20-June-2013 -- ZENIT.org News Agency |

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Pope Francis' Address to Ecclesial Convention of Rome (Part 1)

VATICAN CITY, June 20, 2013 (Zenit.org) - Here is Part 1 of the translation of the Holy Father's address to the Ecclesial Convention of Rome on Monday evening. Part 2 will be published in tomorrow's edition.

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Good Evening All, Dear Brothers and Sisters!

The Apostle Paul ended the passage of his letter to our ancestors with these words: you are no longer under the Law but under grace. And this is our life: to walk under grace, because the Lord has loved us, has saved us and has forgiven us. The Lord has done everything, and this is grace, the grace of God. We are on the way under the grace of God, which came to us in Jesus Christ, who has saved us. But this opens us to a great horizon, and this is joy for us. "You are no longer under the Law, but under grace." But what does "living under grace" mean? We will try to explain something of what it means to live under grace. It's our joy, it's our freedom. We are free. Why? Because we live under grace. We are no longer slaves of the Law: we are free because Jesus Christ has freed us, he has given us freedom, the full freedom of the children of God, which we live under grace. This is a treasure. I will try to explain somewhat this very beautiful, very great mystery: to live under grace.

This year you worked so much on Baptism and also on the renewal of the post-Baptismal pastoral. Baptism, the passing from "under the Law" to "under grace," is a revolution. There are so many revolutionaries in history, there have been so many. But no one had the force of the revolution that Jesus brought us: a revolution to transform history, a revolution that changes man's heart profoundly. The revolutions of history have changed political and economic systems, but none of them really changed man's heart. The true revolution, the one which transforms life radically, was accomplished by Jesus Christ through his Resurrection: the Cross and the Resurrection. Benedict XVI said about this revolution that "it is the greatest change in the history of humanity." However, let's think of this: it's the greatest change in the history of humanity, it's a true revolution and we are women and men revolutionaries of this revolution, because we follow the way of the greatest change in the history of humanity. If a Christian isn't a revolutionary at this time he isn't a Christian! He must be a revolutionary by grace! In fact the grace that the Father gives us through Jesus Christ crucified, dead and resurrected makes us revolutionaries, because -- and I quote Benedict XVI again -- "it's the greatest change in the history of humanity," because it changes the heart. The Prophet Ezekiel said: "I will take away from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh." And this is the experience that the Apostle Paul lived: after encountering Jesus on the road to Damascus, his perspective on life changed radically and he received Baptism. God transformed his heart! Just think: a persecutor, one who pursued the Church and Christians became a saint, a Christian to his very bones, in fact a true Christian! First he was a violent persecutor, then he became an Apostle, a courageous witness of Jesus Christ, to the point of not being afraid of undergoing martyrdom. The Saul who wanted to kill anyone who proclaimed the Gospel, in the end gives his life to proclaim the Gospel. This is the change, the greatest change of which Pope Benedict spoke to us. It changes one's heart of sinner -- of sinner: we are all sinners -- it transforms one into a saint. Is there one of us who isn't a sinner? Should there be one, let him raise his hand! We are all sinners, all! We are all sinners. But the grace of Jesus Christ saves us from sin: it saves us! All, if we receive the grace of Jesus Christ, He changes our heart and from sinners He makes us saints. To become a saint it isn't necessary to turn one's eyes and look , or to have face! No, no, this isn't necessary! Only one thing is necessary to become saints: to receive the grace that the Father gives us in Jesus Christ. Look, this grace changes our heart. We continue to be sinners, because we are all weak, but this grace which makes us feel that the Lord is good, that the Lord is merciful, that the Lord awaits us, that the Lord forgives us, this great grace is what changes our heart.

And the Prophet Ezekiel said that it changes our heart of stone into a heart of flesh. What does this mean? A heart that loves, a heart that suffers, a heart that rejoices with others, a heart full of tenderness for one who, bearing imprinted the wounds of life, feels himself on the periphery of society. Love is the greatest force of transformation of the reality, because it pulls down the walls of egoism and fills the ditches that keep us far from one another. And this is the love that comes from a changed heart, from a heart of stone that is transformed into a heart of flesh, a human heart. And grace does this, the grace of Jesus Christ which we have all received. Does any one of you know the cost of grace? Where is grace sold? Where can I buy grace? No one can say it: no. Do I go to buy it from the parish secretary, perhaps she sells grace? Does some priest sell grace? Listen well to this: grace is not bought or sold; it is a gift of God in Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ gives us grace. He is the only one who gives us grace. It is a gift: if He offers it to us, let us receive it. This is beautiful. Jesus' love is like this: he gives us grace freely, freely. And we must give it freely to our brothers, to our sisters. It's somewhat sad when one meets some who sell grace: this happened at times in the history of the Church, and it did so much evil, so much evil. But grace can't be sold: it is received freely and given freely. And this is the grace of Jesus Christ.

In the midst of so many sorrows, so many problems that exist here, in Rome, there are people who live without hope. Each one of us can think, in silence, of people who live without hope and are immersed in a profound sadness from which they seek to come out, believing they can find happiness in alcohol, in drugs, in games of chance, in the power of money, in sexuality without rules. But they find themselves even more disappointed and sometimes vent their anger against life with violent behavior, unworthy of man. How many sad persons, how many sad persons there are without hope! Think also of the many young people that, after having experiencing so many things, finds no meaning in life and look to suicide as a solution. Do you know how many suicides of young people there are in the world today? The figure is high. Why? Because they don't have hope. They have tried so many things and society, which is cruel --- is cruel! -- can't give one hope. Hope is like grace: it can't be bought; it's a gift of God. And we must offer Christian hope with our witness, with our freedom, with our joy. The gift that God makes us of grace, brings hope. Can we, who have the joy of realizing that we are not orphans, that we have a Father, be indifferent to this city which asks us, perhaps also unwittingly, not knowing, for a hope that will help them to look at the future with greater trust and serenity? We cannot be indifferent. But how can we do this? How can we go forward and offer hope? Should we go on the street saying: "I have hope"? No! With your witness, with your smile, say: "I believe I have a Father." This is the proclamation of the Gospel: with my word, with my witness to say: "I have a Father. We aren't orphans. We have a Father," and share this filiation with the Father with all others. "Father, now I understand: it's about convincing others, of being proselytizers!" No: none of this. The Gospel is like a seed: you plant it, you plant it with your word and with your witness. And then, do not analyze how this came about: God does it. He makes the seed grow, but we must sow with the certainty that He gives the water, He gives the growth. And we don't do the harvesting: it will be done by another priest, another layman, another lay woman, someone else will do it. The word without witness is air. Words aren't enough. the real witness that Paul talks about.

Translation by ZENIT.

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