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.
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
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
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
© Copyright - Libreria Editrice Vaticana
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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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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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