Go to the Margins – Pope Francis Speaks

The credibility of the Church and of the Christian message rests entirely on how Christians serve those marginalized by society.

I urge you to serve the Church in such a way that Christians — edified by our witness — will not be tempted to turn to Jesus without turning to the outcast, (will not) become a closed caste with nothing authentically ecclesial about it.

Serve Jesus crucified in every person who is marginalized. See the Lord present even in those who have lost their faith, or turned away from the practice of their faith, or who have declared themselves to be atheists.

We will not find the Lord unless we truly accept the marginalized! Truly, the Gospel of the marginalized is where our credibility is at stake, is found and is revealed!

Like the way Jesus responded to the leper in the Gospel (Mark 1/40-45), we need to be compassionate, to seek to ‘reintegrate’ the marginalized, and to ‘respond immediately’ to those left most in need by society.

We can fear to lose the saved and we can want to save the lost. Even today it can happen that we stand at the crossroads of these two ways of thinking. The thinking of the doctors of the law would remove the danger by casting out the diseased person. And the thinking of God, who in his mercy embraces and accepts by reinstating him and turning evil into good, condemnation into salvation, and exclusion into proclamation. These two ways of thinking are present throughout the Church’s history: casting off and reintegrating.

The Church’s way, from the time of the Council of Jerusalem, has always been the way of Jesus, the way of mercy and reintegration.

This does not mean underestimating the dangers of letting wolves into the fold, but welcoming the repentant prodigal son; healing the wounds of sin with courage and determination; rolling up our sleeves and not standing by and watching passively the suffering of the world.

The way of the Church is not condemning anyone eternally but to pour out the balm of God’s mercy on all those who ask for it with a sincere heart. The way of the Church is precisely to leave her four walls behind and to go out in search of those who are distant, those on the ‘outskirts’ of life.

In a word: charity cannot be neutral, indifferent, lukewarm or impartial! Charity is infectious, it excites, it risks and it engages! For true charity is always unmerited, unconditional and gratuitous!

Total openness to serving others is our hallmark, it alone is our title of honour!

Jesus responds immediately to the leper’s plea, without waiting to study the situation and all its possible consequences. For Jesus, what matters above all is reaching out to save those far off, healing the wounds of the sick, restoring everyone to God’s family! This is scandalous to some people! Jesus is not afraid of this kind of scandal!

Jesus does not think of the closed-minded who are scandalized even by a work of healing, scandalized before any kind of openness, by any action outside of their mental and spiritual boxes, by any caress or sign of tenderness which does not fit into their usual thinking and their ritual purity.

Jesus wanted to reinstate the outcast, to save those outside the camp.

Pope Francis, 14 Feb 2015, homily to new cardinals

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