Francis: Unlike a telenovela, God's love and mercy is forever

Vatican City — God’s love for humanity is so great that it can win over every evil, forgive every sin, and can never be stopped, Pope Francis told crowds at his weekly general audience Wednesday.

“It is not the love of a ‘telenovela!’” the pontiff joked to the thousands in attendance, reflecting on a passage in the Old Testament that describes God as “abounding in love and fidelity.”

“How beautiful is this definition of God!” Francis exhorted. “Here there is everything: Because God is great and powerful, but he deploys this greatness and power in loving us -- we who are so small, so incapable.”

“The word ‘love,’ utilized here, indicates affection, grace, goodness,” said the pope. “It is the love that makes the first step, that does not depend on human merit but on an immense freeness.”

“It is the divine concern that nothing can stop, not even sin, because it knows to go beyond sin, winning over evil and forgiving it,” he said.

Francis was speaking in his audience Wednesday as part of a reflection on a passage from the Book of Exodus, in which God appears to Moses and describes God as “gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in love and fidelity.”

The pope started the audience by explaining that he is beginning a cycle of audiences focused on mercy from a biblical perspective as part of the continuing Jubilee year in order “to learn mercy by listening to that which God himself teaches us in his word.”

Breaking down each of the words God uses to describe himself in the Bible passage, Francis said that God is like a mother who takes her children in arm, “desiring only to love, protect, and help them -- ready to give all for them, including herself.”

The phrase “slow to anger” means that “God knows to wait,” said the pontiff.

“He is like the wise farmer that knows to wait, to leave time for the good seed to grow, in spite of discord,” said Francis.

God, the pope said, has a fidelity to humanity “without limits.”

“The fidelity of God is never diminished because the Lord is the guardian that, as the Psalm says, never falls asleep but continually watches over us to bring us to life,” said Francis.

“This merciful God is faithful in his mercy and Paul says a beautiful thing: If you are not faithful in front of God, he will remain faithful because he cannot deny himself,” said the pope. “Fidelity in mercy is truly the being of God.”

“God is totally and always reliable, a solid and stable presence,” said Francis. “This is the certainty of our faith.”

Ending his general reflection at the audience, Francis asked: “In this Jubilee of mercy, let us trust totally in [God], and experience the joy of being loved by this ‘gracious and merciful God, slow to anger and abounding in love and fidelity.’”

After briefly addressing each of the language groups at the audience, the pope invited attendees to pray for the ten people killed in Tuesday’s terrorist attack in Istanbul and for the conversion of violent hearts.

[Joshua J. McElwee is NCR Vatican correspondent. His email address is Follow him on Twitter: @joshjmac.]

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