“All these three parables,” he said, “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 man 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”.
“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,” continued the Pope. “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 neighbor that the commandments are fulfilled”.
“If we live according to the law of ‘an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth’, we will never escape from the spiral of evil. The devil is cunning; he deludes us that with our human justice we can save ourselves and the world. In reality, only God’s justice can save us! It is God’s justice that is revealed to us on the Cross: the Cross is God’s judgement on us and on the world. But how does God judge us? By giving His life for us! Here is the supreme act of justice that defeats the Prince of this world once and for all; and this supreme act of justice is precisely also the supreme act of mercy. Jesus calls all of us to follow this path: ‘Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.”
Pope Francis 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”.