VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Humility can change even the most hardened, stubborn heart to one that is docile and open to the Holy Spirit, Pope Francis said.
At times, God allows people to suffer humiliation so that they can pick themselves up from the ground "with the dignity with which God created us," the pope said April 15 in his homily during Mass in the Domus Sanctae Marthae.
The pope reflected on the day's reading, which recounted Saul's conversion as he was traveling to Damascus to persecute Christians. Blinded by a flashing light, Saul is knocked from his horse to the ground and hears a voice saying: "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?"
"(Saul) said, 'Who are you, sir?' The reply came, 'I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.'"
The pope noted that after Saul was blinded, he was humbled and "let himself be led" to Damascus where he remained without sight and food or drink for three days.
"This man was on the ground but he immediately understood that he must accept this humiliation," the pope said. "Humiliation is precisely the way to open the heart. When the Lord sends us humiliations or allows humiliations to come it is for this reason: so that the heart may open, so that it can be docile, so that the heart can convert to the Lord Jesus."
The Bible reading, the pope said, makes it clear that the protagonist of the church's history is neither the scribes nor the apostles but the Holy Spirit who "leads the people of God."
Saul's conversion, he added, is a story of hope that God can change a stubborn heart into "a heart that is docile to the Spirit."
"We all have hardness in our hearts: all of us. If any one of you does not, raise your hand, please. We all do," he said.
Pope Francis invited the faithful to pray for the grace to see that while hardened hearts "throw us to the ground," humiliations come "so that we do not remain on the ground, but get up."