I am as far from God as the younger son in the parable, my unbelief is like that of Thomas; I don’t have the courage to go back, to believe that God can welcome me and that he is waiting for me, of all people. But God is indeed waiting for you; he asks of you only the courage to go to him. How many times in my pastoral ministry have I heard it said: "Father, I have many sins"; and I have always pleaded: "Don’t be afraid, go to him, he is waiting for you, he will take care of everything". We hear many offers from the world around us; but let us take up God’s offer instead: his is a caress of love. For God, we are not numbers, we are important, indeed we are the most important thing to him; even if we are sinners, we are what is closest to his heart. . . .
In my own life, I have so often seen God’s merciful countenance, his patience; I have also seen so many people find the courage to enter the wounds of Jesus by saying to him: Lord, I am here, accept my poverty, hide my sin in your wounds, wash it away with your blood. And I have always seen that God did just this – he accepted them, consoled them, cleansed them, loved them.
Reflections for Life
1. Am I willing to take up God’s offer of forgiveness? Or do I tend to take it lightly because it is so easily available? It’s only human to value things that are hard to get, and to take for granted what comes to us easily. If only the Pope could hear confessions, he would be deluged by people wanting to confess their sins. But how many priests sit for long hours in empty confessionals? Jesus made this sacrament so easy for us to receive. If you haven’t gone to confession in a while, don’t put it off any longer. Decide on a date and go!
2. In his homily Pope Francis says that we can actually touch Jesus through faith. Every time we turn to Jesus with faith, power goes out from him. Even though we have already received it, the spiritual power that comes from Jesus can always grow in us more and more. I can touch Jesus with faith by turning to him in the ordinary events of the day and asking for his help in whatever I am doing.
Sources for Further Reflection
The Catechism of the Catholic Church on the sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation: no. 1422 and following.
(If you do not have a Catechism of the Catholic Church, type these references into Google Search and you can find them online.)