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Monday, March 27, 2017

0521: Reflections on the Fifth Sunday of Lent
by Pope Francis



Entry 0521: Reflections on the Fifth Sunday of Lent   

by Pope Francis 


On four occasions during his pontificate, Pope Francis has delivered reflections on the Fifth Sunday of Lent, on 17 March 2013, 6 April 2014, 22 March 2015, and 13 March 2016. Here are the texts of four reflections prior to the recitation of the Angelus and two homilies delivered on these occasions.


POPE FRANCIS

ANGELUS

Saint Peter’s Square, Fifth Sunday of Lent, 17 March 2013

Brothers and Sisters, good morning!

After our first meeting last Wednesday, today I can once again address my greeting to you all! And I am glad to do so on a Sunday, on the Lord’s Day! This is beautiful and important for us Christians: to meet on Sundays, to greet each other, to speak to each other as we are doing now, in the square. A square which, thanks to the media, has global dimensions.

On this Fifth Sunday of Lent, the Gospel presents to us the episode of the adulterous woman (see Jn 8:1-11), whom Jesus saves from being condemned to death. Jesus’ attitude is striking: we do not hear words of scorn, we do not hear words of condemnation, but only words of love, of mercy, which are an invitation to conversion. “Neither do I condemn you; go, and do not sin again” (v. 11). Ah! Brothers and Sisters, God’s face is the face of a merciful father who is always patient. Have you thought about God’s patience, the patience he has with each one of us? That is his mercy. He always has patience, patience with us, he understands us, he waits for us, he does not tire of forgiving us if we are able to return to him with a contrite heart. “Great is God’s mercy,” says the Psalm.

In the past few days I have been reading a book by a Cardinal—Cardinal Kasper, a clever theologian, a good theologian—on mercy. And that book did me a lot of good, but do not think I am promoting my cardinals’ books! Not at all! Yet it has done me so much good, so much good. Cardinal Kasper said that feeling mercy, that this word changes everything. This is the best thing we can feel: it changes the world. A little mercy makes the world less cold and more just. We need to understand properly this mercy of God, this merciful Father who is so patient. Let us remember the Prophet Isaiah who says that even if our sins were scarlet, God’s love would make them white as snow. This mercy is beautiful! I remember, when I had only just become a bishop in the year 1992, the statue of Our Lady of Fatima had just arrived in Buenos Aires and a big Mass was celebrated for the sick. I went to hear confessions at that Mass. And almost at the end of the Mass I stood up, because I had to go and administer a First Confirmation. And an elderly woman approached me, humble, very humble, and over eighty years old. I looked at her, and I said, “Grandmother”—because in our country that is how we address the elderly—“do you want to make your confession?” “Yes,” she said to me. “But if you have not sinned.” And she said to me: “We all have sins.” “But perhaps the Lord does not forgive them.” “The Lord forgives all things,” she said to me with conviction. “But how do you know, Madam?” “If the Lord did not forgive everything, the world would not exist.” I felt an urge to ask her: “Tell me, Madam, did you study at the Gregorian [University]?” because that is the wisdom which the Holy Spirit gives: inner wisdom focused on God’s mercy. Let us not forget this word: God never ever tires of forgiving us! “Well, Father what is the problem?” Well, the problem is that we ourselves tire, we do not want to ask, we grow weary of asking for forgiveness. He never tires of forgiving, but at times we get tired of asking for forgiveness.

Let us never tire, let us never tire! He is the loving Father who always pardons, who has that heart of mercy for us all. And let us too learn to be merciful to everyone. Let us invoke the intercession of Our Lady who held in her arms the Mercy of God made man.

Let us now all pray the Angelus together:

After the Angelus:

I address a cordial greeting to all the pilgrims. Thank you for your welcome and for your prayers. Pray for me, I ask it of you. I renew my embrace of the faithful of Rome and I extend it to all of you, who come from various parts of Italy and of the world, as well as to all those who have joined us through the media.

I have chosen the name of the Patron of Italy, St Francis of Assisi, and this strengthens my spiritual ties with this country where, as you know, my family comes from. However Jesus has called us to belong to a new family: his Church, to this family of God, walking together on the path of the Gospel. May the Lord bless you and may Our Lady keep you. Do not forget this: the Lord never tires of forgiving! It is we who tire of asking forgiveness.

Have a good Sunday and a good lunch!


