(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis presided over Mass in St Peter's Basilica on Sunday, to offer thanks to God together with the College of Cardinals, one day after bestowing the Red Hat on twenty new prelates from around the world. In his homily, the Holy Father focused on Christ’s compassion, His charity, and His perfect devotion to being a vessel and vehicle for the healing mercy of God the Father – the essence of ecclesial service and the soul of the Cardinalate.
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Reflecting on the Gospel reading of the day, in which St. Mark the Evangelist speaks of Christ’s battle against all manner of evil, especially in favor of those who are suffering in body and spirit, specifically telling of the Lord’s miraculous healing of a leper, Pope Francis said, “The leper, once cured, became a messenger of God’s love.” He went on to say, “Dear new Cardinals, this is the ‘logic’, the mind of Jesus, and this is the way of the Church. Not only to welcome and reinstate with evangelical courage all those who knock at our door, but to go out and to seek, fearlessly and without prejudice, those who are distant, freely sharing what we ourselves freely received.”
It was a theme to which the Holy Father returned in his remarks before reciting the Angelus on Sunday, with pilgrims and tourists gathered in St. Peter’s Square.
“The mercy of God overcomes all barriers,” said Pope Francis. “The hand of Jesus touched the leper,” he continued, explaining that Christ does not act from a safe distance, nor does He act by proxy, but is exposed directly to the contagion of our evil. “So,” the Holy Father went on to say, “our own evil becomes the place of contact: He, Jesus, takes our sick humanity from us and we take from Him His healing – His healthy humanity. This happens every time we receive a sacrament with faith: the Lord Jesus ‘touches’ us and gives us His grace. In this case we think especially the Sacrament of Reconciliation, to heal us from the leprosy of sin.”
Pope Francis concluded, saying that, if we would be imitators of Christ as St. Paul exhorts us to be in his 1st Letter to the Corinthians (cf. 1 Cor 11:1) before the poor or the sick, we should not be afraid to look the afflicted person in the eye, and be close to the suffering person with tenderness and compassion. “If evil is contagious,” he said, “so is good: therefore, we must allow good to abound in us, more and more; let us be infected by goodness, and let us spread the good contagion.”
After offering the traditional noontide Marian devotion, the Holy Father offered special greetings to all those, who in various parts of the world are in these days marking the lunar new year. “These festivities offer the happy occasion to rediscover and live intensely that fraternity, which is the precious bond of family life and the foundation of social life,” he said, adding an expression of the hope that this annual return to the roots of the person and of the family might help all peoples marking the lunar new year to build a society in which interpersonal relations are woven with respect, justice and charity.