During his visit to a Philadelphia correctional facility this morning, Pope Francis said every person is marked and bruised by life, but Jesus washes away our sins and invites us to live a full life.
“Life is a journey, along different roads, different paths, which leave our mark on us,” the Pope said. “All of us need to be cleansed, to be washed. All of us are being sought out by the Teacher, who wants to help us resume our journey.”
“The Lord goes in search of us; to all of us he stretches out a helping hand.”
Pope Francis met with some 100 inmates and their families at Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility, in one of the last public events of his pastoral visit to the United States. The inmates were Christian and Muslim, and racially diverse. According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, their charges ranged from murder and rape to robbery and drug offenses.
The Pope centered his reflections on the Gospel scene in which Jesus washes the feet of his disciples. At the time, the gesture was a sign of welcome because guests’ feet were frequently dusty, cut and bruised by the dust and stones on the roads.
“That is why we see Jesus washing feet, our feet, the feet of his disciples, then and now,” Pope Francis reflected. We know in faith that Jesus seeks us out. He wants to heal our wounds, to soothe our feet, which hurt from travelling alone, to wash each of us clean from our journey.”
The Pope then stressed that Jesus heals us in order to give us the opportunity to live a full life again.
“The Lord tells us this clearly with a sign: he washes our feet so we can come back to the table. The table from which he wishes no one to be excluded,” the Pope said. “Unless I wash your feet, I will not be able to give you the life which the Father always dreamed of, the life for which he created you.”
“Jesus comes to meet us so that he can restore our dignity as children of God. He wants to help us set out again, to resume our journey, to recover our hope, to restore our faith and trust.”
“He wants us to keep walking along the paths of life, to realize that we have a mission, and that confinement is not the same thing as exclusion.”
Pope Francis challenged inmate, prison workers and society as a whole to see each other with these eyes of Christ, “which are not scandalized by the dust picked up along the way, but want to cleanse, heal and restore.”
He said an inmate’s time in prison should be a time of rehabilitation, and all are called to encourage and assist in this rehabilitation.
“This time in your life can only have one purpose: to give you a hand in getting back on the right road, to give you a hand to help you rejoin society,” he said. “All of us are part of that effort, all of us are invited to encourage, help and enable your rehabilitation.
“(Jesus) asks us to create new opportunities: for inmates, for their families, for correctional authorities, and for society as a whole.”
The Pope lamented prison systems “which are not concerned to care for wounds, to soothe pain, to offer new possibilities.”
“Any society, any family which cannot share or take seriously the pain of its children, and views that pain as something normal or to be expected, is a society “condemned” to remain a hostage to itself, prey to the very things which cause that pain,” he warned.
Pope Francis then reflected that he came to the prison as a pastor and a brother in solidarity with inmates and their families.
“I have come so that we can pray together and offer our God everything that causes us pain, but also everything that gives us hope, so that we can receive from him the power of the resurrection.”
“Let us look to Jesus, who washes our feet. He is “the way, and the true, and the life”. He comes to save us from the lie that says no one can change. May the power of his love and his resurrection always be a path leading you to new life.”