12/11/2014, 00.00
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For Pope, God loves us with the "tenderness of a mother," but "many times we want to control grace"

God's grace "is closeness; it is tenderness. This rule is forever useful. If you are in a relationship with the Lord and you do not feel that He loves you tenderly, you are missing something; you have not understood what grace is; you have not received the grace that is this closeness." [. . .] If we had the courage to open our hearts to this tenderness of God, how much spiritual freedom we would have! How much!"

Vatican City (AsiaNews) - God loves us with the "tenderness of a mother;" however, "many times, to feel safe, we seek to control grace" and "in history and also in our lives we are tempted to commodify grace," make it" a commodity or something controllable," said Pope Francis in his homily in the Mass he celebrated today in Domus Sanctae Marthae, drawing on the Prophet Isaiah.

"There is so much closeness," he noted, "that God comes across as a mother, as a mother who talks to her baby: a mother when she sings a lullaby to the baby and takes on the voice of the child and makes herself small like a child and speaks with the voice of the child to the point of being ridiculous, if one did not understand what greatness it had: Fear not, Jacob worm'. But, how many times does a mother say these things to the child as she caresses him, eh? Well, I make you like a threshing sharp, new . . . I shall make you great . . . And she caresses him, and holds him closer to her. This is how God does it. This is God's tenderness. He is so close that he expresses himself with such tenderness: the tenderness of a mother."

The child "allows himself to be loved": "this is God's grace. [. . .] But, many times, to feel safe, we want to control grace" and "in history and also in our lives we are tempted to commodify grace," make it "a commodity or something controllable", perhaps by telling ourselves: "But, I have so much grace," or, "I have a clean soul; I am in grace."

"Thus, such a beautiful truth about God's closeness slides into spiritual accounting. 'No, I do this because this will give me 300 days of grace . . . I do that because it will give me that, and so I amass grace'. But what is grace? A merchandise? It would seem so. It would seem so. In history, this closeness of God to his people was betrayed by this selfish attitude of ours of seeking to control grace, commodify it."

In his address, the pope mentioned the groups who at the time of Jesus sought to control grace: the Pharisees, enslaved by the many laws they placed "on the shoulders of the people"; the Sadducees, with their political compromises; the Essenes, "good, very good, but who were also very fearful, and did not take risk" and ended up isolated in their monasteries; and the Zealots, for whom God's grace was the" war of liberation," which is another "way of commodifying grace."

For the Pontiff, "God's grace is another matter. It is closeness; it is tenderness. This rule is forever useful. If you are in a relationship with the Lord and you do not feel that He loves you tenderly, you are missing something; you have not understood what grace is; you have not received the grace that is this closeness."

With regards to this matter, Pope Francis spoke about a confession he heard many years ago, when a woman worried about the validity of a Mass she attended a Saturday evening ahead of a wedding, with readings different from those on Sunday.

This is what he said: "But, madam, the Lord loves you so much. She went there, she received Communion, was with Jesus . . . Yes, but don't you worry. The Lord is not a merchant; the Lord loves; he is close."

"Saint Paul reacted strongly against this spirituality of the law. 'I am upright if I do this, this, [and] this. If I do this, I am not upright.' But you are upright because God has drawn close to you, because God caresses, because God tells you these beautiful things with tenderness. This is our justice, this closeness of God, this tenderness, this love. Even at the risk of appearing ridiculous, our God is so good. If we had the courage to open our hearts to this tenderness of God, how much spiritual freedom we would have! How much!"

"Today, if you have some time, at home, take out the Bible: Isaiah, chapter 41, verse 13 to 20, seven verses. Read it. This tenderness of God, this God who sings to us a lullaby, like a mother."

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