Make ‘Merciful like the Father’ a Commitment — Not a Slogan — Pope Says
The Holy Father said at his Wednesday audience that through forgiveness, Christians can begin to see God’s mercy and imitate his love for others.
VATICAN CITY - On Wednesday, Pope Francis reflected on the theme of the Jubilee of Mercy, “Merciful like the Father,” telling pilgrims that while imitating God’s love can seem impossible, it’s genuine effort, rather than quantity, that matters.
To be “merciful like the Father” is not just “a slogan for effect, but a life commitment,” the Pope said Sept. 21.
However, he also questioned whether Jesus’ words to his disciples in the Gospel of Luke are actually realistic, asking “is it really possible to love like God loves and to be merciful like him?”
When looking back at the story of salvation history, Francis noted that God’s entire revelation to man consists of his tireless love for humanity which culminates with Jesus’ death on the Cross.
“So great a love can be expressed only by God,” he said, explaining that Jesus’ call for humanity to be merciful like the Father “is not a question of quantity. Instead it is a summons to be signs, channels and witnesses to his mercy.”
“And the Church can’t but be the sacrament of God’s mercy in the world, in every time and across all humanity,” he said, adding that “every Christian is called to be a witness of mercy, and this takes place on the path to holiness.”
Pope Francis spoke to the thousands of pilgrims present in St. Peter’s Square for his weekly general audience. He has dedicated his catechesis to the topic of mercy in honor of the ongoing Holy Year of Mercy, which takes its theme from the day’s Gospel reading from Luke.
In his address, the Pope said that while “of course God is perfect,” if he is seen only in this way, it becomes impossible for humanity to strive toward that model of “absolute perfection.”
Instead, having God “before our eyes as merciful allows us to better understand what his perfection consists of and spurs us to be like him; full of love, compassion and mercy.”
Francis then asked what it means for the disciples to be merciful. The answer, he said, was given by Jesus in two verbs: “to forgive” and “to give.”
Mercy is expressed “above all in forgiveness,” he said, adding that “forgiveness in fact is the pillar that holds up the life of the Christian community, because in this is shown the gratuitousness of the love with which God has first loved us.”
“All Christians must forgive! Why? Because they have been forgiven. All of us, each one of us here in the Square, have been forgiven,” the Pope said, explaining that “if God has forgiven me, why shouldn’t I forgive others? Am I greater than God?”
When it comes to giving, Francis noted that God always “gives well beyond our merits,” but will be even more generous with those who were generous on earth.
Jesus, he said, “doesn’t say what will happen to those who did not give,” but sends a warning when he uses the image of “the measure: with the measure of love that we give, it is we ourselves who decide how we will be judged, how we will be loved.”
Because of this, “merciful love is the only path to take,” Francis said, stressing the need for everyone to be a little more merciful and a little less hasty to speak poorly of others, to be judgmental and to “pluck” at others with criticism, envy and jealousy.
“We must forgive, be merciful and live our lives in love,” he said, explaining that by doing so, the heart enlarges with love rather than selfishness and anger, which makes the heart small and hardens it “like stone.”
“What do you prefer? A heart of stone or a heart of love? If you prefer a heart full of love, be merciful.”