Pope’s Tips for Becoming a Saint
A practical first step toward holiness — as well as for assuring peace in one’s family and in the world — is to pray for a person who has caused offence or harm, Pope Francis said.
“Are you merciful towards the people who have harmed you or don’t like you? If God is merciful, if he is holy, if he is perfect, then we must be merciful, holy and perfect as he is. This is holiness. A man or woman who does this deserves to be canonised,” the pope said during an evening parish Mass.
“I suggest you start small,” Pope Francis told members of the parish of St Mary Josefa on the extreme eastern edge of the diocese of Rome. “We all have enemies. We all know that so-and-so speaks ill of us. We all know. And we all know that this person or that person hates us.”
When that happens, the pope said, “I suggest you take a minute, look at God and say, ‘This person is your son or your daughter, change his or her heart, bless him or her.’ This is praying for those who don’t like us, for our enemies. Perhaps the rancour will remain in us, but we are making an effort to follow the path of this God who is so good, merciful, holy, perfect, who makes the sun rise on the evil and the good.”
The day’s first reading included the line, “Be holy, for I, the Lord, your God, am holy,” and in the Gospel reading, Jesus said, “Be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
“You might ask me, ‘But, father, what is the path to holiness?’ ‘What is the journey needed to become holy?’ Jesus explains it well in the Gospel. He explains it with concrete examples,” the pope said.
The first example, he said, is “not taking revenge. If I have some rancour in my heart for something someone has done, I want vengeance, but this moves me off the path of holiness. No revenge. ‘But he did this and he will pay.’ Is this Christian? No. ‘He will pay’ is not in the Christian’s vocabulary. No revenge.”
In people’s everyday lives, he said, their squabbles with their relatives or neighbours may seem a little thing, but they are not. “These big wars we read about in the papers and see on the news, these massacres of people, of children, how much hatred! It’s the same hatred you have in your heart for this person, that person, that relative, your mother-in-law. It’s bigger, but it’s the same hatred.”
Forgiveness, the pope said, is the path towards holiness and toward peace. “If everyone in the world learned this, there would be no wars.”
Wars begin “with bitterness, rancour, the desire for vengeance, to make them pay,” he said. It’s an attitude that destroys families and neighbourhoods and peaceful relations between nations.
“I’m not telling you what to do, Jesus is: Love your enemies. ‘You mean I have to love that person?’ Yes.”
“I have to pray for someone who has harmed me? Yes, that he will change his life, that the Lord will forgive him,” the pope said. “This is the magnanimity of God, of God who has a big heart, who forgives all.”—By Cindy Wooden, CNS
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