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Dear brothers and sisters!
In our journey toward Easter, we have arrived at the fourth Sunday of Lent. It is a journey with Jesus through the “desert,” that is, a time in which to listen carefully to God’s voice and also to unmask the temptations that speak within us. The cross is outlined against the horizon of this desert. Jesus knows that it is the culmination of his mission: in effect, the cross of Christ is the apex of love, which bestows salvation upon us. Jesus himself tells us this in today’s Gospel: “Just as Moses raised up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be raised up, that whoever believes in him might have eternal life” (John 3:14-15). The reference is to the episode in which, during the exodus from Egypt, the Hebrews were attacked by poisonous serpents, and many died; so, God commanded Moses to fashion a serpent of bronze and place it upon a pole: if someone was bitten by a snake, looking upon the bronze serpent, he was healed (cf. Numbers 21:4-9). Jesus too will be raised up on the cross so that whoever is in danger of death because of sin, turning with faith toward him who died for us, he might be saved. “God indeed,” writes St. John, “did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him” (John 3:17).
St. Augustine comments: “The doctor, in what regards him, comes to heal the sick person. If someone does not follow the doctor’s prescriptions, he is the one who harms himself. The Savior came into the world … if you do not want to be saved by him, it is you who will judge yourself” (“Tractates on the Gospel of John,” 12, 12: PL 35, 1190). Thus, if God’s merciful love is infinite, he who even sent his only Son as a ransom for our life, [then] our responsibility is likewise great: each of us, in fact, must recognize that we are sick so that we may be healed; each of us must confess his sin so that God’s forgiveness, already given upon the cross, might have an effect in our heart and our life. St. Augustine further writes: God condemns your sins: and if you also condemn them, you are united to God … And when your own deeds will begin to displease you, from that time your good works begin, as you find fault with your wicked deeds” (ibid., 13: PL 35, 1191). Sometimes man loves darkness more than light because he is attached to his sins. But it is only in opening himself to the light, and only in sincerely confessing his faults to God, that he finds true peace and truth joy. It is thus important to approach the Sacrament of Penance regularly, especially during Lent, to receive the Lord’s forgiveness and to intensify our journey of conversion.
Dear friends, tomorrow we will celebrate the Feast of St. Joseph. I thank from my heart everyone who will remember me in prayer on my name day. In particular, I ask you to pray for the apostolic voyage to Mexico and Cuba, which will begin next Friday. We entrust it to the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, so loved and venerated in these two countries that I am preparing to visit.[Following the Angelus, the Holy Father addressed those gathered in St. Peter’s Square in various languages. In Italian he said:]
Yesterday was the conclusion, in Marseilles, of the sixth World Water Forum and next Thursday will be observed the World Water Day, which this year underscores the fundamental link between such a precious and limited resource and food security. I hope that these initiatives contribute to guaranteeing equal, secure and adequate access to water for everyone, promoting in this way the rights to life and nourishment of every human being, and a responsible and solidary use of the goods of the earth, for the benefit of present and future generations.[In English he said:]
I greet the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present for today’s Angelus. This Sunday, we reach the mid-way point of our Lenten journey. As we continue on our way, we keep our eyes fixed upon our goal, when we will accompany our Lord on the path to Calvary, so as to rise with him to new life. May Christ, the light of the world, shine upon you and fill you with his blessings![Concluding in Italian he said:]
I wish you all a good Sunday and a good week. Have a good Sunday, everyone![Translation by Joseph G. Trabbic]