HOLY MASS IN THE PARISH OF SAINT ANNA IN THE VATICAN

HOMILY OF POPE FRANCIS

Fifth Sunday of Lent, 17 March 2013

This is a beautiful story. First we have Jesus alone on the mountain, praying. He was praying alone (see Jn 8:1). Then he went back to the Temple, and all the people went to him (see v. 2). Jesus in the midst of the people. And then, at the end, they left him alone with the woman (see v. 9). That solitude of Jesus! But it is a fruitful solitude: the solitude of prayer with the Father, and the beautiful solitude that is the Church’s message for today: the solitude of his mercy towards this woman.

And among the people we see a variety of attitudes: there were all the people who went to him; he sat and began to teach them: the people who wanted to hear the words of Jesus, the people with open hearts, hungry for the word of God. There were others who did not hear anything, who could not hear anything; and there were those who brought along this woman: Listen, Master, this woman has done such and such, we must do what Moses commanded us to do with women like this (see vv. 4-5).

I think we too are the people who, on the one hand want to listen to Jesus, but on the other hand, at times, like to find a stick to beat others with, to condemn others. And Jesus has this message for us: mercy. I think—and I say it with humility—that this is the Lord’s most powerful message: mercy. It was he himself who said: “I did not come for the righteous.” The righteous justify themselves. Go on, then, even if you can do it, I cannot! But they believe they can. “I came for sinners” (Mk 2:17).

Think of the gossip after the call of Matthew: he associates with sinners! (see Mk 2:16). He comes for us, when we recognize that we are sinners. But if we are like the Pharisee, before the altar, who said: I thank you Lord, that I am not like other men, and especially not like the one at the door, like that publican (see Lk 18:11-12), then we do not know the Lord’s heart, and we will never have the joy of experiencing this mercy! It is not easy to entrust oneself to God’s mercy, because it is an abyss beyond our comprehension. But we must! “Oh, Father, if you knew my life, you would not say that to me!” “Why, what have you done?” “Oh, I am a great sinner!” “All the better! Go to Jesus: he likes you to tell him these things!” He forgets, he has a very special capacity for forgetting. He forgets, he kisses you, he embraces you and he simply says to you: “Neither do I condemn you; go, and sin no more” (Jn 8:11). That is the only advice he gives you. After a month, if we are in the same situation. Let us go back to the Lord. The Lord never tires of forgiving: never! It is we who tire of asking his forgiveness. Let us ask for the grace not to tire of asking forgiveness, because he never tires of forgiving. Let us ask for this grace.


POPE FRANCIS

ANGELUS

St. Peter’s Square, Fifth Sunday of Lent, 6 April 2014

Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!

The Gospel of this Fifth Sunday of Lent tells us of the resurrection of Lazarus. It is the culmination of the miraculous “signs” worked by Jesus: this act is too great, too clearly divine to be tolerated by the high priests, who, learning of the fact, decided to kill Jesus (see Jn 11:53).

Lazarus had already been dead four days, before Jesus arrived; and what he said to the sisters Martha and Mary is engraved forever in the memory of the Christian community. Jesus speaks like this: “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and whoever lives and believes in me shall never die” (Jn 11:25, 26). With this word of the Lord we believe that the life of whoever believes in Jesus and follows his Commandment after death will be transformed into new life, full and immortal. As Jesus is resurrected with his own body, though he does not return to an earthly life, so too will we be raised with our bodies which will have been transfigured into glorified bodies. He expects us with the Father, and by the power of the Holy Spirit, who raised him, he will also raise those who are united to him.

Before the sealed tomb of his friend Lazarus, Jesus “cried with a loud voice: ‘Lazarus, come out!’ And the dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with bandages, and his face wrapped with a cloth” (vv. 43-44). This cry is an imperative to all men, because we are all marked by death, all of us; it is the voice of the One who is master of life and wants that all we all may “have it abundantly” (Jn 10:10). Christ is not resigned to the tombs that we have built for ourselves with our choice for evil and death, with our errors, with out sins. He is not resigned to this! He invites us, almost orders us, to come out of the tomb in which our sins have buried us. He calls us insistently to come out of the darkness of that prison in which we are enclosed, content with a false, selfish and mediocre life. “Come out!” he says to us, “Come out!” It is an invitation to true freedom, to allow ourselves to be seized by these words of Jesus who repeats them to each one of us today. It is an invitation to let ourselves be freed from the “bandages,” from the bandages of pride. For pride makes of us slaves, slaves to ourselves, slaves to so many idols, so many things. Our resurrection begins here: when we decide to obey Jesus’ command by coming out into the light, into life; when the mask falls from our face—we are frequently masked by sin, the mask must fall off!—and we find again the courage of our original face, created in the image and likeness of God.

