If we are willing to recognize our sinfulness and ask God for forgiveness, Pope Francis said Friday, He is always ready to give it.
In his reflection on the Jubilee Year of Mercy at Mass Friday morning, the Pope reminded his hearers that even when we are guilty of shameful sins, God is waiting for us, full of love and mercy.
“He is waiting for you, just as you are” with all your weaknesses and failures, and not as you wish you were, Francis said.
For months, Pope Francis has been campaigning with Catholic priests so they will spend more time hearing confessions this year, as ministers of God’s mercy toward sinners.
In the spirit of the patron saint of Catholic priests, Saint Jean Marie Vianney—who used to spend up to 18 hours a day hearing confessions in his little parish of Ars, France—the Pope has called for priests to assist him during the Jubilee year as “missionaries of mercy” for the millions of faithful who will wish to avail themselves of the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
The Vatican has set up a special website where priests can apply online to be ambassadors of the mercy of God, provided they have the support of their bishop or religious superior.
Next month, Pope Francis will welcome and officially commission the participating priests during a special ceremony in Saint Peter’s Basilica on Ash Wednesday.
In his homily in the chapel of the Saint Martha residence Friday morning, the Pope insisted that God’s love always precedes our love. He is always reaching out, pursuing us, looking for us.
Francis read from the Biblical first letter of John: “In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as expiation for our sins.” Francis stressed that “God loved us first; He gave His life for love,” and therefore, whenever we find God, we find to our surprise that “He was already waiting for us, and it is really He Who finds us.”
Remember the parable of the prodigal son, Francis said. “When the son, who had spent all the money from his father’s inheritance in a life of vice, returns home, he realizes that his father was waiting. God always looks for us first.”
“The Lord is waiting for me, the Lord wants me to open the door of my heart because He is there waiting for me to come in,” he said.
“Maybe you can say with St. Peter, Lord, You know that I love You,’” Francis said. Or, if not, maybe you will say, “You know, Lord, that I would like to love You, but I am such a sinner.”
And then, like the father of the prodigal son, who spent all his money on vice, Francis said, be sure that “He will even let you finish your words, but will hush you with His embrace.”
Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter @tdwilliamsrome.