BY Daniel Harkins | March 1 | comments icon 0 COMMENTS     print icon print

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God wants to forgive, but cannot if our hearts are closed to mercy

Pope Francis said that this Lent we should not only ‘prepare our hearts' to receive God’s forgiveness but 'receive it and then do the same with others’

God cannot forgive if we have closed hearts where mercy cannot enter, Pope Francis said during Mass in the chapel of the Casa Santa Marta in the Vatican today.

The Holy Father said that this Lent we must strive to forgive and to forget, ‘for we all have need of pardon.’

The Pope discussed St Peter’s question to Jesus regarding how many times we are to forgive a brother who has sinned against us and the account from the 1st reading of the young Azaria, sentenced to death in a furnace for refusing to worship a golden idol who invokes God’s mercy for the people at the same time as he implores forgiveness for himself.

“When God forgives, his forgiveness is so great that it is as though God forgets,” the Pope said. “Quite the opposite of what we do, as we chatter: ‘But so-and-so did such-and-such,’ and we have the complete histories of many people, don’t we?

“From antiquity through their Middles Ages, their modernity, and even down to their present—and we do not forget. Why? Because we do not have a merciful heart. ‘Do with us with us according to your clemency,’ says this young Azaria ‘according to Thy great mercy Save us.’ It is an appeal to the mercy of God, that He might give us forgiveness and salvation and forget our sins.”

The Pope said that seeking God’s forgiveness and forgiving others go hand in hand, especially in this the Year of Mercy. “If you are not able to forgive, how will God forgive you?” he said. “He wants to forgive you, but He will not if you have closed hearts, where mercy cannot enter. ‘But, Father, I forgive, but I cannot forget the bad turn that so-and-so did me…’ Well, ask the Lord to help you to forget. That, however, is another matter. We can forgive, but we cannot always forget. Sometimes we say, ‘I forgive you,’ when we mean, ‘you’ll pay me later’. This, never: forgive as God forgives—to the utmost.

“May Lent prepare our hearts to receive God’s forgiveness—but let us receive it and then do the same with others: forgive heartily. Perhaps you never even greet me in the street, but in my heart I have forgiven you. In this way, we get closer to this thing so great, so Godly, which is mercy. Forgiving, we open our hearts so that God’s mercy might come and forgive us; for, we all have need of pardon, need to ask forgiveness. Let us forgive, and we shall be forgiven. Let us have mercy on others, and we shall feel that mercy of God, who, when He forgives, [also] ‘forgets.’”

—daniel@sconews.co.uk

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