Entry 0454: Reflections on the Third Sunday of Lent
by Pope Francis (Updated)
On three occasions during his pontificate, Pope Francis has delivered reflections on the Third Sunday of Lent, on 23 March 2014, 8 March 2015, and 28 February 2016. Here are the texts of three reflections prior to the recitation of the Angelus and two homilies delivered on these occasions.
Saint Peter’s Square, Third Sunday of Lent, 23 March 2014
Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!
Today’s Gospel presents Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan woman in Sicar, near an old well where the woman went to draw water daily. That day, she found Jesus seated, “wearied as he was with his journey” (Jn 4:6). He immediately says to her: “Give me a drink” (v. 7). In this way he overcomes the barriers of hostility that existed between Jews and Samaritans and breaks the mould of prejudice against women. This simple request from Jesus is the start of a frank dialogue, through which he enters with great delicacy into the interior world of a person to whom, according to social norms, he should not have spoken. But Jesus does! Jesus is not afraid. When Jesus sees a person he goes ahead, because he loves. He loves us all. He never hesitates before a person out of prejudice. Jesus sets her own situation before her, not by judging her but by making her feel worthy, acknowledged, and thus arousing in her the desire to go beyond the daily routine.
Jesus’ thirst was not so much for water, but for the encounter with a parched soul. Jesus needed to encounter the Samaritan woman in order to open her heart: he asks for a drink so as to bring to light her own thirst. The woman is moved by this encounter: she asks Jesus several profound questions that we all carry within but often ignore. We, too, have many questions to ask, but we don’t have the courage to ask Jesus! Lent, dear brothers and sisters, is the opportune time to look within ourselves, to understand our truest spiritual needs, and to ask the Lord’s help in prayer. The example of the Samaritan woman invites us to exclaim: “Jesus, give me a drink that will quench my thirst forever.”
The Gospel says that the disciples marveled that their Master was speaking to this woman. But the Lord is greater than prejudice, which is why he was not afraid to address the Samaritan woman: mercy is greater than prejudice. We must learn this well! Mercy is greater than prejudice, and Jesus is so very merciful, very! The outcome of that encounter by the well was the woman’s transformation: “the woman left her water jar” (v. 28), with which she had come to draw water, and ran to the city to tell people about her extraordinary experience. “I found a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?” She was excited. She had gone to draw water from the well, but she found another kind of water, the living water of mercy from which gushes forth eternal life. She found the water she had always sought! She runs to the village, that village which had judged her, condemned her and rejected her, and she announces that she has met the Messiah: the one who has changed her life. Because every encounter with Jesus changes our lives, always. It is a step forward, a step closer to God. And thus every encounter with Jesus changes our life. It is always, always this way.
In this Gospel passage we likewise find the impetus to “leave behind our water jar,” the symbol of everything that is seemingly important, but loses all its value before the “love of God.” We all have one, or more than one! I ask you, and myself: “What is your interior water jar, the one that weighs you down, that distances you from God?” Let us set it aside a little and with our hearts; let us hear the voice of Jesus offering us another kind of water, another water that brings us close to the Lord. We are called to rediscover the importance and the sense of our Christian life, initiated in Baptism and, like the Samaritan woman, to witness to our brothers. A witness of what? Joy! To witness to the joy of the encounter with Jesus; for, as I said, every encounter with Jesus changes our life, and every encounter with Jesus also fills us with joy, the joy that comes from within. And the Lord is like this. And so we must tell of the marvelous things the Lord can do in our hearts when we have the courage to set aside our own water jar.
Saint Peter’s Square, Third Sunday of Lent, 8 March 2015
Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning,
Today’s Gospel presents the episode of the expulsion of the merchants from the temple (Jn 2:13-25). Jesus made “a whip of cords, he drove them all, with the sheep and oxen, out of the temple” (Jn 2:15), the money, everything. Such a gesture gave rise to strong impressions in the people and in the disciples. It clearly appeared as a prophetic gesture, so much so that some of those present asked Jesus: “What sign have you to show us for doing this?” (v. 18), who are you to do these things? Show us a sign that you have authority to do them. They were seeking a divine and prodigious sign that would confirm that Jesus was sent by God. And He responded: “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up” (v. 19). They replied: “It has taken 46 years to build this temple, and you will raise it up in three days?” (v. 20). They did not understand that the Lord was referring to the living temple of his body, that would be destroyed in the death on the Cross, but would be raised on the third day. Thus, in three days. “When therefore he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that He had said this; and they believed the Scripture and the word Jesus had spoken” (v. 22).
