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Mercy, celebration and remembrance

· Pope's Mass at Santa Marta ·

Look at the mercy of Jesus; celebrate with him; keep the “memory” alive of the moment in which we have encountered salvation in our lives. This is the threefold invitation given by Pope Francis during the Mass celebrated Friday morning, 5 July, in the Chapel of the Domus Sanctae Marthae. Among the concelebrants was Cardinal Jorge Liberato Urosa Savino, Archbishop of Caracas, whose presence was emphasized by the Pope at the beginning of the Mass as it was the National Feast of Venezuela.

In his homily Pope Francis reflected on the day's Gospel passage (Mt 9:9-13) in which the Apostle speaks of his own conversion, as the tax collector whom Jesus called to be part of the twelve. The message that Jesus wants to give, the Pope said, is one that people have always had trouble understanding: “I desire mercy, not sacrifice”. Our God is indeed a God of mercy. You can see it well in the story of Matthew, which, the Pope explained, is “not a parable”, but a historical fact.

Jesus looks at Matthew and awakens within him “something new, something that he did not know”. The “gaze of Jesus”, explained the Holy Father, makes him feel an interior “wonder”, and “the call of Jesus: follow me”. In that very moment Matthew “is filled with joy”. “It only took a moment” to understand that that look had changed his life forever. And it is in this moment that “Matthew says yes, leaves everything and goes with the Lord”.

The first moment of encounter, which consists of “a deep spiritual experience”, is followed by a second experience: that of celebration. The Gospel continues with Jesus sitting at a table with publicans and sinners; those who “were rejected by society”. But for the Pope this “is the contradiction of the celebration of God: the Lord feasts with sinners”. Addressing this point Pope Francis referred to the Gospel of Luke (15) where it clearly says that there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need of repentance. This is why celebration is “very important” for the Pope, because the encounter with Jesus and the mercy of God should be celebrated.

But life is not one big party, says Pope Francis. There is a time for celebration, but then there must be “daily work, fueled by the memory of that first encounter”.  It is the memory of that mercy and of that celebration that “gives Matthew, and everyone” who has chosen to follow Christ, the strength “to go forward”.  This, the Pope added, must be remembered forever.

The Pope encouraged everyone to truly learn what this means: “I desire mercy, not sacrifice”. He concluded saying “that which you think is right... he has come for us sinners”.

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