Pope: A hardened heart can't understand God's mercy

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — God’s mercy can be understood only by someone who has
an open heart and recognizes his
or her sins, Pope Francis said.

Unfaithfulness to God “hardens the heart, it closes
the heart,” the pope said March 3 during the Mass in the chapel of the
Domus Sanctae Marthae.

“It does not allow one to hear the voice of the Lord who, as a loving
father, always asks us to open ourselves to his mercy and his love,” the
pope said.

Psalm passage, “If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts,”
is a reminder of the fatherly tenderness of God, who calls sinners back to him.

However, “when the heart is hard, this is not
understood. The mercy of God can only be understood if you are able to open
your heart, so that he may enter,” he said.

The day’s reading from the Gospel of Luke (11:14-23), in
which Jesus rebukes those who criticized him after exorcising a demon, shows
how hardened people’s hearts can be, even in the face of a miracle.

Although they were well-versed in theology, the scribes
who criticized Jesus “were very closed” compared the crowds who had
faith in Jesus. The people
in the crowd “had an open heart. (They were) imperfect sinners but
with an open heart,” he said.

“These theologians, instead, had a closed attitude.
They always looked for an explanation to not understand Jesus’ message and
would ask for a sign from heaven. Always closed! It was Jesus who had to justify
his actions,” the pope said.

In the
scribes one sees “the history of closed hearts, of hearts that do
not allow the mercy of God to enter, that have forgotten the word ‘forgiveness’
— ‘Forgive me
Lord!’ — simply
because they do not feel they are sinners: they feel they are the judges of
others,” the pope said.

The first step on the path of faithfulness, he added, is to recognize you are a sinner.

“If you do not feel like a sinner, you are not off
to a good start. Let us ask for
grace so that our heart is not hardened, that it may be open to the
mercy of God, and the grace of faithfulness,” Pope Francis said.

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