On Wednesday Pope Francis stressed the importance of having the courage to recognize our sins and ask God for forgiveness, moving forward rather than getting stuck in feelings of shame and rejection.
“How many times do we feel rejected internally because of our sins!” the Pope said Aug. 31, noting that what the Lord tells us in these moments is “have courage, come. For me you are not discarded, have courage.”
In the face of our sins Jesus calls us sons and daughters, he said, adding that “this is the moment of grace, of forgiveness, a moment of inclusion in the life of Jesus, in the life of the Church. It’s the moment of mercy.”
To hear someone say “you are no longer discarded, I forgive you, I embrace you,” is truly “the mercy of God,” he said, adding that “we must have courage to go to him and ask forgiveness for our sins, and then move forward with courage.”
Pope Francis spoke to pilgrims present in a rainy St. Peter’s Square during his Wednesday general audience, continuing his ongoing catechesis on mercy for the Jubilee.
He picked up from where he left off last week, having postponed his catechesis due to the massive earthquake that left several towns in Central Italy in shambles, focusing on the Gospel passage in Matthew in which a woman with hemorrhages touches Jesus’ cloak with the hope of being healed.
Speaking of how the woman, blending in with the crowd, believed that just touching Jesus’ cloak would be enough to heal her ailment, the Pope marveled at her faith, saying she is able to think like that “because she was animated by so much faith and so much hope and, with a touch of cunning, achieved what was in her heart.”
The woman, he noted, had been sick for many years and had visited several doctors, spending all of her money on painful treatments only to get worse.
As a result, she was “rendered impure” and “excluded from the liturgy, from married life, from normal relationships with others.”
“She was a woman discarded from society,” Francis said, explaining that because of this, “she felt that Jesus could free her from sickness and from the state of marginalization and indignity in which she found herself. In a word, she felt that Jesus could save her.”
When Jesus turned around to see who had touched him, he “admired her faith,” and transformed it “into salvation,” the Pope continued, adding that in the encounter with Christ, “the path of liberation and salvation opens for all; men and women of every time and place.”
Pope Francis then noted how due to her state of exclusion, the woman “acted in secret, behind Jesus’ back” in order not to be seen.
However, instead of looking at her state of rejection and reproaching her, Jesus instead treats her with mercy and tenderness. Jesus, the Pope said, “knows what happened and seeks a personal encounter with her, the one the woman deeply desired.”
“This means that Jesus doesn’t just welcome her, but considered her worthy of the encounter to the point that he gave her the gift of his work and attention.”
In telling the woman “courage, daughter, your faith has saved you,” Jesus has expressed “the entirety of God’s mercy” for the people he encounters, particularly for those who have been discarded, Francis said.
Not only does Jesus restore her health, but he fulfills her hopes by abolishing her despair, he restores her to the community and “frees her from social and religious discrimination,” he said.
What Jesus gives, then, “is total salvation, which reintegrates the woman’s life into the sphere of God’s love and, at the same time, restores her to her full dignity.”
Francis closed his address by noting that Jesus is the only source “from which salvation springs forth for all men,” and stressing that “faith is the fundamental disposition to welcome it.”
“Jesus, yet again, with his demeanor full of mercy, indicates to the Church the path to take in order to go to the encounter of every person, so that each one may be healed in body and spirit, and recover their dignity as a child of God.”