- POPE FRANCIS: CHRIST'S MESSAGE IS MERCY
- ANGELUS: “IF GOD DIDN'T FORGIVE EVERYONE, THE WORLD WOULD NOT EXIST.”
POPE FRANCIS: CHRIST'S MESSAGE IS MERCY
Vatican City, 17 March 2013 (VIS) – This morning, Pope Francis celebrated Mass at the Vatican parish of St. Anna, the doors of which were crowded from the earliest morning hours with a large number of people. The pontiff was greeted by Cardinal Angelo Comastri, his vicar general for Vatican City State.
Today's Gospel, on this Fifth Sunday in Lent, narrates the story of the adulterous woman whom the Pharisees want to stone. Instead, Christ forgives her, and those who accused her disperse, intimidated by Jesus' bending down to write on the ground with His finger.
In his homily, the Holy Father recalled that, before this story, Jesus had retired to the mountain to pray and later had gone down to the Temple where everyone listened to him. In the end, they left him alone with the woman. “Jesus' solitude!”, he said. “It is a fruitful solitude—both that of His prayer with the Father as well as the other, so beautiful, ... of his mercy toward this woman. This is the Church's message today.”
“There is a difference between the people,” he continued. “On the one hand are the people who come to listen to him and before whom He takes a seat and teaches. These are the people who want to listen to Jesus' words; the people with open hearts, in need of the Word of God.” Nevertheless, “there were others who didn't listen, who could not listen. Among those were the ones who had gone to him with that woman, wanting him to condemn her. … I also think we are like this people who, on the one hand want to listen to Jesus, but, on the other hand, at times, like to be cruel to others, isn't that right? To condemn others, right? This is Jesus' message: mercy. On my part, I say it with humility; this is the the Lord's strongest message: mercy. He himself said: 'I did not come for the righteous'. The righteous can justify themselves. … Jesus came for the sinners.”
For example, think of the gossip after the call of Matthew: 'but that one keeps company with sinners!' And He has come for us, when we recognize that we are sinners. But if we are like the Pharisee before the altar—'Oh God, I thank you that I am not like the rest of humanity—greedy, dishonest, adulterous—or even like this tax collector.'—then we do not know the Lord's heart and we will never have the joy of feeling this mercy! It is not easy to trust in God's mercy because it is an incomprehensible abyss. But we must do it!”
The Pope explained that sometimes people say to priests: “'Oh, Father, if you knew my life you wouldn't say that.' 'Why? What have you done?' 'Oh, I've done bad things.' 'Good! Go to Jesus; He likes you to tell him these things. He forgets. He has the special ability to forget. He forgets them, kisses you, embraces you, and tells you only: 'Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more.' He only gives you this counsel. A month later we are the same … We return to the Lord. The Lord never tires of forgiving us, never! We are the ones who get tired of asking forgiveness. Let us ask for the grace to never tire of asking forgiveness, because He never tires of forgiving us. Let us ask for this grace.”
At the end of the Mass, the Pope presented some of those who were present at the celebration:
“Here are a few who aren't parishioners, these Argentinian priests. One is my auxiliary bishop but today they are my parishioners. I also want you to meet a priest who comes from very far away and is here: a priest who, for a long time, has worked with street kids and drug addicts. He opened a school for them and has done many things so that they might know Jesus. All of those street kids have a job today thanks to what they were able to study. They are capable of working. They believe in and love Jesus.” The Pope then addressed the priests, saying: “Come, come and greet the people.” And to all: “Pray for this man. He works in Uruguay. He is the founder of the John Paul II high school; that's his job. I don't know how he got here today. I understand. Thank you. Pray for him.”
After greeting the parishioners, the Pope appeared at the Vatican's Porta Angelica Street, next to the Santa Anna Gate that is one of the entrances into the Vatican City State, to greet the thousands of people who wanted to see him before he prayed his first Angelus as Pope.
ANGELUS: “IF GOD DIDN'T FORGIVE EVERYONE, THE WORLD WOULD NOT EXIST.”
Vatican City, 17 March 2013 (VIS) – “Never forget this: the Lord never tires of forgiving us. Have you thought about the patience that God has with each of us?” These were the words that Pope Francis addressed to the nearly 200,000 people who had travelled from around Italy and from around the world in previous days to be able to live this first Angelus with the new Pope.
The event lasted only 15 minutes, many of which passed in attentive silence from the people assembled. “If God did not forgive us all, the world would not exist,” the Holy Father affirmed. The Roman Pontiff, Francis, spoke only in Italian. In the crowd, on his father's shoulders, three-year-old Francesco said, in his child's language: “I like. My Pope.”
