If I say to the Father,
“My refuge, my fortress,
my God in whom I trust!”,
I need not fear the terrors of night,
the arrow that flies in the daytime,
the plague that stalks in the dark,
the scourge that wreaks havoc in broad daylight.
For God rescues all who cling to Him.
He protects whoever knows His name.
He answers everyone who invokes Him.
He is with them when they are in trouble.
For the Lord God says, “I bring them safety and honour.
I give them life, long and full, and show them how I can save.”
(Adapted from Psalm 91)
In his 2016 Lenten message, Pope Francis calls on the faithful to place special emphasis on the spiritual and corporal works of mercy this Lent, taking into account the current Jubilee Year of Mercy. Pope Francis exhorts others to listen to God’s word and practise works of mercy.
Pope Francis said those who are truly poor are the ones who believe themselves to be rich.
Pope Francis reflected how it is through mercy that God restores his relationship with the sinner.
“In Jesus crucified, God shows his desire to draw near to sinners, however far they may have strayed from him. In this way he hopes to soften the hardened heart of his Bride.”
Pope Francis concluded the message by calling on Mary’s intercession during the upcoming Season of Lent, “Let us not waste this Season of Lent, so favourable a time for conversion”.
Lent a time for seeking forgiveness.
As Christians we believe that it is also our sins that put Jesus on the cross, as much as Pilate and all the others, and so we can rightly hear Jesus’ petition for forgiveness as including us too.
God forgives those who, like Pontius Pilate, listen to the crowds without following their own hearts. God forgives those who, like Thomas, have lost faith in the Church…. God forgives pride, anger, judgements, jealousies, resentments…. God’s forgiveness is bountiful and endless. It may be a forgiveness which we feel is undeserved and inappropriate for some but, nonetheless, God’s forgiveness, often unlike our own, is immediate and without reservation.
But how do we feel about being forgiven by God?
We may not have explicitly betrayed or abandoned Christ and the Church but we are all sinners. Do we really believe God has forgiven us for our sins? Do we enjoy the freedom of God’s forgiveness? Even though you trust God and have confessed your sins, perhaps you believe you are only ‘semi-forgiven’ and you live as though sin still has power over your life? Do you try to prove yourself to God, as though you might earn more forgiveness, if only you were better?
The truth of God’s complete forgiveness needs to penetrate your heart in new ways. Jesus dies so that we are forgiven for our sins. As we hear the words, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do”, may we fully understand that we too today are forgiven through Christ.
Good and gracious God, help me to know with fresh conviction that I am fully and finally forgiven, not because of anything I have done but because of what you have done for me. May I live this week as a forgiven person, opening my heart to you, choosing not to sin because the power of sin has been broken by your salvation. All praise be to You for Your matchless forgiveness! Amen.
Extract: Br. Liam, OFMCap.