Sunday, April 7, 2019

Angelus for the Fifth Sunday of Lent

At noon today in Rome (6:00am EDT), the V Sunday of Lent, the Holy Father, Pope Francis appeared at the window of his study in the Vatican Apostolic Palace to recite the Angelus with the faithful and with pilgrims who were gathered in Saint Peter's Square.

Greetings of the Holy Father, Pope Francis
prior to the recitation of the Angelus

Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!

On this fifth Sunday of Lent, the liturgy presents the episode of the adulterous woman (cf Jn 8:1-11).  There are two contrasting attitudes present: on one hand, the attitude of the scribes and Pharisees; and on the other hand, the attitude of Jesus.  The first group wants to condemn the woman, because they feel that they are the keepers of the Law and of its faithful application.  Instead, Jesus wants to save her, because he embodies God's mercy which forgives, redeems, reconciles and renews.

So let's look at this event. While Jesus is teaching in the temple, the scribes and Pharisees bring him a woman who was caught in the act of adultery; they place her in the middle of the crowd and they ask Jesus if she must be stoned to death, as the Law of Moses prescribes. The Evangelist specifies that they ask the question in order to test him and to have cause to accuse him (Jn 8:6). It can be assumed that their purpose was this - see the wickedness of these people: a no to stoning would have been a reason to accuse Jesus of disobedience to the Law; a yes would have provided a reason to denounce him to the Roman authorities, who had reserved the sentences for themselves and did not permit people to engage in lynching. And Jesus had to answer.

Those who were interrogating Jesus were closed in on the narrowness of legalism and they wanted to lock up the Son of God in their perspective of judgment and condemnation. But He did not come into the world to judge and condemn, but rather to save and offer people a new life. So how did Jesus react to this test? First of all he remained silent for a while, he bent down to write with his finger on the ground, as if to remember that the only Legislator and Judge is God who had written the Law on stone. And then he said: Which ever of you is without sin, throw the stone at her first (Jn 8:7). In this way Jesus appealed to the conscience of those men: they felt themselves to be champions of justice, but He called them to the awareness of their condition as sinful men; they could not claim the right of life or death on their own similar situations. At that point, one after the other, starting with the oldest - that is, the most experienced in their own miseries - they all left, giving up the prospect of stoning the woman. This scene also invites each of us to become aware that we are sinners, and to let go of the stones of denigration and condemnation, of chatter, which at times we would like to hurl against others. When we shoot others, we throw stones, we are like these accusing men.

In the end, only Jesus and the woman remained there in the middle of the square: misery and mercy, says St. Augustine (In Joh 33.5). Jesus is the only one without fault, the only one who could throw the stone at her, but he did not, because God does not want the death of the sinner, but that he be converted and live (cf Ez 33.11). And Jesus dismissed the woman with these stupendous words: Go now and sin no more (Jn 8:11). And in this way, Jesus opened a new path before her, created by mercy, a path that required her commitment not to sin anymore. It is an invitation that is valid for each of us: when Jesus forgives us, he always opens a new path for us to move forward. In this time of Lent we are called to recognize ourselves as sinners and to ask forgiveness from God. And forgiveness, in turn, as it reconciles us and gives us peace, also allows us to set out on a renewed story. Every true conversion is aimed at a new future, at a new life, a beautiful life, a life free from sin, a generous life. We are not afraid to ask forgiveness from Jesus because He opens the door to this new life. May the Virgin Mary help us to witness to all the merciful love of God who, in Jesus, forgives us and makes our existence new, always offering us new possibilities.

Following the recitation of the Angelus, the Holy Father continued:

Dear brothers and sisters,

I offer a cordial greeting to all of you who are here, faithful of Rome and from many other parts of the world,  Today, there are many students!

I greet the Spanish students from La Coruña and from Albacete; those from Telfs (Austria) and from Colmar (France).

I greet the students from Bologna, Nicosia and Genoa, as well as those from the Lasalle schools in Turin and Vercelli, who are celebrating the three hundredth anniversary of the death of Saint John Baptist de la Salle.

I offer a special thought for the young students from Settignano, Scandicci and from the Diocesees of Saluzzo who have recently been Confirmed.  They are accompanied by their Bishop, Cristiano Bodo.  You are courageous witnesses to Jesus and his gospel!  Through Confirmation, we must always seek to grow in courage, to always be courageous!

I greet the fourteen-year-old boys from the Romana Vittoria Deanery in Milan, as well as the faithful from Pescara, Napoli and Terni.

I wish you all a good Sunday.  Please don't forget to pray for me.  Thank you.

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