Christians must not be oppressed by guilt, but filled with joy, pope says
At his weekly general audience, Pope Francis said that when someone feels guilty about his or her sins, all the person has to do is ask God for forgiveness; it's what God does best.
Pope Francis leads his general audience at the Vatican Jan. 25, 2023. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Christians must not "put pressure on others" to convert or induce in them "feelings of guilt," but take a weight off their shoulders through joyfully sharing the Gospel, Pope Francis said.
At his general audience Jan. 25, the pope explained that Jesus frees people from all forms of oppression and that this freedom is cause for joy.
"Oppressed is the one who feels crushed by something that happens in life: illness, struggles, burdens on the heart, feelings of guilt, errors, vices, sins," said Pope Francis. "Let us think, for example, about feelings of guilt. How many of us have suffered from this?"
"If someone feels guilty about something they did and they feel bad," he said, "the good news is that with Jesus this ancient evil of sin, which seems unbeatable, no longer has the last word."
"God forgets all of our sins, he has no memory of them," the pope said. Even if someone repeatedly commits the same sins, God also "will always do the same thing: forgive you, embrace you."
Pope Francis added that Christians must be joyful in sharing the Gospel, since "the faith is a stupendous love story to be shared."
Bearing witness to Jesus, he said, involves communicating "a gift so beautiful that words cannot express it. But when joy is missing, the Gospel does not come through" since the Gospel itself is a proclamation of joy.
"A sad Christian can speak about beautiful things, but it is all in vain if the message he or she conveys is not happy," he said.
Christians are called to be guides who lead others to accept God's love. For Christians, he said, "life is no longer a blind march to nowhere" determined by chance, health or even finances, but an invitation to love.
Pope Francis urged Christians to joyfully share the message to the poor and said that God calls on each person to make themselves interiorly poor. The quickest way to encounter Jesus, he said, is to "put yourself in need: in need of grace, in need of forgiveness, in need of joy, and he will come to you."
Ahead of Holocaust Remembrance Day Jan. 27, Pope Francis also remembered the "extermination of millions of Jewish people, and those of other faiths, that cannot ever be forgotten or denied."
"There cannot be a commitment to building fraternity without first eliminating the roots of hate and violence that fueled the horror of the Holocaust," he said.