Jesus laid down his life out of love for each person, pope says

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- When Jesus called himself the "good shepherd," he was telling people not only that he was their guide, but that they were important to him and "that he thinks of each of us as the love of his life," Pope Francis said.

"Consider this: for Christ, I am important, he thinks of me, I am irreplaceable, worth the infinite price of his life," which he laid down for the salvation of all, the pope said April 21 before reciting the "Regina Coeli" prayer with visitors in St. Peter's Square.

Jesus was not just saying something nice, the pope said. Each believer should recognize that "he truly gave his life for me; he died and rose again for me. Why? Because he loves me, and he finds in me a beauty that I often do not see myself."

Many people think of themselves as inadequate or undeserving of love, he said. Or they believe their value comes from what they have or are able to do.

In the day's Gospel reading, Jn 10:11-18, "Jesus tells us that we are always infinitely worthy in his eyes," the pope said.

To understand and experience the truth of that statement, Pope Francis said, "the first thing to do is to place ourselves in his presence, allowing ourselves to be welcomed and lifted up by the loving arms of our good shepherd."

The pope asked people in the square to consider if they find or make the time each day "to embrace this assurance that gives value to my life" and "for a moment of prayer, of adoration, of praise, to be in the presence of Christ and to let myself be caressed by him."

That time in prayer, he said, will remind a person that "he gave his life for you, for me, for all of us. And that for him, we are all important, each and every one of us."

After reciting the "Regina Coeli," Pope Francis told the crowd that he continues to follow the tensions in Israel, Palestine and throughout the Middle East "with concern and also with grief."

"I renew my appeal not to give in to the logic of vengeance and war. May the paths of dialogue and diplomacy, which can do so much, prevail," he said. "I pray every day for peace in Palestine and Israel, and I hope that these two peoples may stop suffering soon."

He also asked Catholics to continue to pray for peace in Ukraine and for the people who are suffering because of the war.