Vatican City, Nov 19, 2017 / 05:52 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis on Sunday cautioned against having a “mistaken” idea of God as harsh and punishing, saying this fear will end up paralyzing us and preventing us from doing good, rather than spreading his love and mercy.
“Fear always immobilizes and often leads us to make bad choices,” the Pope said Nov. 19. “Fear discourages us from taking the initiative, and encourages us to seek refuge in safe and guaranteed solutions, and so we end up doing nothing good.”
To go forward and grow on the path of life, he said, “we must not be afraid, but we have to trust.”
Pope Francis spoke to pilgrims in St. Peter's Square during his Sunday Angelus address on the first-ever World Day for the Poor, which he implemented at the end of the Jubilee of Mercy.
In his speech, the Pope turned to the day's Gospel reading from Matthew, which recounts the parable of the talents. In the passage, a master goes on a long trip and entrusts three servants with different talents, but when he returns, only two have gained profit from it, while the third buried his out of fear.
This parable “makes us understand how important it is to have a true idea of God,” Francis said, noting that the third servant didn't really trust his master, but but feared him, and this fear prevented him from acting.
We shouldn't think that God is “an evil, harsh and severe master who wants to punish us,” the Pope said, explaining that if we have this “mistaken image of God, then our lives cannot be fruitful, because we will live in fear and this will not lead us to anything constructive.”
Fear, he said, paralyzes us and so is self-destructive. So when faced with the unfaithful servant in this parable, each of us is called to reflect on what our idea of God really is.
Turning to the Old Testament, Francis noted how in Exodus God is described as “merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.”
Even in the New Testament, Jesus always demonstrated that God is not “a severe and intolerant master,” but a father full of “love and tenderness, a father full of goodness,” Francis said, and because of this, “we can and must have immense trust in him.”
Jesus, he said, shows us his generosity in various ways, through his words, actions, and his welcome towards all, especially toward sinners and the poor and vulnerable. But also with his admonishments, “which show his interest in us so that we do not waste our lives uselessly.”
This, the Pope said, is a sign of the great esteem God has for us, and having this knowledge ought to help us to take responsibility for our every action.
Concluding, Pope Francis said parable invites us to have “a personal responsibility and fidelity which become capable of continually placing ourselves on new roads, without burying the talent, which is are the gifts that God has entrusted to us and of which he will ask us to account for.”
After leading pilgrims in the Angelus prayer, the Pope made a series of appeals, the first of which was for the World Day for the Poor. He prayed that the poor and disadvantaged would be “the center of our communities” not just on special occasions, but always, “because they are the heart of the Gospel, in them we encounter Jesus who speaks to us and challenges us through their sufferings and their needs.”
He also drew attention to beatification of Fr. Solanus Casey yesterday in Detroit, saying the friar was “a humble and faithful disciple of Christ, who distinguished himself with an untiring service to the poor.”
“May his witness help priests, religious and laity to live with joy the link between the announcement of the Gospel and the love for the poor.”
Francis also offered special prayers for those living “a painful poverty” due to war and conflict, and renewed his appeal to the international community “to commit every possible effort in favor of peace, especially in the Middle East.”
He prayed especially for Lebanon, particularly for the country's stability, “so that it may continue to be a message of respect and sharing for every religion and for the entire world.”
A final appeal he made was for the crew of an Argentine military submarine, who have been missing for several days without a trace.
After concluding the Angelus, Pope Francis made his way to the Vatican's Paul VI Hall, where he had lunch with some 1,500 poor and needy in town for the World Day of the Poor.
Before the meal, Francis said a blessing for the food and for everyone there, asking the Lord “to bless us, to bless the meal, to bless those who prepared it, to bless all of us, our hearts, our families, our desires and our lives, that he give us health and strength. Amen.”
He also offered a blessing for all those eating in other soup kitchens throughout Rome. “Rome is full of these today,” he said, and asked for “a greeting and an applause” for the thousands of others participating in the event.
<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr"><a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/PopeFrancis?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#PopeFrancis</a> says blessing before eating lunch, prays for the cooks, the guests, their families & charity organizations in <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Rome?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Rome</a>: asks that they receive "health & strength" <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/WorldDayofthePoor?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#WorldDayofthePoor</a> <a href="https://t.co/jRrW0dN3xc">pic.twitter.com/jRrW0dN3xc</a></p>— Elise Harris (@eharris_it) <a href="https://twitter.com/eharris_it/status/932212710749691905?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">November 19, 2017</a></blockquote>
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