Updated: September 26, 2019 05:56 AM GMT
Pope Francis looks on during a procession on Sept. 21in Albano Laziale, southeast of Rome, as part of a visit to the town's cathedral and the celebration of the Holy Eucharist. (Photo by Alberto Pizzoli/AFP)
Christians are not licensed “inspectors of other people’s lives,” but rather disciples who reach out to others, assuring them of God’s love and welcoming them into the community, Pope Francis said.Celebrating an outdoor evening Mass Sept. 21 in Albano, about 20 miles south of Rome, Francis used the anniversary of the dedication of the city’s cathedral to talk about what Catholic churches should be and how parishioners should act toward their neighbors who never go to church.”The Lord remembers us,” the pope said. “He does not forget us, he does not lose sight of us despite the obstacles that can keep us far from him,” as the Gospel story of Zacchaeus demonstrates.
Although the tax collector had a “small stature, physically and morally,” Jesus noticed him and decided to go to his house even though everyone in Jericho knew he was a sinner.Reading the Zacchaeus story on the anniversary of the cathedral dedication, Francis said, was a reminder that “every church — the church with a small ‘c’ — exists to keep alive in people’s hearts a reminder that God loves them.””It exists to say to each person, even those furthest away: ‘You are loved and called by name by Jesus. God does not forget you. You are in his heart.’”The followers of Jesus, the pope said, must follow his example with Zacchaeus and “go to those who are most forgotten, those hiding behind the branches of shame, fear and solitude, and say to them, ‘God remembers you.’”
Message to occasional churchgoersKnowing that attending Mass in the square there were probably people who didn’t go to church regularly, Pope Francis spoke directly to them: “Dear brother, dear sister, if like Zacchaeus you are looking for meaning in your life but not finding it, if you are throwing it away with ‘surrogates for love’ like wealth, career, pleasure or some form of dependence, let yourself be seen by Jesus.”Only with Jesus will you discover that you always have been loved. You will feel touched inside by the invincible tenderness of God who moves and inspires your heart.”
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