Jesus’ act of raising Lazarus shows the extent to which the power of God’s grace can go, and, thus, the extent of our conversion, our transformation. Listen carefully: there is no limit to the divine mercy offered to everyone! There is no limit to divine mercy which is offered to everyone! Remember this sentence. And we can all say it together: “there is no limit to divine mercy which is offered to all people!” Let us say it together: “There is no limit to divine mercy which is offered to everyone!” The Lord is always ready to remove the tombstone of our sins, which keeping us apart from him, the light of the living.


PASTORAL VISIT TO THE PARISH OF SAINT GREGORY THE GREAT IN ROME

HOMILY OF POPE FRANCIS

Fifth Sunday of Lent, 6 April 2014

Today’s Three Readings speak to us about the Resurrection, they speak to us about life. This beautiful promise from the Lord: “Behold I will open your graves, and raise you from your graves” (Ez 37:12), is the promise of the Lord who possesses life and has the power to give life, that those who are dead might regain life. The Second Reading tells us that we are under the Holy Spirit and that Christ in us, his Spirit, will raise us. And in the Third Reading of the Gospel, we saw how Jesus gave life to Lazarus. Lazarus, who was dead, has returned to life.

I would simply like to say something very briefly. We all have within us some areas, some parts of our heart that are not alive, that are a little dead; and some of us have many dead places in our hearts, a true spiritual necrosis! And when we are in this situation, we know it, we want to get out but we can’t. Only the power of Jesus, the power of Jesus can help us come out of these atrophied zones of the heart, these tombs of sin, which we all have. We are all sinners! But if we become very attached to these tombs and guard them within us and do not will that our whole heart rise again to life, we become corrupted and our soul begins to give off, as Martha says, an “odor” (Jn 11:39), the stench of a person who is attached to sin. And Lent is something to do with this. Because all of us, who are sinners, do not end up attached to sin, but that we can hear what Jesus said to Lazarus: “He cried out with a loud voice: ‘Lazarus, come out’” (Jn 11:43).

Today I invite you to think for a moment, in silence, here: where is my interior necrosis? Where is the dead part of my soul? Where is my tomb? Think, for a short moment, all of you in silence. Let us think: what part of the heart can be corrupted because of my attachment to sin, one sin or another? And to remove the stone, to take away the stone of shame and allow the Lord to say to us, as he said to Lazarus: “Come out!” That all our soul might be healed, might be raised by the love of Jesus, by the power of Jesus. He is capable of forgiving us. We all need it! All of us. We are all sinners, but we must be careful not to become corrupt! Sinners we may be, but He forgives us. Let us hear that voice of Jesus who, by the power of God, says to us: “Come out! Leave that tomb you have within you. Come out. I give you life, I give you happiness, I bless you, I want you for myself.”

May the Lord today, on this Sunday, which speaks so much about the Resurrection, give us all the grace to rise from our sins, to come out of our tombs; with the voice of Jesus, calling us to go out, to go to Him.

And another thing: on the Fifth Sunday of Lent, those who are preparing for Baptism in the Church, used to receive the Word of God. In this community today, I will make the same gesture. And I would like to give you the Gospel, which you can take home. This Gospel is a pocket-size Gospel you can carry with you always, to read a short passage at a time; to open it like this and read a part of the Gospel, when I have to queue or when I am on the bus, but only when I am comfortable on the bus, because if I am not then I must guard my pockets! To read a little passage of the Gospel at a time. It will do us so much good, so much good! A little every day. It is a gift, which I brought for your entire community, so that, today, the Fifth Sunday of Lent, you might receive the Word of God and that, thus, you too might hear the voice of Jesus say to you: “Come forth! Come! Come out!” and so prepare for the Easter Vigil.


