Pope: Jesus Suffers With Us and Cures Sin Through Mercy

At his Feb. 15 Angelus address, the Holy Father told the faithful: “Be ‘imitators of Christ’ in front of a poor or sick person ... drawing close with tenderness and compassion. Let us be infected by good, and let us infect others with it.”

(photo: via HookedontheBook.com)

VATICAN CITY — In his Sunday Angelus address on Feb. 15, Pope Francis focused on mercy, noting how Jesus heals by going close to those who suffer and curing the “leprosy” of sin.

“The hand of Jesus touched the leper. He isn't placed at a distance, and he doesn't act through a proxy, but is exposed directly to the contagion of our evil; so our own evil becomes the place of contact,” the Pope told pilgrims.

“He, Jesus, takes from us our sick humanity, and we take from him his healthy and healed humanity.”

Pope Francis spoke to those gathered in St. Peter’s Square for the recitation of the traditional Marian prayer. He pointed to the day’s Gospel reading from Mark, in which Jesus heals a man from leprosy.

He said the episode has three distinct moments: the plea of the leper, Jesus’ response and the result of the miraculous healing.

“The leper begged Jesus ‘on his knees’ and said, ‘If you will it, you can make me clean,’” the Pope observed, recalling how Jesus responds to the humble prayer with a deep attitude of compassion, which he noted means to “suffer with” someone.

In this moment, Jesus’ heart manifests the paternal compassion that God has for man, he said, explaining that the fact Jesus went close to the man and touched him is significant, due to the cultural stigma surrounding lepers at the time.

As leprosy was a contagious and “merciless” disease that was considered a sign of impurity, those infected with it were ostracized and forced to live outside of the city and had to signal their presence to passersby.

Lepers were marginalized from both civil and religious communities, Francis said, noting that their lives were like that of “a walking dead man.”

By reaching out to touch the infected man who begged him for healing, Jesus show us that God’s mercy is able to overcome all barriers, Francis said. Rather than remaining far away, Jesus got close and restored the man to health.

“This happens every time we receive a sacrament with faith,” the Pope observed, pointing specifically to the sacrament of reconciliation, “which cures us from the leprosy of sin.”

What the Gospel passage shows us, the Pope said, is that God doesn’t confront evil by giving “a lecture on pain” or by eliminating suffering and death from the world, but takes this weight upon himself and carries it “to the end.”

“This is how Christ combats the evil and suffering of the world: becoming the load and overcoming it with the power of God's mercy.”

Pope Francis concluded by saying that if we want to be true disciples of Christ, we are called to unite ourselves to him and become “instruments of his merciful love, overcoming every type of marginalization.”

“To be ‘imitators of Christ’ in front of a poor or sick person, we don't have to be afraid of looking him in the eye and drawing close with tenderness and compassion,” Francis said.

He explained that if evil is contagious, then so is good, so we need to allow whatever is good to grow inside of us. “Let us be infected by good, and let us infect others with it.”

After leading pilgrims in the Angelus prayer, the Pope took a moment to greet various groups present, and he gave his well-wishes to those preparing to celebrate the Lunar New Year, also referred to as Chinese New Year, Feb. 19.

He prayed that the celebrations surrounding the event would be a “happy occasion of rediscovering fraternity and of living in an intense way, as it is the precious bond of family life and the basis of social life.”

Francis also greeted those pilgrims who came for the occasion of Feb. 14’s consistory of cardinals, during which he elevated 20 bishops to the rank of the cardinalate, 15 of whom are under 80 and are therefore eligible to vote in the next conclave.

He thanked the pilgrims for “accompanying” the cardinals and expressed his gratitude to the countries who came with an official delegation.