"Our sins, our mistakes, our falls, do not frighten God, let's get that straight in our heads, but he is frightened by the closure of our hearts, by our lack of faith in His love". "It is right that those who have erred should pay for their error, but it is just as right that those who have erred should be able to redeem themselves from their error. There can be no condemnation without a window of hope." "We pray that all disciples of Christ may persevere on the path of unity."
Vatican City (AsiaNews) - Tenderness "is something greater than the logic of the world", it is "an unexpected path of justice", it is "the experience of feeling loved and welcomed precisely in our poverty and misery, and thus transformed by God's love". Tenderness also towards "those who have done wrong" was at the heart of Pope Francis' address for today's general audience in which, continuing the cycle of catechesis on St Joseph, he spoke of "St Joseph the father in tenderness".
The five thousand people present in the Paul VI Hall were also invited to pray for the inhabitants of the islands affected by the eruption of the Tonga volcano, to whom he said he was spiritually close.
The Pope first of all recalled that "even if the Gospels do not give us details on how he exercised his paternity, we can be sure that his being a 'just' man also translated into the education given to Jesus". An example of paternal tenderness, he added, is the parable of the merciful Father. The prodigal son "expected a punishment, a justice that at most could have given him the place of one of the servants, but he finds himself wrapped in the embrace of his father".
"Tenderness is something greater than the logic of the world. It is an unexpected way of doing justice. That's why we must never forget that God is not frightened by our sins, our mistakes, our falls, let's get that into our heads, but he is frightened by the closure of our hearts, by our lack of faith in his love. There is great tenderness in the experience of God's love. And it is beautiful to think that the first to transmit this reality to Jesus was Joseph himself. In fact, the things of God always come to us through the mediation of human experiences".
"Then we can ask ourselves if we ourselves have experienced this tenderness, and if we in turn have become its witnesses. For tenderness is not primarily an emotional or sentimental matter: it is the experience of feeling loved and welcomed precisely in our poverty and misery, and thus transformed by God's love. God does not rely only on our talents, but also on our redeemed weakness".
"The experience of tenderness consists in seeing God's power pass through precisely that which makes us most fragile; provided, however, that we are converted from the gaze of the Evil One who "makes us look at our fragility with negative judgment", while the Holy Spirit "brings it to light with tenderness" (Patris corde, 2).
"Tenderness is the best way to touch what is fragile in us. [...]". "That is why it is important to encounter God's mercy, especially in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, by making an experience of truth and tenderness. Paradoxically, even the Evil One can tell us the truth, but if he does, it is to condemn us. We know, however, that the Truth that comes from God does not condemn us, but welcomes us, embraces us, supports us, forgives us" (Patris corde, 2). God always forgives, even the worst things, it is we who tire of asking for forgiveness".
God's mercy," he reiterated, "is not afraid of our past, of our ugly pasts, it is only afraid of closure. All of us have accounts to settle, but settling accounts with God is a beautiful thing, because we begin to speak and he embraces us".
"It does us good, then, to mirror ourselves in Joseph's paternity and to ask ourselves if we allow the Lord to love us with his tenderness, transforming each one of us into men and women capable of loving in this way. Without this 'revolution of tenderness' we risk remaining imprisoned in a justice that does not allow us to rise easily and that confuses redemption with punishment. For this reason, today I want to remember in a special way our brothers and sisters who are in prison. It is right that those who have done wrong should pay for their mistake, but it is even more right that those who have done wrong should be able to redeem themselves from their mistake. There can be no condemnation without a window of hope".
And at the end of his speech, he invited people to ask "St Joseph, father in tenderness, to teach us to accept being loved precisely in what is weakest in us. Grant that we may place no obstacle between our poverty and the greatness of God's love. To arose in us the desire to approach the Sacrament of Reconciliation, so that we may be forgiven and also made capable of loving our brothers and sisters tenderly in their poverty. Be close to those who have done wrong and pay the price for it; help them to find, along with justice, the tenderness to be able to begin again. Help them to find, along with justice, tenderness so that they can begin again. And teach them that the first way to begin again is to sincerely ask for forgiveness so as to feel the Father's caress.
In his greetings to the different language groups, Francis also recalled that we are in the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. "I encourage you," he urged the Portuguese, "so that, banishing all forms of indifference, confusion and hateful rivalry, you may collaborate with all Christians for the love of Christ. Let us all unite in his Name! To the Poles he reminded them that "it is the task of every baptised person to strive for what Jesus desired: that all may be one. I invite you to pray so that all Christians, discovering the tenderness of God's love, may love one another" and finally to the Italians that "the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, which began yesterday, invites us to ask the Lord with insistence for the gift of full communion among believers".