Assisi, Italy, Aug 4, 2016 / 11:22 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The path to heaven is through forgiveness and pardon of those who have offended us, just as we have received salvation through the love and forgiveness of the Father, Pope Francis said today in Assisi.

“Today I would like, before all else, to recall the words that, according to an ancient tradition, Saint Francis spoke in this very place, in the presence of all the townsfolk and bishops: ‘I want to send you all to heaven!’” “What finer thing could the Poor Man of Assisi ask for, if not the gift of salvation, eternal life and unending joy, that Jesus won for us by his death and resurrection?” said Pope Francis during his meditation at the Porziuncola at the Papal Basilica of St. Mary of the Angels.

“We are never alone in living the faith; we do so in the company of all the saints and of our loved ones who practiced the faith with joyful simplicity and bore witness to it by their lives. There is a bond, unseen but not for that reason any less real, which makes us, by baptism, ‘one body’ moved by ‘one Spirit.’”

Pope Francis visited the Porziuncola to mark the 800th anniversary of the “Pardon of Assisi,” when, according to tradition, while Saint Francis was praying, he had a vision of Christ and Our Lady surrounded by angels. When the Lord asked what he wanted for the salvation of souls, Saint Francis responded by asking God to grant a plenary indulgence to all pilgrims who visit the church.

“Forgiveness — pardon — is surely our direct route to that place in heaven. Here at the Porziuncola everything speaks to us of pardon! What a great gift the Lord has given us in teaching us to forgive and in this way to touch the Father’s mercy!”

Pope Francis reflected on the parable in Matthew 18:21-35, where the servant who, after having been forgiven of a large debt by his master, in turn does not forgive the smaller debt of his fellow servant. We all could be the servant in the parable with a debt so large we cannot repay it, Pope Francis said. “When we kneel before the priest in the confessional, we do exactly what that servant did. We say, ‘Lord, have patience with me.’ We are well aware of our many faults and the fact that we often fall back into the same sins. Yet God never tires of offering us his forgiveness each time we ask for it.”

Pope Francis drew parallels to the parable explaining how God is like the master, feeling compassion, pity and love for us. He said that God’s forgiveness knows no limits for those who acknowledge their wrongdoing in their hearts and desire to return to him. The problem occurs, Pope Francis said, when we do not extend the same forgiveness toward our brothers and sisters who have offended us.

“The reaction described in the parable describes it perfectly: He seized him by the throat and said, ‘Pay what you owe!’” “When we are indebted to others, we expect mercy; but when others are indebted to us, we demand justice! This is a reaction unworthy of Christ’s disciples, nor is it the sign of a Christian style of life.”

Pope Francis recalled the words of Jesus to Peter to forgive not “seven times, but seventy times seven,” trusting in the Father’s love, rather than our own idea of justice. As disciples of Christ, we have received God’s mercy, Pope Francis said, “at the foot of the cross solely by virtue of the love of the Son of God. Let us not forget, then, the harsh saying at the end of the parable: ‘So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.’”

The Pope noted how even eight centuries later, Saint Francis continues to be a channel of God’s pardon and said that no one can feel exempt from the work of showing the world God’s mercy. “In this Holy Year of Mercy, it becomes ever clearer that the path of forgiveness can truly renew the Church and the world,” he said.

“The world needs forgiveness; too many people are caught up in resentment and harbor hatred, because they are incapable of forgiving. They ruin their own lives and the lives of those around them rather than finding the joy of serenity and peace. Let us ask Saint Francis to intercede for us, so that we may always be humble signs of forgiveness and channels of mercy.”