(Vatican Radio) He who does not know the tenderness of God does not know the Christian doctrine. This was the concept at the core of Pope Francis’ homily at morning Mass at the Casa Santa Marta, a homily focused largely on the figure of Judas.
Judas, an evangelical image of the lost sheep
Taking his cue from the Gospel reading of the day which recounts the Parable of the lost sheep, Pope Francis spoke of how the Lord never stops looking for us.
Describing the Lord as a kind of a judge, a judge who caresses and is full of tenderness, he said God does everything to save us.
“He does not come to condemn, but to save” the Pope said, and he loves each and every one of us personally. He knows us by name and loves us for what we are.
And speaking of the lost sheep Francis explained that it did not get lost because it didn’t have a compass but because it "had a sick heart" and was running away “to be distant from the Lord and was satiating an inner darkness”.
And pointing out that the Lord knows these things and never neglects to go out and look for the lost sheep, the Pope said the Lord’s attitude towards Judas is so symbolic:
“Judas is the most perfect lost sheep in the Gospel: a man with a bitter heart, someone who always had something to criticize in others, he was always ‘detached’. He did not know the sweetness that comes of living without second ends with others. He was an unsatisfied man!” he said.
The Pope said that because of the darkness in his heart Judas was separated from the herd. He said – more in general - that darkness can lead to living a double life: “a double life that, perhaps painfully, many Christians, even priests and bishops lead...”
Pointing out that Judas himself was one of the first bishops, the Pope recalled a beautiful sermon given by Father Mazzolari in which he described Judas as a lost sheep: “Brother Judas, he said, what was happening in your heart?” Francis said we need to understand lost sheep: each and every one of us has something in us of the lost sheep.
The Repentance of Judas
The Pope went on to explain that is not so much a mistake but a disease of the heart that makes a sheep wander and he said it is something the devil exploits.
Just as it was with Judas whose heart was ‘divided’. And finally when Judas saw what harm his double life had wreaked in the community, when he saw the evil he had sown because of the darkness in his heart that caused him to run away, looking for a light that was not the light of the Lord, but artificial lights like Christmas decorations, he was thrown into despair:
The Pope said that the Bible tells us that “the Lord is good, he never stops looking for the lost sheep” and it tells us that when Judas hanged himself he had repented.
“I believe that the Lord will take that word [repentance] and bring it with Him” he said. And it tells us that right until the end God’s love was working in that soul.
He said that this is the message, the good news that Christmas brings asking us to rejoice with a sincerity that brings with it a change of heart that leads us to take comfort in the Lord, and not in other ‘escapist’ consolations.
God's power is in His tenderness
When Jesus finds the lost sheep he does not insults it although it caused so much harm, the Pope said, and in the Garden of Olives He calls Judas with the appellative ‘friend’. These, he said, are God's caresses:
"He who does not know the caresses of the Lord does not know Christian doctrine! He who does not allow himself to be caressed by the Lord is lost!” he said.
Pope Francis concluded saying that the consolation that we seek is in God’s tenderness that saves us and brings us back to the fold of his Church.
“May the Lord give us the grace to sincerely recognize our sins as we await Christmas, as we wait for the power of God who comes to console us with the tenderness” he said.