Vatican City, 9 March 2015 (VIS) – Yesterday afternoon Pope Francis visited the Roman parish of Santa Maria Madre del Redentore in the peripheral suburb of Tor Bella Monaca, where he was welcomed by more than a thousand young people. Before entering the Church, the Holy Father visited the Caritas Centre to greet sick and disabled assisted by the Missionaries of Charity. “Jesus never abandons us”, he said, “because on the Cross he experienced pain, sadness, solitude and many other things. … Never lose your trust in Him”.
Later, in the church, he met with a group of children and young people, and answered their questions. The first was: if God forgives everything, why does Hell exist? The Pope replied that Hell is the desire to distance oneself from God and to reject God's love. But”, he added, “if you were a terrible sinner, who had committed all the sins in the world, all of them, condemned to death, and even when you are there, you were to blaspheme, insults... and at the moment of death, when you were about to die, you were to look to Heaven and say, 'Lord …!', where do you go, to Heaven or to Hell? To Heaven! Only those who say, I have no need of You, I can get along by myself, as the devil did, are in Hell – and he is the only one we are certain is there”.
The second question regarded how to live Christian morality. Francis answered, “Christian morality is a grace, a response to the love that He gives you first. … It is Jesus Who helps you to go ahead, and if you fall it is He Who lifts you up again and Who lets you carry on. But if you think and we think that moral life is just about 'doing this' and 'not doing that', this is not Christian. It is a moral philosophy, but no, it is not Christian. Christian is the love of Jesus, Who is the first to love us. … Christian morality is this: you fall? Get up again and keep going. And life is this. But always with Jesus”.
Finally, before celebrating Mass, Francis spoke with the parish pastoral council and their collaborators who described to him the situation in the area, in which many marginalised families live, and where there are many problems linked to drug abuse and crime. “The people of Tor Bella Monaca are good people”, emphasised Francis. “They had the same flaw that Jesus, Mary and Joseph had: they are poor. With the difference that Joseph had a job, Jesus had a job, and many people here do not, but they still need to feed their children. And how does one get by? You know how. Goodness is sorely tested by injustice; the injustice of unemployment and discrimination. And this is a sin, it is a grave sin. Many people are compelled to do things they do not want to do, because they cannot find another way. … And very often people, when they feel they are accompanied, wanted, do not fall into that web of the wicked, who exploit the poor. Mafiosi exploit the poor too, to make them do their dirty work, and then when the police discover them, they find those poor people and not the mafiosi who are safe, and also pay for their safety. Therefore, it is necessary to help the people. … The first pastoral commandment is closeness: to be close to them. … We cannot go to a house where there are sick or hungry children and say 'you must do this, you must do that'. No. It is necessary to go to them with closeness, with that caress that Jesus has taught us. … This is my main pastoral advice to you”.
In the homily he pronounced at the church of Santa Maria del Redentore, the Bishop of Rome commented on the passage from the Gospel according to St. John that narrates the expulsion of the money changers from the temple, remarking that two aspects of the text are particularly notable: an image, and a word. “The image is that of Jesus with the whip who chases away all those who use the temple to trade. The temple was sacred, and this, which was unclean, was sent out. … Jesus took the whip and cleansed the temple”.
“And the phrase, the word”, he continued, “is where it says that many people believed in Him, a terrible phrase: 'But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man'. We cannot deceive Jesus. He knows us in depth. Before Him we cannot pretend to be saints and close our eyes, and then lead a life that is not what He wants. … And we all know that name that Jesus gave to those with two faces: hypocrites”.
“It will do us good, today, to enter into our hearts and look at Jesus. To say to him, 'Lord, look, there are good things, but there are also things that are not good. Jesus, do You trust in me? I am a sinner'. … Jesus is not afraid of this. … However, he who drifts away, who has a dual face; who lets himself be seen to be good to cover the hidden sin... When we enter into our heart, we find many things that are not good, just as Jesus found in the temple the dirty affairs of trade. … We can continue our dialogue with Jesus: 'Jesus, do you trust in me? … So, I will open the door to You, and You can cleanse my soul”.
“And then”, continued Francis, “we can ask the Lord, just as He came to cleanse the temple, to come and cleanse our soul. And we imagine Him, as He comes with a whip of ropes... No, this is not what cleanses the soul! Do you know what the whip is that Jesus uses to cleanse our soul? Mercy. Open your hearts to the mercy of Jesus. … And if we open our hearts to Jesus' mercy, so that He may cleanse our heart, our soul, then Jesus will trust in us”.