Pope says Jesus forgives sins, a 'scandalous gesture', makes an appeal for Nigeria and the Central African Republic

In today’s general audience, Pope Francis noted that "Jesus saw a possibility of resurrection even in those who have accumulated so many wrong choices." Forgiven sinners are "psychologically relieved", but especially receive "a new life, a life marked by love" like Matthew, Zacchaeus, and the Samaritan woman. "We are all poor sinners, in need of of God's mercy." A Hail Mary is recited for Christian victim of violence in Nigeria and the Central African Republic.

Vatican City (AsiaNews) – Pope Francis touched a number of issues in today’s General Audience in the Paul VI Hall, reflecting on “Divine forgiveness as the driving force of hope. Who is the one who forgives sins?”

For the pontiff, Jesus' forgiveness of sins, a scandalous gesture for his contemporaries, is in fact an expression of the way He looks at sinners, "with hope”. In fact, “Jesus saw a possibility of resurrection even in those who have accumulated so many wrong choices. "

At the end of the audience, Francis spoke about an attack on Sunday in Ozubulu, central Nigeria, during the morning Mass at St Philip's Church, which left 11 people dead and scores wounded.

The pope was "deeply saddened" by the massacre. “I hope that all forms of hatred and violence cease,” he said, “and may such shameful crimes not be repeated, especially those perpetrated in places of worship, where the faithful gather to pray.”

Francis also mentioned today's violence against Christians in the Central African Republic, inviting those present to think about “our brothers and sisters in Nigeria and in the Central African Republic. Let us pray together: Hail Mary . . .”

Earlier, Francis mentioned the episode in which Jesus forgave the sins of the sinful woman who anointed his feet with ointment and dried them with her hair (Luke 7:36-50).

"According to the mindset of the time," said Francis, " the separation between saint and sinner, between pure and impure, had to be clear. But Jesus's attitude is different. From the start of his ministry in Galilee, He approached lepers, the possessed, the sick, and the marginalised. This kind of behaviour was not normal, so much so that Jesus’s sympathy for the excluded, the 'untouchables', was one of the things that bothered his contemporaries.

“Wherever someone suffers, Jesus cares for them, and that suffering becomes his. Jesus did not preach that the condition of pain must be endured with heroism, in the manner of Stoic philosophers. Jesus shares human pain, and when he encounters it, the attitude that characterises Christianity, mercy, comes out of him. Jesus shows compassion. Literally, Jesus feels it in his guts. How many times do we find such reactions in the Gospels. Christ’s heart embodies and reveals God’s heart. Wherever a man or woman suffers, he wants them to heal, be free, and enjoy a full life."

"That is why Jesus opened his arms to sinners. How many people are still lost today in a wrong life because they find no one willing to look at them differently, with God’s eyes, or better, with God’s heart, i.e. with hope. Jesus, on the other hand, saw a possibility of resurrection even in those who have accumulated so many wrong choices.

“Sometimes we forget that this was not easy, without a price, for Jesus. The Gospels note the first negative reactions to Jesus just when he forgave a man's sins (cf. Mk 2:12). This man was suffering twice: because he could not walk and because he felt 'wrong'. Jesus understands that the second pain is greater than the first, so that he received it immediately with an announcement of liberation: " Child, your sins are forgiven.’ (Mk 2:5). This is when some scribes present [at the scene] were scandalised by Jesus’s words, which sounded like a blasphemy, for only God can forgive sins.

"We who are accustomed to experiencing the forgiveness of sins, perhaps too 'cheaply', should sometimes remind ourselves of how much we cost to God’s love. Jesus did not go to the cross because he healed the sick, because he preached charity, because he proclaimed blessings. The Son of God went to the cross above all to forgive sins because he wanted the total, definitive liberation of man's heart, because he did not accept that human beings consume all their lives with this indelible 'tattoo', with the thought of not being able to be received by God’s merciful heart.

“Thus, the sinners are forgiven. Not only are they psychologically relieved, because they are freed from the sense of guilt. Jesus did much more: he offered people who made mistakes hope for a new life, a life marked by love. Matthew the Publican became an apostle of Christ. Zacchaeus, a rich and corrupt man in Jericho, became a benefactor of the poor. The Samaritan woman, who had had five husbands and then lived with another, was promised living water that could forever gush in her (cf. Jn 4:14).

"It is good to think that God did not choose as the first mixture to form his Church people who never made mistakes. The Church is a people of sinners who experience God's mercy and forgiveness. Peter understood more truths about himself when the cock crowed, rather than in his moments of generosity, which swelled his chest, making him feel superior to others.

“We are all poor sinners, in need of God’s mercy. He is the one who has the power to transform us and give us hope every day. And God gives the world's most beautiful mission to the people who have understood this basic truth, namely the love for one’s brothers and sisters, and the proclamation of mercy that he does not deny to anyone."