Vatican City, 17 March 2013 (VIS) – This morning, Pope Francis celebrated Mass at the Vatican parish of St. Anna, the doors of which were crowded from the earliest morning hours with a large number of people. The pontiff was greeted by Cardinal Angelo Comastri, his vicar general for Vatican City State.
Today's Gospel, on this Fifth Sunday in Lent, narrates the story of the adulterous woman whom the Pharisees want to stone. Instead, Christ forgives her, and those who accused her disperse, intimidated by Jesus' bending down to write on the ground with His finger.
In his homily, the Holy Father recalled that, before this story, Jesus had retired to the mountain to pray and later had gone down to the Temple where everyone listened to him. In the end, they left him alone with the woman. “Jesus' solitude!”, he said. “It is a fruitful solitude—both that of His prayer with the Father as well as the other, so beautiful, ... of his mercy toward this woman. This is the Church's message today.”
“There is a difference between the people,” he continued. “On the one hand are the people who come to listen to him and before whom He takes a seat and teaches. These are the people who want to listen to Jesus' words; the people with open hearts, in need of the Word of God.” Nevertheless, “there were others who didn't listen, who could not listen. Among those were the ones who had gone to him with that woman, wanting him to condemn her. … I also think we are like this people who, on the one hand want to listen to Jesus, but, on the other hand, at times, like to be cruel to others, isn't that right? To condemn others, right? This is Jesus' message: mercy. On my part, I say it with humility; this is the the Lord's strongest message: mercy. He himself said: 'I did not come for the righteous'. The righteous can justify themselves. … Jesus came for the sinners.”
For example, think of the gossip after the call of Matthew: 'but that one keeps company with sinners!' And He has come for us, when we recognize that we are sinners. But if we are like the Pharisee before the altar—'Oh God, I thank you that I am not like the rest of humanity—greedy, dishonest, adulterous—or even like this tax collector.'—then we do not know the Lord's heart and we will never have the joy of feeling this mercy! It is not easy to trust in God's mercy because it is an incomprehensible abyss. But we must do it!”
The Pope explained that sometimes people say to priests: “'Oh, Father, if you knew my life you wouldn't say that.' 'Why? What have you done?' 'Oh, I've done bad things.' 'Good! Go to Jesus; He likes you to tell him these things. He forgets. He has the special ability to forget. He forgets them, kisses you, embraces you, and tells you only: 'Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more.' He only gives you this counsel. A month later we are the same … We return to the Lord. The Lord never tires of forgiving us, never! We are the ones who get tired of asking forgiveness. Let us ask for the grace to never tire of asking forgiveness, because He never tires of forgiving us. Let us ask for this grace.”
At the end of the Mass, the Pope presented some of those who were present at the celebration:
“Here are a few who aren't parishioners, these Argentinian priests. One is my auxiliary bishop but today they are my parishioners. I also want you to meet a priest who comes from very far away and is here: a priest who, for a long time, has worked with street kids and drug addicts. He opened a school for them and has done many things so that they might know Jesus. All of those street kids have a job today thanks to what they were able to study. They are capable of working. They believe in and love Jesus.” The Pope then addressed the priests, saying: “Come, come and greet the people.” And to all: “Pray for this man. He works in Uruguay. He is the founder of the John Paul II high school; that's his job. I don't know how he got here today. I'll find out! Thank you. Pray for him.”
After greeting the parishioners, the Pope appeared at the Vatican's Porta Angelica Street, next to the Santa Anna Gate that is one of the entrances into the Vatican City State, to greet the thousands of people who wanted to see him before he prayed his first Angelus as Pope.