In his daily homily Pope Francis said that God’s love is always expressed in tenderness, and cautioned that if we haven’t experienced this, then something is missing in our relationship with the Lord. “The grace of God is another matter: it is closeness, it is tenderness. This rule is always valid,” the Pope told those present in the Vatican’s Saint Martha guesthouse for his Dec. 11 daily Mass. “If, in your relationship with the Lord, you do not feel that He loves you tenderly, you are missing something, you still have not understood what grace is, you have not yet received grace which is this closeness.” Pope Francis centered his reflections on the day’s first reading from Isaiah in which the prophet consoles Israel, saying that although they are no more than a “worm” or “maggot” in comparison with the greatness of God, the Lord will help them and make them like “a threshing sledge, sharp, new and double-edged.” God’s love and closeness to his people are so tender that they can be compared to a mother who sings a lullaby to her baby, the Roman Pontiff said, noting that God desires to caress his children with the same tenderness. When we as children of God allow ourselves to be loved, “this is the grace of God,” he observed, saying that many times people don’t accept this grace as a free gift, and instead prefer “to control the grace.” “In history and also in our lives we are tempted to transform grace into a kind of a merchandise, perhaps saying to ourselves something like, ‘I have so much grace,’ or, ‘I have a clean soul, I am graced,’” the pontiff noted. By seeking to control and obtain grace, “the beautiful truth of God's closeness slips into a kind spiritual accounting” in which we, through our own efforts, attempt to store up grace that will last for a certain amount of time, he said. The Bishop of Rome explained that grace is not a “commodity” that we can gain through selfish attitudes, like that of the Pharisees, Sadducees, Essenes and Zealots who thought that they were such good people, but in reality feared God and ended up in isolation. God’s grace, however, is “another matter: it is closeness, it is tenderness,” the Pope noted, saying that if we haven’t experienced this closeness then we don’t truly understand who God is. He recalled the confession of a woman several years ago who was tormented by the question of whether or not a wedding she had attended on a Saturday evening counted for Sunday Mass since the readings were different. When she confessed, Pope Francis recalled that the priest answered her by saying “Madam, the Lord loves you so much. You went to Church and there you received Communion, you were with Jesus...Do not worry, the Lord is not a merchant, the Lord loves us, He is close.” The pontiff concluded by warning mass attendees not to turn their spiritual life into a “spirituality of law” in which we gain grace through a point system of good works. Rather, he told them to have the courage to open their hearts to the tenderness of God, who is capable of bringing spiritual freedom. Pope Francis encouraged participants to go home and re-read the day’s first reading from Isaiah, Chapter 41, verses 13 to 20. “Read them. This tenderness of God, this God who sings (to) each of us a lullaby, like a mother.”
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