POPE FRANCIS

ANGELUS

Saint Peter’s Square, Fifth Sunday of Lent, 22 March 2015

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

On this Fifth Sunday of Lent, John the Evangelist draws our attention with a curious detail: some “Greeks,” of the Jewish religion, who have come to Jerusalem for the feast of Passover, turn to Philip and say to him: “We wish to see Jesus” (Jn 12:21). There are many people in the holy city, where Jesus has come for the last time, there are many people. There are the little ones and the simple ones, who have warmly welcomed the Prophet of Nazareth, recognizing Him as the Messenger of the Lord. There are the High Priests and the leaders of the people, who want to eliminate Him because they consider him a heretic and dangerous. There are also people, like those “Greeks,” who are curious to see Him and to know more about his person and about the works He has performed, the last of which—the resurrection of Lazarus—has caused quite a stir.

“We wish to see Jesus:” these words, like so many others in the Gospels, go beyond this particular episode and express something universal; they reveal a desire that passes through the ages and cultures, a desire present in the heart of so many people who have heard of Christ, but have not yet encountered him. “I wish to see Jesus,” thus He feels the heart of these people.

Responding indirectly, in a prophetic way, to that request to be able to see Him, Jesus pronounces a prophecy that reveals his identity and shows the path to know Him truly: “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified” (Jn 12:23). It is the hour of the Cross! It is the time for the defeat of Satan, prince of evil, and of the definitive triumph of the merciful love of God. Christ declares that He will be “lifted up from the earth” (v. 32), an expression with a twofold meaning: “lifted” because He is crucified, and “lifted” because He is exalted by the Father in the Resurrection, to draw everyone to Him and to reconcile mankind with God and among themselves. The hour of the Cross, the darkest in history, is also the source of salvation for those who believe in Him.

Continuing in his prophecy of the imminent Passover, Jesus uses a simple and suggestive image, that of the “‘grain of wheat” that, once fallen into the earth, dies in order to bear fruit (see v. 24). In this image we find another aspect of the Cross of Christ: that of fruitfulness. The death of Jesus, in fact, is an inexhaustible source of new life, because it carries within itself the regenerative strength of God’s love. Immersed in this love through Baptism, Christians can become “grains of wheat” and bear much fruit if they, like Jesus, “lose their life” out of love for God and brothers and sisters (see v. 25).

For this reason, to those who, today too, “wish to see Jesus,” to those who are searching for the face of God; to those who received catechesis when they were little and then developed it no further and perhaps have lost their faith; to so many who have not yet encountered Jesus personally; to all these people we can offer three things: the Gospel, the Crucifix and the witness of our faith, poor but sincere. The Gospel: there we can encounter Jesus, listen to Him, know Him. The Crucifix: the sign of the love of Jesus who gave Himself for us. And then a faith that is expressed in simple gestures of fraternal charity. But mainly in the coherence of life, between what we say and what we do. Coherence between our faith and our life, between our words and our actions: Gospel, Crucifix, Witness.

May Our Lady help us to bring these three things forth.


POPE FRANCIS

ANGELUS

Saint Peter’s Square, Fifth Sunday of Lent, 13 March 2016

Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!

The Gospel of this Fifth Sunday of Lent (see Jn 8:1-11) is so beautiful, I really enjoy reading and rereading it. It presents the episode of the adulterous woman, highlighting the theme of the mercy of God, who never wants the sinner to die, but that the sinner convert and live. The scene unfolds on the Temple grounds. Imagine that there on the parvis [of St Peter’s Basilica], Jesus is teaching the people, when several scribes and Pharisees arrive, dragging before him a woman caught in adultery. That woman is thus placed between Jesus and the crowd (see v. 3), between the mercy of the Son of God and the violence and anger of her accusers. In fact, they did not come to the Teacher to ask his opinion—they were bad people—but to ensnare him. Indeed, were Jesus to follow the stringent law, approving that the woman be stoned, he would lose his reputation of meekness and goodness which so fascinated the people; however, were he to be merciful, he would be flouting the law, which he himself said he did not wish to abolish but fulfill (see Mt 5:17). This is the situation Jesus is placed in.

