To stop the spread of evil in the world, Catholics must go above and beyond, loving and forgiving others even when it is undeserved, Pope Francis urged Wednesday.
“Jesus inserts the power of forgiveness into human relationships. In life, not everything is resolved with justice,” he said April 24.
“Especially where we must put a barricade against evil, someone must love beyond what is necessary, to start a story of grace again,” he said, warning that “evil is familiar with its revenge, and if it is not interrupted it risks spreading and suffocating the whole world.”
The Easter Octave, he said, is a good time to think about the beauty of forgiveness and to pray to the Father for the grace to forgive others, explaining that Jesus replaced the “law of retaliation” with the “law of love: what God has done for me, I give it back to you!”
The pope continued his general audience catechesis on the ‘Our Father’ by reflecting on the line which says, “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”
In forgiveness we find “the bond between love for God and love of neighbor,” he said. “Love calls love, forgiveness calls forgiveness.”
“Every Christian knows that forgiveness of sins exists for him. This we all know, that Jesus forgives everyone and forgives always. Nothing in the Gospels suggests that God does not forgive the sins of those who are well disposed and who ask to be re-embraced,” he said.
“But,” he continued, “the abundant grace of God is always challenging. He who has received so much must learn to give so much.”
He said God gives every Christian the grace to do good in the lives of their brothers and sisters, even those who have done something wrong, and with “a word, a hug, a smile, we can convey to others what most precious thing we have received.”
“And what precious thing have we received? Forgiveness.”
Sometimes, the pope said, he has heard people say they will “never forgive” some person for what they have done to them. But God has told his people if they do not forgive others, they will not be forgiven, Francis underlined. “You close the door.”
He recounted a story told to him by a priest, who had visited an old woman on her death bed. She could barely speak, but when asked if she was sorry for her sins, she said ‘yes.’
But when the priest asked her if she forgave others, she said, ‘no.’ “The priest was distressed,” Pope Francis said. “If you do not forgive, God will not forgive you. If you cannot forgive, ask the Lord to give you strength to do it.”
Jesus tells a parable which illustrates the concept of forgiving others as God has forgiven you, he noted.
In the parable, found in the Gospel of Matthew, a servant owes his master a huge debt, something impossible to repay. But miraculously, he receives not only an extension, but full forgiveness of the debt. “An unexpected grace!”
But, Francis explained, the servant immediately turned to his brother to demand from him the much smaller debt he was owed.
“Therefore, in the end, the master calls him back and has [the servant] condemned,” he said. “Because if you do not try to forgive, you will not be forgiven; if you do not try to love, you will not be loved either.”