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Contemplation, Closeness, Abundance

· The Pope's Mass at Santa Marta ·


At the Holy Mass he celebrated in the Chapel of Santa Marta on Tuesday, 22 October, Pope Francis commented on the first Reading taken from St Paul's Letter to the Romans (5:2;15;17-19;20-21) in which the Apostle boldly states: “where sin increased, grace abounded all the more”.

The Holy Father began by suggesting that this particular passage from Paul's Letter to the Romans is among the most difficult for us to understand. He therefore suggested three words that can help us to understand more deeply the nature of the mystery of our redemption in Christ: contemplation, closeness and abundance.

The first word is contemplation . Pope Francis first noted that here we are undoubtedly dealing with an extraordinary mystery. So much so, he said, that “when the Church wishes to tell us something about the manner of this mystery, she uses one word: wondrously. She says: O God, you have wondrously created the world and even more wondrously recreated it ...”.  This is precisely what Paul wishes to tell us, he continued: to understand this mystery we need to put ourselves on our knees, we need to pray and to contemplate. “Contemplation is mind, heart, knees, prayer”. This is how we enter into this mystery. What Paul tells us regarding the salvation and redemption which Jesus accomplished “can only be understood on bended knee, in contemplation, and not with the mind alone”.

The second word is closeness . It is a recurring theme in the passage from St Paul: “One man sinned, another man saved us. He is a God who is close to us. This mystery reveals a God who has been close to us throughout our history; from the first moment, when he chose our father Abraham, when we walked with his people, and when he sent his Son to accomplish this work”. God, he said, gets involved with our misery, he draws close to our wounds and he heals them with his hands; he became man in order to have hands with which to heal us. Jesus' work is personal: one man committed the sin, one man came to heal it”. For “God does not save us merely by decree or by law; he saves us with tenderness, he saves us with caresses, he saves us with his life given for us”.

The third word is abundance . This word is repeated numerous times throughout St Paul's Letter to the Romans. “Where sin increased, grace abounded all the more”. The Pope noted how very clear it is that sin abounds in the world and even within our own hearts: “Each one of us has his misery and poverty. We all know that they abound. Yet God conquers sin and heals our wounds, as Jesus did”. And what is more: “He makes make the superabundant gift of his love and of his grace”.

The reality of God's superabundant love helps us to understand “Jesus' preference for sinners,” Pope Francis explained. “They accused him of always keeping company with tax collectors and sinners, and eating with tax collectors was scandalous, since sin abounded in their hearts. But Jesus went to them with that superabundance of grace and love”.

Pope Francis concluded his homily by recalling that some of the saints “say that one of the ugliest sins is the sin of diffidence, the distrust of God. But how,” Pope Francis asked, “can we distrust a God who is so close, so good, who shows a preference for our heart, even though we are sinners? Such is the mystery: it is not easy to understand, and our unaided intelligence alone can never comprehend it. But perhaps these three words will help us: contemplation, to contemplate this mystery; closeness, this mystery hidden for all ages in a God who is close and who draws near to us; and abundance, a God who always prevails over sin through the superabundance of his grace and tenderness, or as we prayed in the Collect of the Mass – through the richness of his mercy”.

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