Sunday, 29 March 1998


Dear Brothers and Sisters,


1. Today the liturgy for the Fifth Sunday of Lent offers us a passage from John’s Gospel in which Christ meets a woman caught in adultery. The Lord does not condemn her; in fact he saves her from being stoned. He does not say, “You have not sinned”, but, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and do not sin again” (cf. John 8:11). Only Christ can truly save man, because he assumes the burden of man's sin and offers him the possibility of changing.


This Gospel passage clearly teaches that Christian forgiveness is not synonymous with mere tolerance, but implies something more demanding. It does not mean overlooking evil, or even worse, denying it. God does not forgive evil but the individual, and he teaches us to distinguish the evil act, which as such must be condemned, from the person who has committed it, to whom he offers the possibility of changing. While man tends to identify the sinner with his sin, closing every escape, the heavenly Father instead has sent his Son into the world to offer everyone a way to salvation. Christ is this way: dying on the Cross, he has redeemed us from our sins.


To the men and women of every age, Jesus repeats: “Neither do I condemn you; go, and do not sin again” (cf. John 8:11).


2. How could we see ourselves in this Gospel without feeling a surge of confidence? How could we not recognize it as “good news” for the men and women of our day, who long to rediscover the true sense of mercy and pardon?


There is a need for Christian forgiveness, which instills hope and trust without weakening the struggle against evil. There is a need to give and receive mercy.

But we cannot forgive if we do not let God forgive us first, recognizing that it is we who are the object of his mercy. We will be ready to forgive the debts of others only if we become aware of the enormous debt that we ourselves have been forgiven.


3. The Christian people call upon Mary as Mother of Mercy. In her, God’s merciful love became incarnate and her Immaculate Heart is always and everywhere a safe refuge for sinners.

With her to guide us, we hasten our steps towards Jerusalem, towards the Passover of our salvation, which is now at hand. We follow the Son who goes to meet his passion and also says to us: “Go, and do not sin again” (John 8:11). The universal judgement of God’s love is passed on Golgotha, so that each may recognize that Christ crucified has paid the price of our ransom. May Our Lady help us to receive the gift of salvation with renewed joy, so that we may find the trust and hope to walk in newness of life.


After praying the Angelus, the Holy Father said:


Next Thursday, as is now traditional, I will meet the young people of Rome in preparation for World Youth Day, which will be celebrated in all the local Churches on Palm Sunday.

This year’s meeting will take place for the first time in Piazza San Giovanni. It has a special significance, because it is a preparation for the arrival of the World Youth Day Cross. This Cross, after leaving Rome in 1985, has made stops in the six cities where the World Youth Meetings with the Pope have taken place — Buenos Aires, Santiago de Compostela, Czêstochowa, Denver, Manila, Paris — and it is now returning to us for the Youth Jubilee of the Year 2000.


I therefore expect the young people of Rome to come in large numbers on Thursday afternoon, 2 April, for this important gathering.


Acknowledgment: We thank the Vatican Publisher for allowing us to publish the Sermon of Blessed Pope John Paul II, so that it could be accessed by more people all over the world; as a source of God’s encouragements to all of us.






Sunday, 25 March 2007


Dear Brothers and Sisters of the Parish of St Felicity and her Children, Martyrs,


I have willingly come to visit you on this Fifth Sunday of Lent, also known as Passion Sunday. I offer you all my cordial greeting. I first address my thoughts to the Cardinal Vicar and to Auxiliary Bishop Enzo Dieci. I then greet with affection the Vocationist Fathers, to whom the Parish has been entrusted since its foundation in 1958, and especially to Fr Eusebio Mosca, your parish priest, whom I thank for the beautiful words with which he has briefly presented to me your community's situation. I greet the other priests, men and women religious, catechists and committed lay people, and all those who make their own contribution in various ways to the multiple activities of the Parish - pastoral, educational and for human advancement -, directed with priority attention to children, young people and families. I greet the Filipino community, quite numerous in your territory, who meet here every Sunday for Holy Mass celebrated in their own language. I extend my greeting to all the inhabitants of the Fidene neighbourhood; they are very numerous and increasingly consist of people from other parts of Italy and various countries in the world.

Here, as elsewhere, situations of both material and moral hardship are not absent, situations that require of you, dear friends, a constant commitment to witnessing that God's love, fully manifested in the Crucified and Risen Christ, actually embraces everyone without distinctions of race and culture.
This is basically the mission of every parish community, called to proclaim the Gospel and to be a place of acceptance and listening, formation and fraternal sharing, dialogue and forgiveness.


