St. Peter's Square
V Sunday of Lent, 7 April 2019
Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!
On this fifth Sunday of Lent, the liturgy presents the episode of the adulterous woman (see Jn 8: 1-11). It contrasts with two attitudes: that of the scribes and Pharisees on the one hand, and that of Jesus on the other. The former want to condemn the woman, because they feel the guardians of the Law and of its faithful application. Instead, Jesus wants to save her, because he impersonates the mercy of God who, by forgiving redeems and reconciles, renews.
So let's see the event. While Jesus is teaching in the temple, the scribes and Pharisees bring him a woman surprised in adultery; they place it in the middle and ask Jesus if he must be stoned to death, as the Law of Moses prescribes. The Evangelist specifies that they put the question "to test him and to have cause to accuse him" (v. 6). It can be assumed that their purpose was this - see the wickedness of these people: the "no" to stoning would have been a reason to accuse Jesus of disobedience to the Law; the "yes", instead, to denounce it to the Roman authority, which had reserved the sentences for itself and did not admit popular lynching. And Jesus must answer.
The interlocutors of Jesus are closed in the narrow of legalism and want 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 to save and offer people a new life. And how does Jesus react to this test? First of all he remains for a while in silence, and bends 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 says: "Whoever of you is without sin, throw the stone at her first" (v. 7). In this way Jesus appeals to the conscience of those men: they felt themselves "champions of justice", but He calls them to the awareness of their condition as sinful men, for which they cannot claim the right of life or death on their own similar. At that point, one after the other, starting with the oldest - that is, the most experienced of their own miseries - they all left, giving up the stone to stone the woman. This scene also invites each of us to become aware that we are sinners, and to leave fall from our hands the stones of denigration and condemnation, of chatter, which sometimes we would like to hurl against others. When we shoot others, we throw stones, we are like these.
In the end only Jesus and the woman remain, there in the middle: "the miserable and the 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 does not, because God "does not want the death of the sinner, but that he be converted and live" (see Ez 33.11). And Jesus dismisses the woman with these stupendous words: "Go now and sin no more" (v. 11). And so Jesus opens a new road before her, created by mercy, a road that requires his 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, makes us start a renewed history. 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.
After the Angelus
Dear brothers and sisters,
I address a cordial greeting to all of you present here, faithful of Rome and of many parts of the world. Today there are so many school students!
I greet the Spanish students of La Coruña and Albacete; those of Telfs (Austria) and Colmar (France).
I greet the students of Bologna, Nicosia and Genoa, as well as those of the Lasallian schools of Turin and Vercelli, who recall the third centenary of the death of St. John the Baptist de la Salle.
A special thought I address to the boys of the Confirmation of Settignano, Scandicci, and those of the diocese of Saluzzo, accompanied by their Bishop Mons. Cristiano Bodo. Be courageous witnesses of Jesus and the Gospel! With confirmation we must always grow in courage, always be brave!
I greet the fourteen-year-old boys of the “Romana Vittoria” Deanery of Milan, the faithful of Pescara, Naples and Terni.
I wish you all a good Sunday. Please don't forget to pray for me. Thank you.