The event was days in planning. Through the media—above all TV and the radio—many already had an idea of who the new Pope is. “I saw him on TV and I was moved … by his humility. … He is one of us,” commented 30-year-old Angelica who had gotten up at 6:00am this morning to arrive at St. Peter's.
The Holy Father commented on the day's Gospel reading, the passages that recount the story of the adulterous woman. “God's face is that of a merciful father who is always patient. … He never tires of forgiving us if we know how to return to him with a contrite heart. 'Great is the Lord's mercy',” was the new Pope's profound message. He combined his written text with spontaneous, off-the-cuff comments, which were full of good humour. Following is the complete text of the Pope's words.
“Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!”, the Pope began. After our first meeting last Wednesday, today I again give my greetings to you all! And I am happy to do it on Sunday, the Lord's Day! This is beautiful and important for us Christians: to meet on Sunday, to greet one another, to talk as we are doing now, in the square. This square that, thanks to the media, takes on worldly dimensions.”
“In this Fifth Sunday of Lent, the Gospel presents us with the story of the adulterous woman whom Jesus saves from being condemned to death. It captures Jesus' attitude: we do not hear words of contempt, we do not hear words of condemnation, but only words of love, of mercy, that invite us to conversion. 'Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more!' Well, brothers and sisters! God's face is that of a merciful father who is always patient. Have you thought about God's patience, the patience that He has with each of us? That is His mercy. He always has patience, is always patient with us, understanding us, awaiting us, never tiring of forgiving us if we know how to return to him with a contrite heart. 'Great is the Lord's mercy', says the Psalm.
“In these days, I have been able to read a book by a cardinal—Cardinal Kasper, a talented theologian, a good theologian—on mercy. And it did me such good, that book, but don't think that I'm publicizing the books of my cardinals. That is not the case! But it did me such good, so much good... Cardinal Kasper said that hearing the word mercy changes everything. It is the best thing that we can hear: it changes the world. A bit of mercy makes the world less cold and more just. We need to understand God's mercy well, this merciful Father who has such patience... Think of the prophet Isaiah who asserts that even if our sins were scarlet red, God's love would make them white as snow. That is beautiful, [this aspect of mercy]. I remember when, just after I was made bishop, in 1992, the Madonna of Fatima came to Buenos Aires and a large Mass for the sick was celebrated. I went to hear confessions at that Mass. Near the end of the Mass I got up because I had to administer a confirmation. An over 80-year-old woman came up to me, humbly, very humbly. I asked her: 'Nonna [grandmother]—because that's how we address our elderly—Nonna, you want to confess?' 'Yes', she told me. 'But if you haven't sinned...' And she said to me: 'We have all sinned...' 'But perhaps the Lord will not forgive you...' 'The Lord forgives everyone', she told me, with certainy. 'But how do you know that, ma'am?' 'If the Lord didn't forgive everyone, the world would not exist.' I wanted to ask her: 'Tell me, have you studied at the Gregorian [Pontifical University]?', because that is the wisdom that the Holy Spirit gives: the inner wisdom of God's mercy. Let us not forget this word: God never tires of forgiving us, never! 'So, Father, what is the problem?' Well, the problem is that we get tired, we don't want to, we get tired of asking forgiveness. Let us never get tired. Let us never get tired. He is the loving Father who always forgives, who has that heart of mercy for all of us. And let us also learn to be merciful with everyone. Let us call upon the intercession of the Madonna who has held in her arms the Mercy of God made human.”
After praying the Angelus, the Pope greeted the tens of thousands of faithful who overflowed St. Peter's Square: “Thank you for your welcome and your prayers,” he said. I ask that you pray for me. I renew my embrace to the faithful of Rome and extend it to all of you who have come from various parts of Italy and the world just as to those who are joining in with us by means of the media. I have chosen the name of the Patron Saint of Italy, St. Francis of Assisi, and this reinforces my spiritual ties to this land that, as you know, is where my family originated. But Jesus has called us to be part of a new family: his Church. [He has called] this family of God to walk together the paths of the Gospel. May the Lord bless you and the Virgin protect you! And don't forget this: The Lord never tires of forgiving. We are the ones who tire of asking forgiveness.”
The Pope's final words to the crowd gathered in the square were greeted with deafening applause: “Have a good Sunday and enjoy your lunch!” They were only 15 minutes, a quarter of an hour that, for many thousands, held a stronger interest than the other two competing activities taking place in Rome today: the city's marathon and the Quirinal Palace's open house.
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