This wicked intention was hidden behind the question that they asked Jesus: “What do you say about her?” (Jn 8:5). Jesus did not respond; he kept silent and made a mysterious gesture: he “bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground” (v. 7). Perhaps he was drawing, some said that he wrote down the sins of the Pharisees, however, he was writing, as if he were elsewhere. In this way he helped everyone to calm down, not to act on the wave of impulsiveness, and to seek the justice of God. But those wicked men persisted and waited for him to answer. They seemed to thirst for blood. Then Jesus looked up and said: “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her” (v. 7). This response confounded the accusers, disarming all of them in the true sense of the word: they all lay down their “weapons,” that is, the stones ready to be thrown, both the visible ones against the woman and those concealed against Jesus. While the Lord continued to write on the ground, to draw, I don’t know. The accusers went away, one after the other, heads down, beginning with the eldest, most aware of not being without sin. How much good it does us to be aware that we too are sinners! When we speak ill of others—something we know well—how much good it will do us to have the courage to drop down the stones we have to throw at others, and to think a little about our own sins!

Only the woman and Jesus remained: misery and mercy. How often does this happen to us when we stop before the confessional, with shame, to show our misery and ask for forgiveness! “Woman, where are they?” (v. 10), Jesus said to her. This question is enough, and his merciful gaze, full of love, in order to let that person feel—perhaps for the first time—that she has dignity, that she is not her sin, she has personal dignity; that she can change her life, she can emerge from her slavery and walk on a new path.

Dear brothers and sisters, that woman represents all of us. We are sinners, meaning adulterers before God, betrayers of his fidelity. Her experience represents God’s will for each of us: not our condemnation but our salvation through Jesus. He is the grace which saves from sin and from death. On the ground, in the dust of which every human being is made (Gen 2:7), he wrote God’s sentence: “I want not that you die but that you live.” God does not nail us to our sin, he does not identify us by the evil we have committed. We have a name, and God does not identify this name with the sin we have committed. He wants to free us, and wants that we too want it together with him. He wants us to be free to convert from evil to good, and this is possible—it is possible!—with his grace.

May the Virgin Mary help us to entrust ourselves completely to God’s mercy, in order to become new creatures. 



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For reflections on the Fifth Sunday of Lent 

 by Pope Benedict XVI,
please scroll down to the bottom of this page.


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Monday, March 20, 2017

0520: Reflections on the Fourth Sunday of Lent
by Pope Francis



Entry 0520: Reflections on the Fourth Sunday of Lent   

by Pope Francis 


On three occasions during his pontificate, Pope Francis has delivered reflections on the Fourth Sunday of Lent, on 30 March 2014, 15 March 2015, and 6 March 2016. Here are the texts of his three reflections delivered prior to the recitation of the Angelus.


POPE FRANCIS

ANGELUS

Saint Peter’s Square, Fourth Sunday of Lent, 30 March 2014

Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning,

Today’s Gospel sets before us the story of the man born blind, to whom Jesus gives sight. The lengthy account opens with a blind man who begins to see and it closes—and this is curious—with the alleged seers who remain blind in soul. The miracle is narrated by John in just two verses, because the Evangelist does not want to draw attention to the miracle itself, but rather to what follows, to the discussions it arouses, also to the gossip. So many times a good work, a work of charity arouses gossip and discussion, because there are some who do not want to see the truth. The Evangelist John wants to draw attention to something that also occurs in our own day when a good work is performed. The blind man who is healed is first interrogated by the astonished crowd—they saw the miracle and they interrogated him—then by the doctors of the law who also interrogate his parents. In the end the blind man who was healed attains to faith, and this is the greatest grace that Jesus grants him: not only to see, but also to know Him, to see in Him “the light of the world” (Jn 9:5).

While the blind man gradually draws near to the light, the doctors of the law on the contrary sink deeper and deeper into their inner blindness. Locked in their presumption, they believe that they already have the light, therefore, they do not open themselves to the truth of Jesus. They do everything to deny the evidence. They cast doubt on the identity of the man who was healed, they then deny God’s action in the healing, taking as an excuse that God does not work on the Sabbath; they even doubt that the man was born blind. Their closure to the light becomes aggressive and leads to the expulsion from the temple of the man who was healed.

The blind man’s journey on the contrary is a journey in stages that begins with the knowledge of Jesus’ name. He does not know anything else about him; in fact, he says: “The man called Jesus made clay and anointed my eyes” (v. 11). Following the pressing questions of the lawyers, he first considers him a prophet (v. 17) and then a man who is close to God (v. 31). Once he has been banished from the temple, expelled from society, Jesus finds him again and “opens his eyes” for the second time, by revealing his own identity to him: “I am the Messiah,” he tells him. At this point the man who had been blind exclaims: “Lord, I believe!” (v. 38), and he prostrates himself before Jesus. This is a passage of the Gospel that makes evident the drama of the inner blindness of so many people, also our own for sometimes we have moments of inner blindness.