In effect, this gesture of Jesus and His prophetic message are fully understood in the light of his Paschal Mystery. We have here, according to the evangelist John, the first proclamation of the death and resurrection of Christ: His body, destroyed on the Cross by the violence of sin, will become in the Resurrection the universal meeting place between God and mankind. And the Risen Christ is Himself the universal meeting place—for everyone!—between God and mankind. For this reason, his humanity is the true temple where God is revealed, speaks, is encountered; and the true worshippers, the true worshippers of God are not only the guardians of the material temple, the keepers of power and of religious knowledge, [but] they are those who worship God “in spirit and truth” (Jn 4:23).
In this time of Lent we are preparing for the celebration of Easter, when we will renew the promises of our Baptism. Let us walk in the world as Jesus did, and let us make our whole existence a sign of our love for our brothers, especially the weakest and poorest, let us build for God a temple of our lives. And so we make it “encounterable” for those who we find along our journey. If we are witnesses of the Living Christ, so many people will encounter Jesus in us, in our witness. But, we ask—and each one of us can ask ourselves—does the Lord feel at home in my life? Do we allow Him to “cleanse” our hearts and to drive out the idols, those attitudes of cupidity, jealousy, worldliness, envy, hatred, those habits of gossiping and tearing down others. Do I allow Him to cleanse all the behaviors that are against God, against our neighbour, and against ourselves, as we heard today in the first
Each one can answer for him/herself, in the silence of his/her heart: “Do I allow
Jesus to make my heart a little cleaner?” “Oh Father, I fear the rod!” But Jesus
never strikes. Jesus cleanses with tenderness, mercy, love. Mercy is the His way
of cleansing. Let us, each of us, let us allow the Lord to enter with His mercy—not
with the whip, no, with His mercy—to cleanse our hearts. With us, Jesus’ whip is
His mercy. Let us open to Him the gates so that He will make us a little purer.
Every Eucharist that we celebrate with faith makes us grow as a living temple of the Lord, thanks to the communion with His crucified and risen Body. Jesus recognizes what is in each of us, and knows well our most ardent desires: that of being inhabited by Him, only by Him. Let us allow Him to enter into our lives, into our families, into our hearts. May Mary most holy, the privileged dwelling place of the Son of God, accompany us and sustain us on the Lenten journey, so that we might be able to rediscover the beauty of the encounter with Christ, the only One who frees us and saves us.
PASTORAL VISIT TO THE PARISH OF “OGNISSANTI”
HOMILY OF POPE FRANCIS
On the occasion of Jewish Passover, Jesus goes to
When He arrives at the temple, He does not find people seeking God, but people conducting
business: merchants of livestock for sacrificial offerings; money-changers, those
who exchange the “impure” money bearing the emperor’s image with coins approved
by the religious authority in order to pay the annual temple fee. What do we find
when we go, when we go to our temples? I’ll leave this question. Ignoble trade,
a source of lavish earnings, provokes a forceful response from Jesus. He overturns
the tables and throws the money to the ground, and sends the merchants away, telling
them: “you shall not make my Father’s house a house of trade”! (Jn 2:16).
This expression does not merely refer to the dealings in the temple courtyards. It instead refers to a type of religiosity. This act of Jesus is an act of “cleansing,” of purification, and the attitude He renounces can be gleaned from the prophetic texts, according to which God does not appreciate exterior worship performed with material sacrifices and based on personal interests (see Is 1:11-17; Jer 7:2-11). This act is a reference to authentic worship, to a correspondence between liturgy and life; an appeal that applies in every age and even for us today—that correspondence between liturgy and life. The liturgy is not something unusual, over there, far away, and while celebrating I think about many things, or I pray the Rosary. No, no. There is a correspondence, between the liturgical celebration which we then carry in our life; and we must always persevere in this, we still have a long way to go.
The Conciliar Constitution Sacrosanctum Concilium defines the liturgy as “the primary and indispensable source from which the faithful are to derive the true Christian spirit” (no. 14). This means reaffirming the essential bond that unites the life of a disciple of Jesus with liturgical worship. This is not primarily a doctrine to be understood, or a rite to be performed; naturally it is also this, but in another way, it is essentially different: it is a font of life and of light for our pilgrimage of faith.
Therefore, the Church calls us to have and to foster an authentic liturgical life, so that there may be harmony between that which the liturgy celebrates and that which we experience in our lives. It means expressing in life what we have received through the faith and how much we have celebrated here (see Sacrosanctum Concilium, no. 10).
