I for one continue to be impressed with Pope Francis. Just the other day, he was photographed hugging and kissing a man who clearly had a very debilitating skin condition. Without a doubt, the man would be treated as an outcast by most by many, and maybe some of us would avoid contact with him at all costs. But not the new pope.
Following in the footsteps of his namesake, St. Francis, he went to this horribly deformed man and embraced him. How many of us would do the same? As I type these words, I'm reminded of the encounter that Pope John Paul II had with his would-be assassin. The pope wanted the man to know he forgave him. Could we have the courage, if it were us, to do the same?
If we are able to listen, popes are able to profoundly teach us. Shortly after Pope Francis was elected, he went to one of the great churches in Rome, St. John Lateran. I came across this quote the other day, and it really struck me. Maybe it will be the same for you.
“In my own life, I have so often seen God’s merciful countenance, his patience; I have also seen so many people find the courage to enter the wounds of Jesus by saying to him: Lord, I am here, accept my poverty, hide my sin in your wounds, wash it away with your blood. And I have always seen that God did just this – he accepted them, consoled them, cleansed them, loved them.
Dear brothers and sisters, let us be enveloped by the mercy of God; let us trust in his patience, which always gives us more time. Let us find the courage to return to his house, to dwell in his loving wounds, allowing ourselves be loved by him and to encounter his mercy in the sacraments. We will feel his wonderful tenderness, we will feel his embrace, and we too will become more capable of mercy, patience, forgiveness and love.”
Homily at the Possession of the Chair of the Bishop of Rome
Archbasilica of St John Lateran
April 7, 2013