Pope Francis asked the world’s young Catholics to perform spiritual and corporal works of mercy every month in the run-up to World Youth Day next July.
He asked that they not be afraid to experience God’s “boundless mercy, so that in turn you may become apostles of mercy by your actions, words and prayers in our world, wounded by selfishness, hatred and so much despair”.
The pope’s request was part of his message for World Youth Day 2016 – an international gathering that will be celebrated in Krakow, Poland, from 26-31 July. The celebration’s theme, from the Gospel of St Matthew, is “Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.”
Jesus and his beatitudes show how it is better to give than to receive and how “we will be truly blessed and happy only when we enter into the divine ‘logic’ of gift and gracious love”, he said in the message, released on 28 September at the Vatican.
When people discover that “God has loved us infinitely in order to make us capable of loving like him, without measure”, then they themselves can become instruments of God’s mercy, bringing hope and healing to those in need.
“I ask you, then, to rediscover the corporal works of mercy: to feed the hungry; give drink to the thirsty; clothe the naked; welcome the stranger; assist the sick; visit the imprisoned and bury the dead,” he said.
“Nor should we overlook the spiritual works of mercy: to counsel the doubtful; teach the ignorant; admonish sinners; comfort the sorrowful; forgive offenses; patiently bear with troublesome people and pray to God for the living and the dead.”
In order to become more authentic and credible disciples of Christ, the pope suggested “that for the first seven months of 2016, you choose a corporal and a spiritual work of mercy to practice each month”.
Pope Francis recalled the example of Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati, who lived his short life by receiving God in the Eucharist every morning and then returning that divine presence and love by visiting and helping the poor each day.
The pope also asked young people to find inspiration in the prayer of St Faustina Kowalska, which describes specific ways one’s eyes, ears, tongue, hands, feet and heart can be merciful in everyday life.
“The Divine Mercy message is a very specific life plan because it involves action. One of the most obvious works of mercy, and perhaps the most difficult to put into practice, is to forgive those who have offended us, who have done us wrong or whom we consider to be enemies,” the pope said.
Even though it seems so hard to forgive, pardoning others is a powerful grace placed in “our fragile hands to attain serenity of heart. To let go of anger, wrath, violence, and revenge are necessary conditions to living joyfully.”
“Only a few months are left before we meet in Poland. Krakow, the city of St John Paul II and St Faustina Kowalska, is waiting for us with open arms and hearts,” said the pope, who was scheduled to attend events from 28-31 July.
These two saints were “two great apostles of mercy in our times”, as they desired the message of God’s mercy reach all people on earth and fill their hearts with hope, he said.