A disciple of Jesus does not go to Church simply to observe a precept, to feel he/she is in good standing with God who then will not “disturb” him/her too much. “But Lord, I go every Sunday, I do, don’t interfere in my life, don’t disturb me.” This is the attitude of so many Catholics, so many. A disciple of Jesus goes to Church to encounter the Lord and to find in his grace, operating in the Sacraments, the power to think and act according to the Gospel. This is why we cannot mislead ourselves of being able to enter the Lord’s house and “cover up,” with prayer and acts of devotion, conduct contrary to the requirements of justice, honesty and/or charity to our neighbour. We cannot substitute with “religious tributes” what is owed to our neighbour, postponing true conversion. Worship, liturgical celebrations, are the privileged setting to hear the voice of the Lord, who guides us on the path of rectitude and Christian perfection.
It is instead about fulfilling an itinerary of conversion and atonement, to remove the remnants of sin, as Jesus did, cleansing the temple of wretched interests. Lent is the appropriate time for all of this, it is the time of inner renewal, of the remission of sins, the time at which we are called to rediscover the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation, which lets us pass from the shadows of sin to the light of grace and of friendship with Jesus. The great power this Sacrament has in Christian life must not be forgotten: it enables us to grow in union with God, and lets us reacquire lost joy and experience the comfort of feeling personally held in God’s merciful embrace.
Dear brothers and sisters, this temple was built thanks to the apostolic zeal of St Luigi Orione. Here, 50 years ago, Blessed Paul VI inaugurated, in a certain sense, the liturgical reform with the celebration of the Mass in the language spoken by the people. I hope that this circumstance may rekindle in all of you love for the house of God. May you find great spiritual help there. Here you are able to feel, each time you want it, the regenerative power of personal prayer and of communal prayer. May listening to the Word of God, proclaimed in the liturgical assembly, sustain you on the journey of your Christian life. May you meet within these walls not as strangers but as brothers and sisters, capable of willingly shaking hands, as you are joined by love for Christ, the foundation of the hope and commitment of every believer.
In this Holy Mass, let us trustingly embrace Him, Jesus Christ, the Cornerstone, renewing the intention to commit ourselves through the purification and interior cleansing of the spiritual edifice of the Church, of which each of us is a living part by the power of Baptism. So be it.
VISIT TO THE PARISH OF
“SANTA MARIA MADRE
DEL REDENTORE A TOR BELLA MONACA”
HOMILY OF POPE FRANCIS
In the Gospel passage that we heard, there are two things that strike me: an image and a word. The image is that of Jesus, with whip in hand, driving out all those who took advantage of the
Temple to do business. These profiteers who sold animals
for sacrifices, changed coins. There was the sacred—the Temple,
sacred—and this filth, outside. This is the image. And Jesus takes the whip and
goes forth, to somewhat cleanse the Temple.
And the phrase, the word, is there where it says that so many people believe in Him, a horrible phrase: “but Jesus did not trust himself to them, because he knew all men and needed no one to bear witness of man; for he himself knew what was in man” (Jn 2:24-25).
We cannot deceive Jesus. He knows us from within. He did not trust them. He, Jesus did not trust them. And this can be a fine mid-Lenten question: Can Jesus trust Himself to me? Can Jesus trust me, or am I two-faced? Do I play the Catholic, one close to the Church, and then live as a pagan? “But Jesus doesn’t know, no one goes and tells Him about it.” He knows. “He needed no one to bear witness; indeed, He knew what was in man.” Jesus knows all that there is in our heart. We cannot deceive Jesus. In front of Him, we cannot pretend to be saints, and close our eyes, act like this, and then live a life that is not what He wants. And He knows. And we all know the name He gave to those who had two faces: hypocrites.
It will do us good today, to enter our hearts and look at Jesus. To say to Him: “Lord, look, there are good things, but there are also things that aren’t good. Jesus, do You trust me? I am a sinner.” This doesn’t scare Jesus. If you tell Him: “I’m a sinner,” it doesn’t scare Him. What distances Him is one who is two-faced: showing him/herself as just in order to cover up hidden sin. “But I go to Church, every Sunday, and I.” Yes, we can say all of this. But if your heart isn’t just, if you don’t do justice, if you don’t love those who need love, if you do not live according to the spirit of the Beatitudes, you are not Catholic. You are a hypocrite. First: can Jesus trust Himself to me? In prayer, let us ask Him: Lord, do You trust me?
