Vatican City, Apr 10, 2018 / 08:57 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Speaking to nearly 600 Missionaries of Mercy on Tuesday, Pope Francis said that to be “collaborators of mercy” with the Lord, they must remember that they have been recipients of that mercy first.
“We must always start from this fixed point: God treated me with mercy,” the pope said April 10. “This is the key to becoming God’s collaborators. One experiences mercy and turns into [a] minister of mercy.”
“In short, the ministers do not place themselves above the others as if they were judges of the sinful brothers,” he continued.
“A true missionary of mercy is reflected in the experience of the Apostle: God has chosen me; God trusts me; God has put his trust in me by calling me, despite being a sinner, to be his collaborator to make it real, effective and let his mercy touch.”
The pope spoke during a private meeting with nearly 600 Missionaries of Mercy, who are in Rome for an April 8-11 meeting focused on spiritual formation and fellowship-building.
The missionaries were first commissioned on Ash Wednesday 2016 during the Jubilee of Mercy. Their mandate was extended by Pope Francis at the close of the holy year.
The missionaries, who number over 1,000 in total and come from all over the world, have spent much of the past two years working to spread the message of God’s mercy and forgiveness through their daily activities and ministries, including talks, retreats, and social communications. An emphasis on confession is central to their work.
In his message Pope Francis referred to the parable of the prodigal son in the Gospel of Luke, in particular, the part that reads, “While he was still a long way off, his father caught sight of him, and was filled with compassion. He ran to his son, embraced him and kissed him.”
“God is not idle to wait for the sinner: he runs towards him, because the joy of seeing him come back is too great,” Francis stated.
“When we welcome the penitent, we need to look him in the eye and listen to him to allow him to perceive the love of God who forgives in spite of everything, dresses him in the festive dress and the ring, a sign of belonging to his family.”
The pope also spoke about how the sacrament of Reconciliation, for the penitent, can be a positive moment of interior consolation, which “animates the path of the Christian.”
We know that to sin is to turn away from, or abandon, God, he said. But there can also be moments that one might feel the opposite: the silence and abandonment of God.
If these moments are not viewed in a lens of love, “abandonment becomes meaningless and tragic, because it does not find hope.” That is why we must understand them in the light of Golgotha and of Jesus’ cry upon the cross: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
“The God who loved the world to the point of giving his Son, to the point of abandoning him on the cross, he will never abandon anyone: his love will always be there, close, bigger and more faithful than any abandonment.”
Before their meeting with Francis, missionaries heard an address from Archbishop Rino Fisichella, the head of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization, which is the Vatican department responsible for organizing the missionaries’ Rome meeting.
After both meetings Pope Francis celebrated Mass for the missionaries in St. Peter’s Basilica. In his homily at Mass, he told missionaries that their mission stems from Christ’s resurrection.
“Everything starts from the Resurrection of Jesus: from it comes the testimony of the Apostles and, through this, the faith and the new life of the members of the community are generated,” the pope said.
He pointed to the day’s reading from the Acts of the Apostles, which says that the community of believers “was of one heart and mind” and “had everything in common,” and that “with great power the Apostles bore witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus.”
Francis also noted that in the day’s Gospel, Jesus tells Nicodemus: “You must be born from above.”
“The readings of today’s Mass bring out these two inseparable aspects well: personal rebirth and community life,” Francis said. “Turning to you, dear brothers, I think of your ministry that you [have been] carrying out starting from the Jubilee of Mercy.”
Your ministry should move in both these directions, he said – both at the service of people and communities, “so that they may live the commandment of love with joy and coherence.”
“Dear brothers, leave this meeting with the joy of being confirmed in the ministry of Mercy,” the he stated. “First of all, confirmed in the grateful confidence of being first called to be reborn always ‘from above,’ from the love of God.”
“And at the same time,” he continued, “confirmed in the mission of offering everyone the sign of Jesus ‘lifted up’ from the ground, because the community is a sign and instrument of unity in the midst of the world.”
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