.- The path to holiness and sainthood, Pope Francis said, requires imitating Christ by loving our enemies and praying for those who wrong us even when it is difficult.
“It’s true, God the Father is merciful,” he said Feb. 19. “And you? Are you merciful, are you merciful with the people who have hurt you? Or who do not love you?”
“If He is merciful, if He is holy, if He is perfect, we must be merciful, holy and perfect like Him,” he continued. “This is holiness. A man and a woman who do this deserve to be canonized: they become saints. So simple is the Christian life.”
Pope Francis gave his homily during Mass at the parish of Santa Maria Josefa of the Heart of Jesus, where he visited Sunday. Before Mass he visited with young people, the sick, families and those in charge of the parish’s Caritas organization. He also heard the confessions of four parishioners.
This was the Pope’s 13th visit to a parish in the diocese of Rome during his pontificate, and the second in just a little over a month.
In his homily, the pontiff reflected on the way of holiness. This path cannot be followed if we harbor resentment or wish to exact revenge against someone. Quoting the words of Jesus in the Gospel, the Pope said: “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”
“Pray for the one who hurts me?” the Pope asked. “Yes,” he answered, “because it changes lives.”
If we think it is impossible, then pray, the Pope said. Pray every day for the grace to forgive and the grace to love.
The Gospel is simple, he said.
“This advice: ‘Be holy, for I the Lord your God, am holy.’ And then: ‘You shall be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect’,” the Pope remarked.
Forgiveness and prayer are the way to do this.
“This is the way of holiness,” he said. “If all men and women of the world learned this, there would be no wars, there would not be.”
Wars begin “in bitterness, rancor, the desire for revenge, to make someone pay. But that destroys families, destroys friendships, destroys neighborhoods, destroys so much,” he said.
For Pope Francis, this is why we must pray always for the grace not to hold grudges and for “the grace to pray for our enemies, to pray for the people that do not love us, the grace of peace.”
If we make this our daily prayer, the Pope continued, even just praying one prayer a day for our enemies, this is how we will “win” and make progress “on the path of holiness and perfection.”
In the end, “evil is overcome by good,” he said, and “sin is won with generosity.”
“Prayer is an antidote against hatred, against wars, these wars that start at home, which start in the neighborhood, which begin in families,” he said.
The Pope said if he knows that someone wants to hurt him and does not love him, “I pray especially for him.”
“Pray for there to be peace,” he said.