Have you ever seen yourself as a “prodigal son”? Or a “prodigal daughter”? I have. Have you ever seen yourself as a “doubting Thomas”? I certainly have.
If you never have, then you need not read on. If you have seen yourself at times, as I have, in those lights, then absorb this excerpt from Pope Francis’ most recent homily that quotes St. Bernard:
“Saint Bernard goes on to ask: But what can I count on? My own merits? No, “My
merit is God’s mercy [bold face my own]. I am by no means lacking merits as long as he is rich in
mercy. If the mercies of the Lord are manifold, I too will abound in merits”
(ibid., 5). This is important: the courage to trust in Jesus’ mercy, to trust in
his patience, to seek refuge always in the wounds of his love. Saint Bernard
even states: “So what if my conscience gnaws at me for my many sins? ‘Where sin
has abounded, there grace has abounded all the more’ (Rom 5:20)” (ibid.). Maybe
someone among us here is thinking: my sin is so great, I am as far from God as
the younger son in the parable, my unbelief is like that of Thomas; I don’t have
the courage to go back, to believe that God can welcome me and that he is
waiting for me, of all people. But God is indeed waiting for you; he asks of you
only the courage to go to him. How many times in my pastoral ministry have I
heard it said: “Father, I have many sins”; and I have always pleaded: “Don’t be
afraid, go to him, he is waiting for you, he will take care of everything”. We
hear many offers from the world around us; but let us take up God’s offer
instead: his is a caress of love. For God, we are not numbers, we are important,
indeed we are the most important thing to him; even if we are sinners, we are
what is closest to his heart.”
The Good News for you and I is HIM, HIS MERCY, and that HE has been wounded for, died for, and resurrected for all of us! Let’s try to be less hard on each other and ourselves. Let’s be less judgmental of others and ourselves. The heart of Christian Social teaching is, as I and others see it, found in Matthew 22:37-41. If I might paraphrase: “Love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself.” Consider and remember though, you cannot love your neighbor very much if you only love yourself very little!
When the world seems overwhelming, internally or externally, it can only be good and fruitful to quietly return to, read, and ruminate on, and pray through Jesus’ teachings in the Gospels. Thanks be to God.
Here is a link to the rest of the homily if you wish to read it in its entirety: