|Recognizing sin, accepting mercy is key to salvation, pope says|
Catholic News ServiceVATICAN CITY — Jesus told his disciples that the entrance to heaven is like a "narrow gate," not because God has made salvation so difficult, but because people find it difficult to recognize their sinfulness and accept God's mercy, Pope Francis said.
Jesus is "the gateway to salvation," the pope said Aug. 26 before reciting the Angelus with visitors in St. Peter's Square. "The gate that is Jesus is never closed; this gate is never closed, it is always open and open to everyone, without distinction, without exclusions, without privileges."
The pope said he knew some people would be skeptical and say, "But Father, surely I am excluded, because I am a great sinner. I have done so many things in my life."
But the pope insisted, "No, you are not excluded."
"Jesus prefers the sinner, always, in order to pardon him, to love him," Pope Francis said. "Jesus is waiting for you, to embrace you, to pardon you. Don't be afraid: He's waiting for you."
Commenting on the day's Gospel reading, Luke 13:22-30, the pope said the narrow gate that is Jesus is not the entrance to "a torture chamber."
But Jesus asks "us to open our hearts to him, to recognize ourselves as sinners, in need of his salvation, his forgiveness, his love, needing the humility to accept his mercy and to be renewed by him."
Being a Christian does take some effort, he said. It is "not having a 'label,'" but living and witnessing to the faith "in prayer, in works of charity, in promoting justice, in doing good. For the narrow gate which is Christ must pass into our whole life."
Pope Francis urged the tens of thousands of people gathered in St. Peter's Square not to be afraid "to pass through the gate of faith in Jesus, to let him enter more and more into our lives, to go out of our selfishness, our being closed in, our indifference toward others."
Jesus, he said, can light up a person's life with "a light that never goes out." The light of faith is not flashy or momentary like fireworks, he said. "No, it is a soft light that always endures and that gives us peace. That is the light that we meet if we enter through the gate of Jesus."