Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!
Jubilee having ended, we return today to normality, yet some reflections still remain on the works of mercy, so we continue on this. Today’s reflection on the works of spiritual mercy concerns two acts strongly connected between themselves: to counsel the doubters and to teach the ignorant, namely, those that don’t know. The word ignorant is too strong, but it means those who don’t know something and who must be taught. They are works that can be lived both in a simple, family dimension, within everyone’s reach, and – especially the second, that of teaching – on a more institutional, organized plane. We think, for instance, of all those children who still suffer from illiteracy. This is hard to understand: in a world where technical-scientific progress is so high, there are illiterate children! It’s an injustice. How many children suffer from a lack of education; it’s a condition of great injustice that affects the very dignity of the person. Without education, one then becomes easily prey to exploitation and to different forms of social hardship.
In the course of the centuries, the Church has felt the need to commit herself in the realm of education, because her evangelizing mission entails the commitment to restore dignity to the poorest. From the first example of a “school” founded in fact here in Rome by Saint Justin in the second century, so that Christians could know the Sacred Scriptures better, to Saint Joseph Calasanzius, who opened the first popular free schools of Europe, we have a long list of men and women Saints who at different times brought education to the most disadvantaged, knowing that through this, they would be able to surmount poverty and discriminations. How many Christians, laymen, consecrated brothers and sisters, <and> priests gave their life in education, in the education of children and of young people. This is great: I invite you to pay homage to them with loud applause! [Applause of the faithful]. These pioneers of education understood in depth this work of mercy, and such was their lifestyle as to transform society itself. Through simple work and few structures they were able to restore dignity to so many persons! And the education they imparted was often orientated also to work. We think of Saint John Bosco, who prepared street kids to work, with the Oratory and then with schools, jobs. It is thus that many and different professional schools arose, which trained to work while educating in human and Christian values. Hence, education is truly a special form of evangelization.
The more education grows, the more individuals acquire certainties and awareness, of which we are all in need in life. A good education teaches us the critical method, which also includes a certain type of doubt, useful to pose questions and verify the results reached, in view of greater knowledge. However, the work of mercy of counseling the doubters does not concern this type of doubt. To express mercy to doubters means, instead, to soothe that pain and suffering that comes from fear and anguish, which are consequences of doubt. Therefore, it is a real act of love, with which one intends to support a person in the weakness caused by uncertainty.
I think that someone could ask me: “Father, but I have so many doubts about the faith, what must I do? Do you ever have doubts?” I have so many … Certainly doubts come to everyone in some moments! The doubts that touch the faith, in a positive sense, are a sign that we want to know God, Jesus, the mystery of His love for us better and more in depth. “But, I have this doubt. I seek, study, see or ask advice on what to do.” These are doubts that make one grow! Therefore, it is good that we ask ourselves questions about the faith, because in this way we are pushed to deepen it. In any case, doubts can be overcome. Therefore, it is necessary to listen to the Word of God, and to understand what He teaches us. An important way that helps much in this is catechesis, with which the proclamation of the faith comes to meet us in the concreteness of our personal and communal life. And, at the same time, there is another equally important way, that of living the faith as much as possible. We do not make of the faith an abstract theory where doubts multiply. Rather, we make the faith our life. We try to practice it in service to brothers, especially the most needy. And then so many doubts vanish, because we feel God’s presence and the truth of the Gospel of love that, without our merit, dwells in us and we share with others.
As you can also see, dear brothers and sisters, these two works of mercy are not far from our lives. Each one of us can commit himself in living them to put into practice the Lord’s word when He says that the mystery of the love of God was not revealed to the wise and the intelligent, but to the little ones (cf. Luke 10:21; Matthew 11:25-26). Therefore, the most profound teaching that we are called to transmit and the safest certainty to come out of doubt is the love of God with which we have been loved (cf. 1 John 4:10) – a great love, free and given for ever. God never takes back His love! He always goes ahead and waits; He gives His love forever, of which we must feel a strong responsibility, to be witnesses of it by offering mercy to our brothers. Thank you.
Original text: Italian Translation by ZENIT. November 23, 2016