While healing was at the forefront of Jesus’ ministry, Pope Francis said that he always started with the essential act of forgiving the sins of those who appealed to him for help.
“Jesus teaches us to go to what is essential,” the Catholic News Service cites Pope Francis as telling a Mass congregation at St. Martha House in Vatican City on Jan. 17.
“What is essential is health, complete, body and soul.”
His comments were delivered while delivering a reading form the Gospel of St. Mark, which provides an account of Jesus healing and forgiving a paralytic man in the town of Capernaum.
The pope noted that Jesus first said: “Son, your sins are forgiven,” only later healing the man so as to teach a lesson to those who had gathered to see him.
“Physical healing is a gift, physical health is a gift that we must safeguard,” Pope Francis said. “But the Lord teaches us that we must safeguard the health of our hearts — our spiritual health — as well,” he said, adding that healing beings with recognition that one is unwell.
Pope Francis said it was not enough to generally recognize that all people are sinners, as that takes away from the knowledge and consequences of one’s own sins and the need for healing.
He likewise said that just as people seek out a doctor when suffering from a physical ailment, when suffering spiritually, “we go to that physician who can heal us, who can forgive our sins. Jesus came for this reason; he gave his life for this.”
The pope continued: “Today Jesus says to each of us, ‘I want to forgive your sins’.”