In his homily Friday morning, Pope Francis said that when God forgives us, He knows full well that we are guilty, not like a judge who acquits a criminal for lack of evidence; yet He pardons us anyway.
Drawing inspiration from the parable of the Prodigal Son, Francis contrasted the Fatherly compassion that God experiences toward His children from the mere sentiment of regret or “feeling sorry” for people.
“Compassion,” Francis said during his morning Mass in the Saint Martha residence in the Vatican, is one of “God’s attributes.” Looking upon a sinful humanity, Francis said, God had compassion, sending His Son to be our savior, “to heal, regenerate, recreate and renew” humanity.
In preparing for the upcoming “Jubilee Year of Mercy,” Francis cautioned his hearers against confusing this active compassion with cheap substitutes. “God’s compassion is not feeling sorry: the two things have nothing to do with each other,” he said. In fact, “I can feel sorry for a little dog who is dying or for a situation,” or “I can feel sorry for a person: I feel sorry. I regret that this is happening.”
God’s compassion means that He “puts Himself into the problem, puts Himself in the situation of the other, with a Father’s heart,” the Pope added.
Francis also noted that even though Jesus healed people from their physical ailments, what He really wanted was to bring them to God. “We see Jesus’ compassion in the Gospel,” Francis said. “Jesus cured people, but He was not a healer.” Jesus “truly cured people, but He did so as a sign of God’s compassion, to be able to bring home the lost sheep,” he said.
But God has no illusions about our guilt or innocence, Francis said. He is well aware that we are all sinners in need of His mercy.
Indeed, “when God forgives, He forgives as a Father, not as an officer of the court who reads a file and says, ‘Yes, we can acquit this one for lack of evidence.’”
“God forgives us from within because He has put Himself in the heart of that person,” he said.
Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter @tdwilliamsrome.