A Catholic Monthly Magazine

On Refugees and asylum seekers; Parables of Mercy

Francis_G_cropRefugees and asylum seekers

During his visit in early September, Pope Francis selected three words to define the work of the Jesuits and their collaborators at the Jesuit Service for Refugees: serve, accompany and defend.

“Serving means to welcome with care a person as they arrive, to reach out to them, without calculation and without fear … to work alongside those most in need, and first and foremost to establish with them a human relationship of closeness, to develop bonds of solidarity. … It means recognising and welcoming demands for justice, for hope, and together seeking the way, the real paths to liberation.

“It is not enough to offer a sandwich if this is not accompanied by the possibility of learning to stand on one’s own two feet. Charity that leaves the poor in the same situation as before is not adequate. True mercy, that which God gives and teaches us, asks for justice, asks that the poor find the way out of their poverty. It asks us - the Church, the city of Rome, the institutions – it demands that no-one should be in need of a meal, of a temporary shelter, a legal assistance service, to enable the recognition of his or her right to live and to work, to be recognised fully as a person.

“To serve and to accompany both mean to defend ... to place oneself on the side of the weakest. … How often are we unable or unwilling to echo the voices of those … who have suffered and suffer, to those who have seen their rights trampled, who have experienced so much violence that it has even suffocated their desire for justice?

“The Lord calls us to live with more courage and generosity” and to welcome the needy “in communities, in houses, in empty convents. … Empty convents are not to be sold to be transformed into hotels to make money for the Church. …

The empty convents are not ours, they are for the flesh of Christ, for the refugees.

This certainly isn’t simple, and requires criteria, responsibility, and also courage. We do much, but we are perhaps called to do more, welcoming and sharing decisively that which Providence has given us to serve”.

Source: VIS, 10 September 2013.

Three parables of God’s mercy:

The lost sheep, the lost coin, and the story of the forgiving Father

These parables “speak of the joy of God. God is joyful! The joy of God is the joy of forgiveness. … It is the joy of the shepherd who finds his lost sheep; the joy of the woman who finds her lost coin; the joy of the father who welcomes home his lost son. ... This is all the Gospel, here; this is Christianity! But this is not sentimentalism or bland ‘do-goodism’; … on the contrary, mercy is the true force that can save humanity and the world from the ‘cancer’ of sin, from moral and spiritual malaise. Only love can fill the gaps, the negative abysses that evil opens up in our hearts and in history. Only love can do this, and this is the joy of God. … Each one of us is that lost sheep, that lost coin; each one of us is the lost son who has squandered his freedom following false idols, mirages of happiness, and has lost everything.Prodigal

“But God does not forget us, our Father never abandons us. He is a patient father, he always awaits us! He respects our freedom, but always remains faithful. And when we return to Him, He welcomes us as His children, in His house, because He never ceases to wait for us, not even for a moment, with love. And His heart rejoices for every son who returns. It is a celebration, as it is joy. God is joyful when each sinner returns to Him and asks his forgiveness.

“The danger is that we presume we are right, and so judge others. We also judge God, as we think He should punish sinners and condemn them to death, instead of forgiving them. This way we risk remaining outside our Father’s house, like the elder brother in the parable, who instead of rejoicing in his brother’s return, is angry with his father for welcoming him and celebrating. If there is no mercy in our hearts, if we do not experience the joy of forgiveness, we are not in communion with God, even if we observe all the commandments, because it is love that saves, not the simple observance of rules. It is in love for God and for our neighbour that the commandments are fulfilled”.

The Pope concluded by asking all those present to think of “a person we aren’t happy with, someone we are angry with, someone we don’t like. Let us think about that person and, in silence, for a moment, let us pray for that person and become merciful towards them”.   

Source: VIS, 10 September 2013.


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