ROME – Pope Francis on Sunday argued that having received mercy, Jesus’ apostles became merciful themselves, sharing ownership over everything, calling such an arrangement “not communism, but pure Christianity.”
“The Acts of the Apostles relate that ‘no one claimed private ownership of any possessions, but everything they owned was held in common.’ This is not communism, but pure Christianity,” he said.
The pope’s words came as he marked Divine Mercy Sunday in a Roman church dedicated to the devotion. Given COVID-19 restrictions, the Church of Santo Spirito was half empty, yet filled with a group of male and female prisoners from three local prisons, a migrant family from Argentina, refugees coming from Syria, Nigeria and Egypt, and religious sisters who work in a local hospital.
Divine Mercy Sunday is celebrated on the Second Sunday of Easter, which concludes the Octave of Easter.
The church where Francis said Mass is a short walk from the Vatican, and English-speaking pilgrims who visit the Eternal City often go there for the 10AM Mass, as St. Peter’s Square, from where the pope weekly says the noontime Angelus prayer, is within sight.
The pope said that the decision to “stoop to bind the wounds of others” is proof of God has touched their lives.
“Today is the day to ask, ‘Am I, who have so often received God’s peace, his mercy, merciful to others? Do I, who have so often been fed by his Body, make any effort to relieve the hunger of the poor?’” Francis said. “Let us not remain indifferent. Let us not live a one-way faith, a faith that receives but does not give, a faith that accepts the gift but does not give it in return.”
If love is only about oneself, the pope continued, faith becomes dry, barren and sentimental. By accepting God’s love, Christians can offer something new to the world. If they rely only on the efficiency of structures and projects, the pope said, “we will not go far.”
During his homily, Francis said that after his resurrection, Jesus brought about the “resurrection of the disciples,” trying to change their lives through mercy “through three gifts.”
First, Francis said, “Jesus offers them peace, then the Spirit and finally his wounds.”
After Christ’s death on the cross, the disciples locked themselves away in fear of arrest and execution. There, Francis said, they were “trapped in their own remorse. They had abandoned and denied Jesus,” which led them to feel useless and helpless.
“Jesus arrives and says to them twice, ‘Peace be with you!’” the pontiff said. “He does not bring a peace that removes problems, but one that infuses trust within. It is no outward peace, but peace of heart.”
The peace Christ brought allowed the disciples to go from being remorseful to men on a mission. His peace does not entail “ease and comfort,” Francis said, “but the challenge to break out of ourselves. The peace of Jesus frees from the self-absorption that paralyzes; it shatters the bonds that keep the heart imprisoned. The disciples realized that they had been shown mercy: they realized that God did not condemn or demean them, but instead believed in them.”
“God, in fact, believes in us even more than we believe in ourselves,” he said.
“As far as God is concerned, no one is useless, discredited or a castaway,” Francis said to the prisoners, migrants and refugees. “Today Jesus also tells us, ‘Peace be with you! You are precious in my eyes. Peace be with you! You are important for me. Peace be with you! You have a mission. No one can take your place. You are irreplaceable. And I believe in you’.”
Francis said Jesus bestowed on his disciples the Spirit for the forgiveness of sins.
“Like those disciples, we need to let ourselves be forgiven,” he said. “Forgiveness in the Holy Spirit is the Easter gift that enables our interior resurrection. Let us ask for the grace to accept that gift, to embrace the Sacrament of forgiveness.”
Before moving on to the next gift, Francis extolled the Sacrament of Confession, saying it’s not about one’s sins but God and his mercy: “Let us not confess to abase ourselves, but to be raised up. We, all of us, need this badly.”
The Divine Mercy devotion was introduced by a Polish nun named St. Faustina Kowalska in the early 20th century in response to a series of mystical experiences, and it has since then become one of the most popular and widespread new spiritual practices in the Church.
It was during one of these visions that Kowalska said was “instructed” to commission a painting of Jesus based on Divine Mercy, with rays of red and white light coming out from his heart and the signature line, “Jesus, I trust in You.”
Follow Inés San Martín on Twitter: @inesanma