True believers serve others, pope says at audience

IMAGE: CNS/Paul Haring

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — To ignore the suffering of another
person is to ignore God, Pope Francis said.

And going to church does not automatically make someone love
their neighbor, the pope said April 27 as he reflected on the Gospel parable of
the good Samaritan during his weekly general audience.

Christians are called to imitate the good Samaritan,
stopping to help the injured, because the good Samaritan is a symbol of Jesus,
who bent down to help and to heal all humanity, the pope said.

By describing the priest and the Levite who passed by
without offering help, Pope Francis said, the parable makes it clear that
“it is not automatic that one who frequents the house of God and has known
his mercy knows how to love his neighbor.”

“You can know the whole Bible, you can know all the
liturgical rubrics, you can know all theology, but that knowledge does not make
loving automatic,” he said. “Love has another path.”

Pope Francis insisted there is no such thing as “true
worship if it does not translate into service to one’s neighbor. Let us never
forget: in the face of the suffering of so many people worn out by hunger,
violence and injustice, we cannot remain spectators.

“To ignore human suffering — what does that mean? It means
ignoring God,” he told an estimated 25,000 people in St. Peter’s Square.
“If I do not draw near to the man or woman or child or older person who is
suffering, I cannot draw near to God.”

While the priest and the Levite — the two orthodox
religious figures in the story — have “closed, cold” hearts, the
pope said, the Samaritan, who was considered an impure pagan, had a heart that
was “synchronized with the heart of God.”

The sign that one is close to God, the pope said, is showing
compassion to others like God shows compassion to us. “What does that
mean? He suffers with us. He feels our suffering.”

Like the good Samaritan, he said, God “does not ignore
us. He knows our pain. He knows how much we need his help and consolation. He draws near to us and never abandons us.”

Pope Francis asked those at the audience to consider whether
they believe that God has compassion for them, as they are — with their sins and
their wounds — and that he “draws near to us, heals us, caresses us. And
if we refuse him, he waits. He is patient and always alongside of us.”

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