Second, the gesture. When we enter our hearts, we find things that aren’t okay, things that aren’t good, as Jesus found that filth of profiteering, of the profiteers, in the
Temple. Inside of us too, there
are unclean things, there are sins of selfishness, of arrogance, pride, greed, envy,
jealousy, so many sins! We can even continue the dialogue with Jesus: “Jesus, do
You trust me? I want You to trust me. Thus I open the door to You, and You cleanse
my soul.” Ask the Lord that, as He went to cleanse the Temple,
He may come to cleanse your soul. We imagine that He comes with a whip of cords.
No, He doesn’t cleanse the soul with that! Do you know what kind of whip Jesus uses
to cleanse our soul? Mercy. Open your heart to Jesus’ mercy! Say: “Jesus, look how
much filth! Come, cleanse. Cleanse with Your mercy, with Your tender words, cleanse
with Your caresses.” If we open our heart to Jesus’ mercy, in order to cleanse our
heart, our soul, Jesus will trust Himself to us.
Saint Peter’s Square, Third Sunday of Lent, 28 February 2016
Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!
Unfortunately, every day the press reports bad news: homicides, accidents, catastrophes. In today’s Gospel passage, Jesus refers to two tragic events which had caused a stir: a cruel suppression carried out by Roman soldiers in the temple, and the collapse of the tower of Siloam in Jerusalem, which resulted in 18 deaths (see Lk 13:1-5).
Jesus is aware of the superstitious mentality of his listeners and he knows that they misinterpreted that type of event. In fact, they thought that, if those people died in such a cruel way it was a sign that God was punishing them for some grave sin they had committed, as if to say “they deserved it.” Instead, the fact that they were saved from such a disgrace made them feel “good about themselves.” They “deserved it;” “I’m fine.”
Jesus clearly rejects this outlook, because God does not allow tragedies in order to punish sins, and he affirms that those poor victims were no worse than others. Instead, he invites his listeners to draw from these sad events a lesson that applies to everyone, because we are all sinners; in fact, he said to those who questioned him, “Unless you repent you will all likewise perish” (v. 3).
Today too, seeing certain misfortunes and sorrowful events, we can be tempted to “unload” the responsibility onto the victims, or even onto God himself. But the Gospel invites us to reflect: What idea do we have of God? Are we truly convinced that God is like that, or isn’t that just our projection, a god made to “our image and likeness?”
Jesus, on the contrary, invites us to change our heart, to make a radical about-face on the path of our lives, to abandon compromises with evil—and this is something we all do, compromises with evil, hypocrisy. I think that nearly all of us has a little hypocrisy—in order to decidedly take up the path of the Gospel. But again there is the temptation to justify ourselves. What should we convert from? Aren’t we basically good people?—How many times have we thought this: “But after all I am a good man, I’m a good woman,” isn’t that true? “Am I not a believer and even quite a churchgoer?” And we believe that this way we are justified.
Unfortunately, each of us strongly resembles the tree that, over many years, has repeatedly shown that it’s infertile. But, fortunately for us, Jesus is like a farmer who, with limitless patience, still obtains a concession for the fruitless vine. “Let it alone this year”—he said to the owner—“we shall see if it bears fruit next year” (see v. 9).
A “year” of grace: the period of Christ’s ministry, the time of the Church before his glorious return, an interval of our life, marked by a certain number of Lenten seasons, which are offered to us as occasions of repentance and salvation, the duration of a Jubilee Year of Mercy. The invincible patience of Jesus! Have you thought about the patience of God? Have you ever thought as well of his limitless concern for sinners? How it should lead us to impatience with ourselves! It’s never too late to convert, never. God’s patience awaits us until the last moment.
Remember that little story from St Thérèse of the Child Jesus, when she prayed for that man who was condemned to death, a criminal, who did not want to receive the comfort of the Church. He rejected the priest, he didn’t want [forgiveness], he wanted to die like that. And she prayed in the convent, and when, at the moment of being executed, the man turned to the priest, took the Crucifix and kissed it. The patience of God! He does the same with us, with all of us. How many times, we don’t know—we’ll know in heaven—but how many times we are there, there, [about to fall off the edge] and the Lord saves us. He saves us because he has great patience with us. And this is his mercy. It’s never too late to convert, but it’s urgent. Now is the time! Let us begin today.
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For reflections on the Third Sunday of Lent
by Pope Benedict XVI,
please scroll down to the bottom of this page.
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For reflections on the Third Sunday of Lent
by Pope Benedict XVI,
please scroll down to the bottom of this page.
* * * * *