(CNA/EWTN News) In his Jubilee general audience for the month of June, Pope Francis focused his speech on the works of mercy and how to put them into action. He also gave thanks for his recent visit to Armenia, and spoke of his coming trips to Georgia and Azerbaijan.
“Mercy without works is dead,” the Pope said June 30, quoting St. James. What brings mercy to life, he said, is “it’s constant dynamism for going to meet the needy and the necessities of the many spiritually and materially disadvantaged.”
He encouraged pilgrims to make “a serious examination of conscience,” telling them “not to ever forget that mercy is not an abstract word, but a style of life.”
“It’s one thing to speak of mercy, but it’s another to live mercy,” he said, noting that a person can either be merciful or unmerciful, but either way “it’s a lifestyle I choose.”
The Pope spoke to the thousands of pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square for his eighth Jubilee general audience. Typically held on Saturdays once a month for the duration of the Holy Year of Mercy, the Jubilee audience for June was moved to Thursday, since the Pope will take a break from all public meetings and audiences for the month of July.
In his address, Francis noted how not a day goes by that we don’t encounter the many needs of society’s poorest and “most tested.”
At times “we pass in front of dramatic situations of poverty and it seems as if they don’t touch us,” he said. “Everything continues as if there was nothing, in an indifference which eventually renders us hypocrites and, without realizing it, leads to a form of spiritual lethargy that numbs the spirit and renders life sterile.”
People who pass through life without ever becoming aware of the needs of others are people who don’t really live, nor do they know what it means to serve others, he said.
“Remember well: whoever doesn’t live to serve, doesn’t need to live!” the Pope said, explaining that with Jesus, there are no “escape routes.”
He pointed to the Gospel passage from Matthew 25 read aloud at the beginning of the audience in which Jesus tells his disciples that when the sheep and the goats are separated at the end of time, the Lord will tell the sheep to come, because they fed him, gave him something to drink and clothed him when he was hungry, thirsty and naked.
“You cannot beat around the bush in front of a person who is hungry: we need to feed them. Jesus tells us this!” Pope Francis said, adding that the works of mercy are not merely theoretical subjects, “but concrete testimonies.”
He encouraged pilgrims to “give space to the imagination of charity” in finding new ways to meet the needs of the spiritually and materially poor in an increasingly globalized world.
Christians, he said, must remain vigilant when faced with the poverty produced by “the culture of well-being.” Doing so, he said, will not only keep their gaze from weakening, but will also allow them to keep their focus on what’s essential.
Looking at the essential, Francis said, means see Jesus “in the hungry, in the prisoner, in the sick, in the naked, and those who don’t have work and have to provide for a family…in those who are only sad, who are mistaken and need advice.”
“These are the works Jesus asks of us: to look at Jesus in them, in these people, because Jesus looks at me, at all of us, like this.”
Pope Francis then turned his focus to his recent trip to Armenia, “the first Christian nation,” where he traveled June 24-26 for an official visit.
Armenians, he said, are “a people who, in the course of their long history, have witnesses to the Christian faith with martyrdom,” and expressed his gratitude for having been welcomed “as a pilgrim of fraternity and peace.”
The Pope noted how he will also visit the Caucasus nations of Georgia and Azerbaijan Sept. 30 – Oct. 2, and said he accepted the invitation to do so for two reasons.
The first, he said, is to “value the ancient Christian roots present in these lands – always a spirit of dialogue and with other religions and cultures,” while the second is to “encourage hope and pathways of peace.”
“History teaches us that the path of peace requires great tenacity and continued steps, beginning with the small ones and gradually making them grow, going toward one another. Because of this my wish is that each person give their contribution for reconciliation,” he said.
Francis closed his address by extending his “embrace” to the bishops, priests, religious and faithful of Armenia, and praying that the Virgin Mary would “help them to remain solid in the faith, open to encounter and generous in the works of mercy.”