On the Encounter with Christ

Here is the translation of the Holy Father’s address before and after the recitation of the Angelus today to the faithful gathered in St. Peter’s Square.

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Dear brothers and sisters, hello!

Today’s Gospel presents us with the meeting between Jesus and the Samaritan woman in [the Samaritan town of] Sychar near an ancient well where the woman had come to draw water. Jesus found himself seated at the well that day “tired from his journey” (John 4:6). He immediately says: “Give me to drink” (4:7). In this way he overcomes the barriers of hostility that existed between Jews and Samaritans and the mentality of prejudiced mentality toward women. Jesus’ simple request is the beginning of a frank dialogue through which, with great delicacy, he enters into the interior world of a person to whom, according to the social norms, he should not have even spoken a word. But Jesus does it! Jesus is not afraid. Jesus, when he sees a person, goes forward, because he loves. He loves us all. Prejudice does not hinder his contact with a person. Jesus places the person before his [the person’s] situation, not judging him but making him feel appreciated, recognized and in this way awakens in him the desire to move beyond his daily routine.

Jesus’ thirst was not so much for water but to meet a parched soul. Jesus needed to meet the Samaritan woman to open her heart. He asks her for a drink of water to bring to light the thirst that was in her. The woman is moved by this encounter: she asks Jesus those profound questions that all of us have but that we often ignore. We too have many questions to ask, but we cannot find the courage to pose them to Jesus! Lent, dear brothers and sisters, is the opportune time to look inside ourselves, to allow our most genuine spiritual needs to emerge, and to ask the Lord’s help in prayer. The example of the Samaritan woman invites us to express ourselves in this way: “Jesus, give me that water that will eternally quench my thirst.”

The Gospel tells us that the disciples were astonished that their Master spoke with that woman. But the Lord is greater than prejudices; this is why he was not afraid to engage with the Samaritan woman. Mercy is greater than prejudice. This we must learn well! Mercy is greater than prejudice, and Jesus is very merciful, very! The outcome of this meeting at the well was that the woman was transformed: “she left her water jar behind” (4:28) and ran into the town to tell people about her extraordinary experience. “I found a man who told me everything I have done. Could he possibly be the Messiah?” She was enthusiastic. She went to get water from the well and found another water, the living water of mercy that wells up to eternal life. She found the water that she had always been looking for! She ran to the village – that village that judged her, condemned her and rejected her – and announces that she has met the Messiah: someone who changed her life. Because every encounter with Jesus changes our life, always. It is a step forward, a step closer to God. And thus every encounter with Jesus changes our life. It is always, always this way. In this Gospel, we too find the inspiration to “leave our water jar behind,” the symbol of all that is apparently important but that loses value before the “love of God.” We all have one, or more than one! I ask you, and me: “What is your interior water jar, that which burdens you, that which distances you from God?” Let us leave it aside and listen to the voice of Jesus with our heart. He offers us a different water, a water that brings us closer to the Lord. We are called to rediscover the importance and meaning of our Christian life, begun in Baptism, and like the Samaritan woman, to bear witness to our brothers. Bear witness to what? To joy! Bear witness to the joy of the encounter with Jesus, because I said that every encounter with Jesus changes our life, and every encounter with Jesus fills us with joy, that joy that comes from within. And this is how the Lord is. And speak of how many wonderful things that the Lord knows how to do in our heart when we have the courage to leave our water jar behind.

[Following the recitation of the Angelus, the Holy Father again addressed those gathered in St. Peter’s Square.]

Dear brothers and sisters,

Now let us remember the 2 phrases: every encounter with Jesus changes our life and every encounter with Jesus fills us with joy. Should we say them together? Every encounter with Jesus changes our life; every encounter with Jesus fills us with joy. This is true.

Tomorrow is World Tuberculosis Day: let us pray for all people who have this sickness and for those who care for them in various ways.

On Friday and Saturday we will observe a special penitential moment called “24 Hours for the Lord.” It will begin with a celebration in St. Peter’s Basilica Friday afternoon, then in the evening and during the night some churches in the center of Rome will be open for prayer and Confession. It will be – we can call it this – it will be the feast of forgiveness, which also take place in many dioceses and parishes throughout the world. We must celebrate the forgiveness that the Lord grants us, just as the father in the parable of the prodigal son did. When his son returned home he celebrated, forgetting all of his sins. It will be the feast of forgiveness.

And now I greet everyone from my heart, the faithful of Rome and the pilgrims from many countries, in particular those from Zagreb and Zadara in Croatia and from Bocholt in Germany. I also greet the “Capitanio” School from Seto-Shi, Japan, the students from Illinois (United States) and the students from Ferrol (Spain).

A special greeting to the marathon participants and the organizers of this sporting event in our city.

I greet the community of the Pontifical College Germanicum et Hungaricum, the national officials of FUCI, the catechists for the course on “Visual art and catechesis,” and the participants in the conference “The Face of Jesus in the Conceived.”

A thought goes out to the groups of faithful from Altamura, Matera, Treviglio, Firenze, Salerno, Venice, Santa Severina and Verdellino; the young people from Cembra and Lavis, and those from Conversano; the children from Vallemare (Pescara); the scouts from Castel San Pietro; the students from Cagliari and di Gioia Tauro; the group 14 year-olds from Milan.

Finally, I greet the Centro di Servizio per il Volontariato from Sardinia, the Associazione Famiglia Murialdo from Naples; the Municipal Police from Orvieto.

I wish everyone a good Sunday and a good lunch. Goodbye!

[Translation by Joseph Trabbic]
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