How can a Christian community stay faithful to this mandate? How can it become increasingly a family of brothers and sisters enlivened by Love? The Word of God we have just heard, which resounds with special eloquence in our hearts during this Lenten Season, reminds us that our earthly pilgrimage is fraught with difficulties and trials, as was the journey through the desert of the Chosen People before they reached the Promised Land. But divine intervention, Isaiah assures us in the First Reading, can make it easy, transforming the wilderness into a luxuriant country flowing with water (cf. Isaiah 43: 19-20). The Responsorial Psalm echoes the Prophet:  while it evokes the joy of the return from the Babylonian Exile, it implores the Lord to intervene on behalf of the "prisoners" who depart weeping but who return rejoicing because God is present and, as in the past, will also do "great things for us" in the future.



This very awareness, this hope that after difficult times the Lord will always show us his presence and love, must enliven every Christian community, provided by its Lord with abundant spiritual provisions in order to cross the desert of this world and make it into a fertile garden. These provisions are docile listening to his Word, the Sacraments and every other spiritual resource of the liturgy and of personal prayer. The love that impelled Jesus to sacrifice himself for us transforms us and makes us capable in turn of following him faithfully. Continuing what the liturgy presented to us last Sunday, today's Gospel passage helps us understand that only God's love can change man's life and thus every society from within, for it is God's infinite love alone that sets him free from sin, which is the root of all evil. If it is true that God is justice, we should not forget that above all he is love. If he hates sin, it is because he loves every human person infinitely. He loves each one of us and his fidelity is so deep that it does not allow him to feel discouraged even by our rejection.


Today, in particular, Jesus brings us to inner conversion:  he explains why he forgives us and teaches us to make forgiveness received from and given to our brothers and sisters the "daily bread" of our existence.



The Gospel passage recounts the episode of the adulterous woman in two vivid scenes:  in the first, we witness a dispute between Jesus and the scribes and Pharisees concerning a woman caught in flagrant adultery who, in accordance with the prescriptions of the Book of Leviticus (cf. 20: 10), was condemned to stoning. In the second scene, a brief but moving dialogue develops between Jesus and the sinner-woman. The pitiless accusers of the woman, citing the law of Moses, provoke Jesus - they call him "Teacher" (Didáskale) -, asking him whether it would be right to stone her. They were aware of his mercy and his love for sinners and were curious to see how he would manage in such a case which, according to Mosaic law, was crystal clear. But Jesus immediately took the side of the woman. In the first place, he wrote mysterious words on the ground, which the Evangelist does not reveal but which impressed him, and Jesus then spoke the sentence that was to become famous:  "Let him who is without sin among you (he uses the term anamártetos here, which is the only time it appears in the New Testament) be the first to throw a stone at her" (John 8: 7) and begin the stoning. St Augustine noted, commenting on John's Gospel, that:  "The Lord, in his response, neither failed to respect the law nor departed from his meekness". And Augustine added that with these words, Jesus obliged the accusers to look into themselves, to examine themselves to see whether they too were sinners. Thus, "pierced through as if by a dart as big as a beam, one after another, they all withdrew" (in IoEv. tract 33, 5).



So it was, therefore, that the accusers who had wished to provoke Jesus went away one by one, "beginning with the eldest to the last". When they had all left, the divine Teacher remained alone with the woman. St Augustine's comment is concise and effective:  "relicti sunt duo:  misera et Misericordia, the two were left alone, the wretched woman and Mercy" (ibid.). Let us pause, dear brothers and sisters, to contemplate this scene where the wretchedness of man and Divine Mercy come face to face, a woman accused of a grave sin and the One who, although he was sinless, burdened himself with our sins, the sins of the whole world. The One who had bent down to write in the dust, now raised his eyes and met those of the woman. He did not ask for explanations. Is it not ironic when he asked the woman:  "Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?" (8: 10). And his reply was overwhelming:  "neither do I condemn you; go, and do not sin again" (8: 11). Again, St Augustine in his Commentary observed:  "The Lord did also condemn, but condemned sins, not man. For if he were a patron of sin, he would say, "neither will I condemn you; go, live as you will; be secure in my deliverance; however much you sin, I will deliver you from all punishment'. He said not this" (Io Ev. tract. 33, 6).

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Acknowledgment: We thank the Vatican Publisher for allowing us to publish the Homily of Pope Benedict XVI, so that it could be accessed by more people all over the world; as a source of God’s encouragements to all of us.




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