PAPAL AUDIENCE, THE PONTIFF: ”TOUCHING THE OUTCASTS PURIFIES US” The Pope said he says the following prayer every night: "Lord, if you want, you can make me pure, because Jesus purified us with sores"

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During the general papal audience in St Peter’s Square, Pope Francis has focused on the Gospel parable of the leper. The latter broke the conventions of his own times and asked Jesus to purify him. “Lord, if you want, you can make me pure’ – this is the request we have heard a lepper make to Jesus – Bergoglio opens the Audience -. This man does not only ask to be healed, but to be ‘purified’, i.e. healed body and soul. In fact, leprosy was considered a form of curse of God, a sign of profound impurity. The leper had to keep away from other people; he could not enter the temple nor any other divine service. Away from God and away from men.”

Nevertheless – Francis points out -, the leper “does not give up neither before his disease nor before the norms that make him an outcast. He was not afraid to break the law and enter the city to reach Jesus.” He kneeled and exclaimed: ‘Lord, if you want, you can make me pure’, certain that Jesus” has the power to heal him and that everything depended on his will. His faith is the power that allowed him to break every convention and to seek an encounter with Jesus.”

“The prayer of the leper – the Pope went on to say – shows that when we come before Jesus, there is no need to hold long speeches. Just a few words, provided that they are accompanied with total faith in his omnipotence and goodness. Entrusting ourselves to God means entrusting ourselves to his infinite mercy.”

“I will make you a personal confidence – Bergoglio says off the cuff -. At night, before going to sleep, I say this short prayer: ‘Lord, if you want, you can make me pure’. Then I say five ‘Our Father’, one for each Jesus’ sores, because Jesus made us clean with wounds. If I can do this, so can you, at home. Say, ‘Lord if you want, you can make me pure’ and think of the wounds of Jesus and say an ‘Our Father’ for each one of them. Jesus always listens to us.”

Jesus – the Pontiff points out once more – remains “deeply impressed” by the leper and heals him, also breaking “the norms of the Law of Moses, which prohibited to come close to a leper”. How many times, the Pope says, “we meet a poor man who comes towards us! We can be generous, we can have compassion, but usually we do not touch him. We offer our money, but avoid touching the hand, we just throw them there. And we forget that this is the body of Christ! Jesus teaches us not to be afraid to touch the poor and the excluded, because He is in them. Touch the poor can purify us from hypocrisy and make us restless for his condition.”

Then, pointing to a group of invited young refugees who were sitting on the steps of the churchyard next to him, the Pope repeated: “Today, I am here in the company of these young people. Many of them think that staying in their countries would have been better, but they suffered too much there. They are our refugees, but many people consider them to be outcasts. Please, they are our brothers! A Christian does not exclude anyone, (s)he makes room for everyone and lets everyone come.”

The Pope then focuses on Jesus’ advice for the healed leper: “Go, show yourself to the priest and make an offer for thy purification, as Moses commanded, to bear testimony about Jesus for them.” These words – he says – imply “at least three things. First, the grace working in us does not seek sensationalism. Usually it moves quietly and without much ado. To heal our wounds and guide us along the path of holiness, it works patiently shaping our hearts on the model of the Lord’s heart, so as to assimilate more and more His thoughts and feelings. Second: making the priests officially verify this healing and celebrating a sin offering, the leper is allowed to enter the community of believers and social life again. His reintegration completes his healing. According to his plead, he is now completely purified! Finally, coming before the priests, the leper testifies about Jesus and his messianic authority. The strength of compassion with which Jesus healed the leper brought the faith of this man to open up to the mission. He was an outcast, now he is one of us.”

Francis concluded the general audience with the following thought: “Let us think of ourselves and of our miseries… Everyone has their own. Let us think with sincerity. How many times do we cover them up with the hypocrisy of ‘good manners’? That is when we need to stay on our own, to kneel before God and pray: ‘Lord, if you want, you can make me pure’. “And do so – the Pope advises -, do so before going to bed every night.”

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