Pope: "terrible news" from Syria, scores of victims from "chemicals substances"
On the Sunday of Divine Mercy Francis said "may the Lord give us the grace to understand shame, to see it not as a closed door, but as the first step of the encounter". He noted that "The tragedy is when we are not ashamed of anything".
Vatican City (AsiaNews) – On the Second Sunday of Easter, Divine Mercy Sunday, Pope Francis talked about shame, resignation and sin. He also made an appeal in response to the latest news from the war in Syria.
The pontiff was referring to news reports claiming that the forces of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad used chemical weapons against the city of Douma. "Terrible news of bombings with scores of victims, including women and children, are coming out of Syria,” said the pope. Reports “speak of many people affected by the effects of chemical substances contained in the bombs. Let us pray for all the deceased, for the wounded, for the families who suffer. There is no good war or bad war. There is nothing, nothing, that can justify the use of such instruments of extermination against unarmed people and populations. Let us pray that political and military leaders chose another way, that of negotiation, the only one that can lead to a peace that is not that of death and destruction.”
Earlier, the pope celebrated today’s Mass for Divine Mercy Sunday, established by John Paul II. God’s mercy, he said, does not tire of forgiving and is greater than the evil men do, but to obtain it one cannot bar one’s doors. It is a good thing to feel shame for the sin committed. "The tragedy is when we are no longer ashamed of anything".
To the 30,000 people present for the service and the Regina Caeli that followed, Francis, spoke about today's Gospel, stressing how it repeats the verb "to see" several times. “The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord (Jn 20:20). They then told Thomas: “We have seen the Lord” (v. 25).” But “Thomas too wanted to see ‘the mark of the nails in his hands’ (v. 25), and after seeing, he believed (v. 27).
"We too need to 'see God', to touch with our own hands that he has risen for us. How can we see him? As disciples: through his wounds. Looking there, they realised that he did not love them as a joke and that he forgave them, despite the fact that among them were those who had denied him and those who had abandoned him. Entering into his wounds is to contemplate the boundless love that flows from his heart. It is to understand that his heart beats for me, for you, for each of us.
“Dear brothers and sisters, we can consider ourselves and call ourselves Christians, and talk about the many beautiful values of the faith, but, like the disciples, we need to see Jesus to touch his love. Only thus can we go to the heart of the faith and, like the disciples, find peace and joy (see verses 19-20) stronger than any doubt.”
"How can we taste this love? How can we touch Jesus's mercy today? Once again, it is the Gospel that tells us how when it notes that on the very evening of Easter (see v. 19), that is, right after rising, Jesus, first of all, gives the Spirit to forgive sins. To experience love, we have to go through that: let ourselves be forgiven. But going to confession seems difficult. Before God, we are tempted to do like the disciples in the Gospel: bar ourselves behind closed doors.
“They did it out of fear and we too are afraid, ashamed of opening ourselves up and reveal our sins. May the Lord give us the grace to understand shame, to see it not as a closed door, but as the first step of the encounter. When we feel shame, we must be grateful: it means that we do not accept evil, and that is good. Shame is a secret invitation from the soul that needs the Lord to overcome evil. The tragedy is when we are not ashamed of anything. We are not afraid of feeling ashamed! Let's move from shame to forgiveness!"
"Instead, a closed door stands before the Lord's forgiveness, that of resignation. The disciples experienced it. At Easter they bitterly saw how everything had gone back as before: they were still there, in Jerusalem, disheartened; the 'Jesus chapter’ seemed to be over and after a long time with Him nothing had changed. We too can think: 'I have been a Christian for so long, yet it hasn’t changed anything, I always commit my usual sins'.
“Thus, disheartened, we give up on mercy. But the Lord challenges us: 'Don’t you believe that my mercy is greater than your misery? Are you a reoffender in sinning? Be a reoffender in asking for mercy, and we shall see who wins!' Whoever knows the sacrament of forgiveness knows that - It is not true that everything remains as before. At each forgiveness we are refreshed, encouraged, because we feel more loved each time. And when, as people who are loved, we do it again, we feel more pain than before. This pain is beneficial for it, slowly separates us from sin. We then discover that the strength of life is to receive God's forgiveness, and to go forward, from forgiveness to forgiveness.”
"After shame and resignation, there is another closed door, sometimes made of steel: our sin. When I commit a great sin, if I, in all honesty, do not want to forgive myself, why should God do it? This door, however, is closed only on one side, ours; for God it is never impassable. He, as the Gospel teaches us, loves to enter precisely 'behind closed doors', when every passage seems barred. There God works wonders.
“He never decides to separate himself from us; it is we who leave him outside. But when we confess, the unheard happens: we discover that precisely that sin, which kept us distant from the Lord, becomes the place of encounter with Him. There the God wounded by love comes to meet our wounds. And he makes our wretched sores similar to his glorious wounds. Because He is mercy and works wonders in our miseries. Like Thomas, let us ask today for the grace to recognise our God, to find our joy in his forgiveness, our hope in his mercy."
During the Regina Caeli after the Mass, the pope extended his "best wishes" to "our brothers and sisters of the Eastern Churches who today, according to the Julian calendar, celebrate the Solemnity of Easter. [. . .] May the Risen Lord fill them with light and peace and comfort those communities who live in particularly difficult situations.”
The Holy Father also dedicated "A special greeting to the Roma and the Sinti present here on the occasion of their International Romani Day, the 'Romano Dives'. I wish peace and brotherhood to the members of these ancient peoples, and I hope that today's day will promote the culture of encounter, with the good will of knowing and respecting each other. This is the path that leads to true integration. Dear Roma and Sinti, pray for me and pray together for your Syrian refugee brothers and sisters."