Mercy and Redemption

Pope Francis has been having special general audiences for the Jubilee Year of Mercy and at one on September 10 he spoke about the connection between mercy and Redemption. He commented on a quote from the first letter of Peter 1:18-21, which speaks about God the Father mercifully saving us through the Blood of His Son. 

The Holy Father noted that “the word ‘Redemption’ is little used [today], yet it is important because it indicates the most radical liberation that God could perform for us, for all of humanity and the entire creation. It seems that today’s man no longer loves to think of being liberated and saved by God’s intervention; man today is, in fact, under the illusion that his liberty is a force to get everything. He also boasts of this. But the reality is not so. How many illusions are sold under the pretext of freedom and how many new forms of slavery are created to this day in the name of a false freedom! Many, many slaves: ‘I do this because I want to do it, I take drugs because I like it, I’m free.’ They are slaves! They become slaves in the name of freedom. We all have seen such people eventually end up on the floor [translation note — this could also mean ‘under ground’]. We need God to deliver us from all forms of indifference, selfishness and self-sufficiency.”

Given the epidemic of drug overdoses in our area, the pope’s words really hit home. However, other addictive behaviors — be it drinking, gambling, sex, smoking, etc. — also begin with the idea that we human beings are “free” and should be able to do “whatever we want.” As the pontiff points out, the addiction leads us to doing what we’d prefer not to do.

St. Paul discussed this tendency in regards to our sinfulness. “For I do not do the good I want, but I do the evil I do not want” (Rom 7:19). He explained, “I see in my members another principle at war with the law of my mind, taking me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members” (Rom 7:23). In other words, we are dealing with our fleshly desires, which are pulling us away from God and towards sin. In the next two verses, the Apostle expresses his exasperation with his temptations and his gratitude to Christ in helping to fight them: “Miserable one that I am! Who will deliver me from this mortal body? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord. Therefore, I myself, with my mind, serve the law of God but, with my flesh, the law of sin” (Rom 7:24-25).

Getting back to Pope Francis’ recent talk, he said, “The words of the Apostle Peter very well express the sense of the new state of life to which we are called. By becoming one of us, the Lord Jesus not only takes on our human condition, but He raises us to the possibility of being children of God. By His death and Resurrection Jesus Christ, the Lamb without blemish, has conquered death and sin to free us from their domain. He is the Lamb Who was sacrificed for us, that we might receive a new life of forgiveness, love and joy. These three words are beautiful: forgiveness, love and joy. All that He has taken [into Himself] has also been redeemed, liberated and saved. Sure, it’s true that life tests us and sometimes we suffer in it. However, at those times we are invited to turn our gaze on the crucified Jesus Who suffers for us and with us, as a certain proof that God does not abandon us. Never forget, however, that in distress or persecution, as in daily pain we are always freed by the hand of the merciful God Who raises us to Himself and leads us to a new life.”

The pope is reminding us that true joy is tied into our being loved and forgiven. We’re all sinners and all in need of forgiveness. Our self-sufficiency will get us neither love nor forgiveness. The “my way” approach to life is not the way to happiness. 

Unlike human love, “God’s love is boundless,” the pope added. “We discover ever new signs indicating His focus on us and especially His willingness to reach out to us and to go before us. Our whole life, though marked by the fragility of sin, is placed under the gaze of God, Who loves us. How many pages of Holy Scripture tell us about the closeness and tenderness of God for all people, especially for the little ones, the poor and the afflicted! God has a great tenderness, a great love of children, for the weak, for those society has discarded. The more we are in need, the more His gaze is on us, full of mercy. He feels a compassionate sympathy towards us because He knows our weaknesses. He knows our sins and forgives us; always forgives! So good, so good is our Father.”

The Holy Father closed his discourse in Italian renewing an invitation he has made over and over again during his pontificate: “Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, let us open ourselves to Him, let us receive His grace! Because, as the psalm says, ‘with the Lord there is mercy, and with Him is plenteous Redemption’” (Ps 130:7). 

Pope Francis has repeatedly reminded us that God never tires of forgiving us; we tire to asking for forgiveness. We ask God to help us overcome our internal pride or shame so that we can approach Him in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, confess our sins with true sorrow (for what they did to our neighbors, to Him on the cross, to ourselves) and a true resolution to leave behind this slavery, so as to walk in the freedom of our Redemption.

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