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Praying for those who wrong you is step to being saint, Pope says

A PRACTICAL first step towards becoming a saint is to pray for a person who has caused you offence or harm, Pope Francis has said.

“Are you merciful towards the people who have harmed you or don’t like you?” the Holy Father during an evening parish Mass last Sunday. “If God is merciful, if he is holy, if he is perfect, then we must be merciful, holy and perfect as he is. This is holiness. A man or woman who does this deserves to be canonised.”

“I suggest you start small,” the Holy Father told members of the parish of St Mary Josefa on the eastern edge of Rome.

“We all have enemies. We all know that so-and-so speaks ill of us. We all know. And we all know that this person or that person hates us.

“I suggest you take a minute, look at God [and say] ‘This person is your son or your daughter, change his or her heart, bless him or her.’ This is praying for those who don’t like us, for our enemies.

“Perhaps the rancour will remain in us, but we are making an effort to follow the path of this God who is so good, merciful, holy, perfect, who makes the sun rise on the evil and the good.”

The day’s first reading included the line ‘Be holy, for I, the Lord, your God, am holy.’

In the Gospel reading, Jesus said: “Be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

The Pope said: “You might ask me, ‘But, father, what is the path to holiness? What is the journey needed to become holy?’ Jesus explains it well in the Gospel. He explains it with concrete examples.”

The first example, Pope Francis said, was not taking revenge.

“If I have rancour in my heart for something someone has done, I want vengeance, but this moves me off the path of holiness. No revenge. ‘But he did this and he will pay.’ Is this Christian? No. ‘He will pay’ is not in the Christian’s vocabulary.”

In people’s everyday lives, he said, their squabbles with their relatives or neighbors may seem a little thing, but they are not. “These big wars we read about in the papers and see on the news, these massacres of people, of children, how much hatred!”

Forgiveness, the Pope said, was the path to holiness and peace. “If everyone in the world learned this, there would be no wars.”

Wars, he said, began with bitterness, rancour and the desire for vengeance.

“It’s an attitude that destroys families and neighbourhoods and peaceful relations between nations. I’m not telling you what to do, Jesus is: Love your enemies. ‘You mean I have to love that person?’ Yes.

“‘I have to pray for someone who has harmed me?’ Yes, that he will change his life, that the Lord will forgive him. This is the magnanimity of God, of God who has a big heart, who forgives all.

“Prayer is an antidote for hatred, for wars, these wars that begin at home, in families. Prayer is powerful. Prayer defeats evil. Prayer brings peace.”

Pope Francis began his three-hour visit to St Mary Josefa by meeting children, who were invited to ask questions.

One asked how he became pope and Pope Francis said when a pope was elected ‘maybe he is not the most intelligent, the most astute or the quickest at doing what must be done, but he is the one who God wants for the Church at that moment.’

Pope Francis explained that when a pope died, or resigned as Benedict XVI did, the cardinals gathered for a conclave.

“They speak among themselves, discuss what profile would be best, who has this advantage and who has that one. But, above all, they pray.”

They used reason to try to work out what the Church needed and who could provide it, he said, but mostly they relied on the Holy Spirit to inspire them in their choice.

 

 

—This story ran in full in the February 24 edition print of the SCO, available in parishes.

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