Our lives are sometimes similar to that of the blind man who opened himself to the light, who opened himself to God, who opened himself to his grace. Sometimes unfortunately they are similar to that of the doctors of the law: from the height of our pride we judge others, and even the Lord! Today, we are invited to open ourselves to the light of Christ in order to bear fruit in our lives, to eliminate unchristian behaviors; we are all Christians but we all, everyone sometimes has unchristian behaviors, behaviors that are sins. We must repent of this, eliminate these behaviors in order to journey well along the way of holiness, which has its origin in baptism. We, too, have been “enlightened” by Christ in baptism, so that, as St Paul reminds us, we may act as “children of light” (Eph 5:8), with humility, patience and mercy. These doctors of the law had neither humility, nor patience, nor mercy!

I suggest that today, when you return home, you take the Gospel of John and read this passage from Chapter nine. It will do you good, because you will thus see this road from blindness to light and the other evil road that leads to deeper blindness. Let us ask ourselves about the state of our own heart? Do I have an open heart or a closed heart? It is opened or closed to God? Open or closed to my neighbour? We are always closed to some degree which comes from original sin, from mistakes, from errors. We need not be afraid! Let us open ourselves to the light of the Lord, he awaits us always in order to enable us to see better, to give us more light, to forgive us. Let us not forget this! Let us entrust this Lenten journey to the Virgin Mary, so that we too, like the blind man who was healed, by the grace of Christ may “come to the light,” go forward towards the light and be reborn to new life.


POPE FRANCIS

ANGELUS

Saint Peter’s Square, Fourth Sunday of Lent, 15 March 2015

Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning,

Today’s Gospel again offers us the words that Jesus addressed to Nicodemus: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son” (Jn 3:16). In hearing these words, we turn our heart’s gaze to Jesus Crucified and we feel within us that God loves us, truly loves us, and He loves us so much! This is the simplest expression that epitomizes all of the Gospel, all of the faith, all of theology: God loves us with a free and boundless love.

This is how God loves us and God shows this love first through creation, as the Liturgy announces, in the fourth Eucharistic Prayer: “You have created all things, to fill your creatures with every blessing and lead all men to the joyful vision of your light.” At the beginning of the world there is only the freely given love of the Father. St Irenaeus, a saint of the first centuries, writes: “In the beginning, therefore, did God form Adam, not as if He stood in need of man, but that He might have one upon whom to confer His benefits” (Adversus Haereses, IV, 14, 1). It is like this, God’s love is like this.

Thus the fourth Eucharistic Prayer continues: “Even when he disobeyed you and lost your friendship you did not abandon him to the power of death,” but with your mercy “helped all men to seek and find you.” He came with his mercy. As in creation, and also in the subsequent stages of salvation history, the freely given love of God returns: the Lord chooses his people not because they are deserving but because they are the smallest among all peoples, as He says. And when “the fullness of time” arrived, despite the fact that man had repeatedly broken the covenant, God, rather than abandoning him, formed a new bond with him, in the blood of Jesus—the bond of a new and everlasting covenant—a bond that nothing will ever break.

St Paul reminds us: “God, who is rich in mercy,”—never forget that He is rich in mercy—“out of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ” (Eph 2:4). The Cross of Christ is the supreme proof of the mercy and love that God has for us: Jesus loved us “to the end” (Jn 13:1), meaning not only to the last instant of his earthly life, but to the farthest limit of love. While in creation the Father gave us proof of his immense love by giving us life, in the passion and death of his Son He gave us the proof of proofs: He came to suffer and die for us. So great is God’s mercy: He loves us, He forgives us; God forgives all and God forgives always.

May Mary, who is the Mother of Mercy, place in our hearts the certitude that we are loved by God. May she be close to us in moments of difficulty and give us the sentiments of her Son, so our Lenten journey may be an experience of forgiveness, of welcome, and of charity.


POPE FRANCIS

ANGELUS

Saint Peter’s Square, Fourth Sunday of Lent, 6 March 2016

Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!

