by Elise Harris
While the Jubilee might be over, Pope Francis hasn’t stopped talking about mercy, telling faithful Wednesday that the works of mercy of counseling the doubtful and instructing the ignorant, are rooted in a deep faith, and are things we can do every day.
“In certain moments doubts come to everyone! Doubts that touch the faith, in a positive sense, are a sign that we want to know God, Jesus, and the mystery of his love for us better and more deeply,” the Pope said Nov. 23.
Because of this, he said it’s good to ask ourselves questions about the faith, because they push us to deepen in it.
“Doubts, then, can also be overcome,” he said, pointing to catechesis as “an important path” that helps to quell doubts. With catechesis, “the announcement of faith comes to meet us in the concreteness of personal and communitarian life.”
At the same time, Francis said another equally important path to follow “is living the faith as much as possible.”
“Let us not make faith an abstract theory where doubts multiply. Rather, let us make faith our life. Let us try to practice it in the service of our brothers, especially the neediest,” he said.
If we live our faith with this intensity, “then many doubts vanish, because we feel the presence of God and the truth of the Gospel in the love that, without our merit, lives in us and which we share with others.”
Pope Francis spoke to the thousands of pilgrims gathered in the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall for his weekly general audience. He continued his catechesis on mercy, which he launched during the Jubilee of Mercy as a way of making it present in our daily lives.
While the Jubilee might be over, the Pope continued his most recent reflections on the spiritual works of mercy, focusing specifically on the acts of counseling the doubtful and instructing the ignorant.
These two works, he said, are “strongly linked,” because they are actions that can be lived either in “a simple, familiar dimension accessible to all, or – especially the second, to teach – on an institutional, organized level.”
He pointed to the fact that many children throughout the world suffer from illiteracy and from the lack of education. This is particularly the case in warzones such as Iraq and Syria, where schools have been shut down due to bombings, and many children who have fled are left with no formal education.
To lack education, the Pope said, is a “serious injustice that undermines the very dignity of the human being. Without instruction, one then becomes easy prey to exploitation and various forms of social disadvantage.”
Francis noted how throughout the centuries, the Church has made it her mission to commit in the area of education, saying this is because her task of evangelization “involves the commitment of restoring dignity to the most poor.”
There is a long list of saints who throughout the ages have spent their lives bringing education to the most remote and disadvantaged areas with the knowledge that through it, “they could overcome misery and discrimination,” he said.
Specifically, he pointed to the example of St. John Bosco and the Salesians, praising the emphasis they place on education. This is an example that hits home for Francis, who attended a Salesian school as a child.
He also noted that many Christian laity, consecrated persons and priests “have given their own lives for education,” and asked the audience to pay them tribute with “a big round of applause.”
“Instruction, then, is truly a special form of evangelization,” he said, adding that a good education teaches us “the critical method, which also includes a certain type of doubt.”
This doubt, he said, is useful in terms of proposing questions and verifying achieved results for the sake of having a greater awareness. However, he stressed that the work of mercy “counseling the doubtful,” refers to a different kind of doubt.
Showing mercy to doubters means “soothing that pain and that suffering which comes from the fear and anguish that are consequences of doubt,” he said, adding that it is “an act of true love with which one intends to support a person in the weakness caused by uncertainty.”
Pope Francis closed his audience saying these two works of mercy aren’t removed from our lives, but are things we can commit to by putting the Word of God into practice, specifically the line in scripture when the Lord says that “the mystery of the love of God was not revealed to the wise and intelligent, but to the little ones.”
“The most profound teaching we are called to transmit and the surest certainty out of doubt, is the love of God with which we are called to love,” he said. “A great love, free and given forever, from which we need to feel a strong responsibility to be witnesses offering mercy to our brothers.”