We cannot live without forgiving one another, or at least we cannot live well, especially in the family. Every day we wrong one another. … What we are asked, however, is to heal immediately the wounds we cause, to reweave the threads that we break in the family. – Pope Francis
This is the ZENIT translation of the address which Pope Francis gave at his general audience in Saint Peter’s Square on 4th November 2015.
The Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, which ended a short while ago, reflected in depth on the vocation and mission of the family in the life of the Church and of contemporary society. It was an event of grace. At the end the Synodal Fathers gave me the text of their conclusions. I wanted this text to be published so that all would be participants in the work that has seen us committed together for two years. This is not the moment to examine those conclusions, on which I myself must meditate.
In the meantime, however, life does not stop, in particular the life of families does not stop! You, dear families, are always moving forward. And you already write continually, in the pages of concrete life, the beauty of the Gospel of the Family. In a world that at times becomes arid of life and love, you speak every day of the great gifts that marriage and the family are.
Today I would like to stress this aspect: that the family is a great training ground of gift and of mutual forgiveness, without which no love can last for long; without giving oneself and without forgiving one another love does not remain, it does not last! In the prayer that Jesus himself taught us – namely the Our Father – He has us ask the Father: “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.” And at the end He comments: “”For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father also will forgive you; but if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matthew 6:12.14-15). We cannot live without forgiving one another, or at least we cannot live well, especially in the family. Every day we wrong one another. We must take these mistakes into account, which are due to our fragility and our egoism.
What we are asked, however, is to heal immediately the wounds we cause, to reweave the threads that we break in the family. If we wait too long, everything becomes more difficult. And there is a simple secret to heal the wounds and to break off the accusations: not to let the day end without apologizing to one another, without making peace between husband and wife, between parents and children, between brothers and sisters … between daughter-in-law and mother-in-law! If we learn to apologize immediately and to forgive one another, the wounds heal, the marriage is strengthened, and the family becomes an ever more solid home, which resist the knocks of our little and great spiteful acts. And for this, a great speech is not necessary; a caress is enough and everything begins again. But do not end the day in war!
If we learn to live thus in the family, we do so also outside, wherever we find ourselves. It is easy to be skeptical about this. Many – also among Christians – think that it is an exaggeration. It is said: yes, they are beautiful words, but it’s impossible to put them into practice. However, thank God, this isn’t so. In fact, it is precisely by receiving forgiveness from God that we are capable, in turn, to forgive others. Therefore Jesus has us repeat these words every time that we recite the prayer of the Our Father, namely every day. And it is indispensable that, in a society that is sometimes merciless, there are places, such as the family, where we can learn to forgive one another.
The Synod revived our hope also on this: the capacity to forgive and to forgive one another is part of the vocation and mission of the family. The practice of forgiveness not only saves families from division, but renders them capable of helping society to be less evil and less cruel. Yes, every gesture of forgiveness repairs the cracks of the home and consolidates its walls. Dear families, the Church is always by your side to help you to build your home on the rock of which Jesus spoke. And let us not forget these words that precede immediately the parable of the house: “Not every one who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the Kingdom of Heaven, but he who does the will of my Father.” And he adds: “On that day many will say to me , ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you’” (cf. Matthew 7:21-23). It is a strong statement, no doubt, which has the purpose to shake us and to call us to conversion.
I assure you, dear families, that if you are capable of walking ever more decisively on the way of the Beatitudes, learning and teaching to forgive one another mutually, the capacity will grow, in the whole great family of the Church, to give witness of the renewing strength of God’s forgiveness. Otherwise, we might engage in very beautiful preaching, and perhaps even cast out a devil, but at the end the Lord will not recognize us as his disciples because we did not have the capacity to forgive and to be forgiven by others!
Truly Christian families can do much for today’s society, and also for the Church. Therefore I desire that, in the Jubilee of Mercy, families rediscover the treasure of mutual forgiveness. Let us pray that families will are increasingly capable of living and building concrete ways of reconciliation, where no one feels abandoned to the weight of his debts.
With this intention, we say together: “Our Father, forgive us our trespasses, as we also forgive those who trespass against us.”