In Chapter 15 of Luke’s Gospel, we find three parables of mercy: that of the sheep found (vv. 4-7), that of the coin found (vv. 8-10), and the great parable of the prodigal son, or rather, of the merciful father (vv. 11-32). Today, it would be nice for each of us to open Chapter 15 of the Gospel according to Luke, and read these three parables. During the Lenten itinerary, the Gospel presents to us this very parable of the merciful Father, featuring a father with his two sons. The story highlights some features of this father who is a man always ready to forgive and to hope against hope. Especially striking is the father’s tolerance before the younger son’s decision to leave home: he could have opposed it, knowing that he was still immature, a youth, or sought a lawyer not to give him his inheritance, as the father was still living. Instead, he allows the son to leave, although foreseeing the possible risks. God works with us like this: He allows us to be free, even to making mistakes, because in creating us, He has given us the great gift of freedom. It is for us to put it to good use. This gift of freedom that God gives us always amazes me!

But the separation from his son is only physical; for the father always carries him in his heart; trustingly, he awaits his return; the father watches the road in the hope of seeing him. And one day he sees him appear in the distance (see v. 20). But this means that this father, every day, would climb up to the terrace to see if his son was coming back! Thus the father is moved to see him, he runs toward him, embraces him, kisses him. So much tenderness! And this son got into trouble! But the father still welcomes him so.

The father treated the eldest son the same way, but as he had always stayed at home, he is now indignant and complains because he does not understand and does not share all that kindness toward his brother that had wronged. The father also goes to meet this son and reminds him that they were always together, they share everything (v. 31), one must welcome with joy the brother who has finally returned home. And this makes me think of something: When one feels one is a sinner, one feels worthless, or as I’ve heard some—many—say: ‘Father, I am like dirt’, so then, this is the moment to go to the Father. Instead, when one feels righteous, ‘I always did the right thing,’ equally, the Father comes to seek us, because this attitude of feeling ‘right’, is the wrong attitude: it is pride! It comes from the devil. The Father waits for those who recognize they are sinners and goes in search of the ones who feel ‘righteous’. This is our Father!

In this parable, you can also glimpse a third son. A third son? Where? He is hidden! And it is the one, “who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant” (Phil 2:6-7). This Servant-Son is Jesus!

He is the extension of the arms and heart of the Father: he welcomed the prodigal Son and washed his dirty feet; he prepared the banquet for the feast of forgiveness. He, Jesus, teaches us to be “merciful as the Father is merciful.”

The figure of the Father in the parable reveals the heart of God. He is the Merciful Father who, in Jesus, loves us beyond measure, always awaits our conversion every time we make mistakes; he awaits our return when we turn away from him thinking, we can do without him; he is always ready to open his arms no matter what happened. As the father of the Gospel, God also continues to consider us his children, even when we get lost, and comes to us with tenderness when we return to him. He addresses us so kindly when we believe we are right. The errors we commit, even if bad, do not wear out the fidelity of his love. In the Sacrament of Reconciliation, we can always start out anew: He welcomes us, gives us the dignity of being his children and tells us: “Go ahead! Be at peace! Rise, go ahead!”

In this time of Lent that still separates us from Easter, we are called to intensify the inner journey of conversion. May the loving gaze of our Father touch us. Let us return and return to him with all our heart, rejecting any compromise with sin. May the Virgin Mary accompany us until the regenerating embrace with Divine Mercy. 



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For reflections on the Fourth Sunday of Lent 

 by Pope Benedict XVI,
please scroll down to the bottom of this page.


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Monday, March 13, 2017

0519: Reflections on the Third Sunday of Lent
by Pope Francis



Entry 0519: Reflections on the Third Sunday of Lent   

by Pope Francis 


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.


POPE FRANCIS

ANGELUS

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.


POPE FRANCIS

ANGELUS

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 Reading? 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

Rome, Third Sunday of Lent: Holy Mass on Saturday, 7 March 2015

On the occasion of Jewish Passover, Jesus goes to Jerusalem. 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

Rome, Third Sunday of Lent, 8 March 2015

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.


POPE FRANCIS

ANGELUS

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.

May the Virgin Mary sustain us, so that we can open our hearts to the grace of God, to his mercy; and may she help us to never judge others, but rather to allow ourselves to be struck by daily misfortunes and to make a serious examination of our consciences and to repent. 



© Copyright - Libreria Editrice Vaticana



* * * * *


For reflections on the Third Sunday of Lent 

 by Pope Benedict XVI,
please scroll down to the bottom of this page.


* * * * *