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  • John Thavis

At final U.S. Mass, pope preaches openness and tender mercies

Updated: Feb 19, 2020

Pope Francis wound up his U.S. visit with a defense of the family as a place of “little miracles,” where gestures of compassion and tenderness often reflect true holiness.

The pope also said the church needs to recognize that the Holy Spirit works in many settings and among many people, sometimes bypassing “officialdom and inner circles.”

“To raise doubts about the working of the Spirit, to give the impression that it cannot take place in those who are not ‘part of our group’, who are not ‘like us’, is a dangerous temptation. Not only does it block conversion to the faith; it is a perversion of faith!” the pope said.

The pope spoke at a Mass celebrated on a Philadelphia parkway before several hundred thousand people, the culmination of a church-sponsored World Meeting of Families.

His homily made the point that family life is made up largely of small, tender gestures that are crucial in a world full of “new divisions, new forms of brokenness.”

The pope recalled the words of Jesus, “Whoever gives you a cup of water in my name will not go unrewarded.”

The pope added: “These little gestures are those we learn at home, in the family; they get lost amid all the other things we do, yet they do make each day different. They are the quiet things done by mothers and grandmothers, by fathers and grandfathers, by children.

They are little signs of tenderness, affection and compassion. Like the warm supper we look forward to at night, the early lunch awaiting someone who gets up early to go to work. Homely gestures. Like a blessing before we go to bed, or a hug after we return from a hard day’s work.”

The pope said people should ask themselves: “In my own home, do we shout or do we speak to each other in love and tenderness?”

“That’s a good way of measuring our love,” he said.

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