Below is a ZENIT translation of Pope Francis’ address at this morning’s General Audience in St. Peter’s Square:
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Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!
Today, we wish to reflect on an aspect of mercy well represented by the passage of Luke’s Gospel, which we heard. It is an event that happened to Jesus while He was the guest of a Pharisee called Simon. The latter wished to invite Jesus to his home because he had heard <people> speak well of him as a great prophet. While they were sitting at lunch, a woman came in, known by all in the city as a sinner. Without saying a word, she fell down at Jesus’ feet, weeping. Her tears bathed Jesus’ feet and she dried them with her hair, then she kissed them and anointed them with perfumed ointment, which she had brought with her.
Striking is the contrast between the two figures: that of Simon, the zealous servant of the Law, and that of the anonymous sinful woman. While the former judged others on the basis of their appearance, with her gestures the latter expressed her heart sincerely. Although having invited Jesus, Simon does not want to commit himself or involve his life with the Master. The woman, on the contrary, entrusts herself fully to Him with love and veneration. The Pharisee cannot conceive that Jesus lets Himself be “contaminated” by sinners, that is how they thought. He thought that if <Jesus> was really a prophet, He should recognize them and keep them at a distance, so as not to be stained, as if they were lepers.
This attitude is typical of a certain way of understanding religion, and it is motivated by the fact that God and sin are radically opposed. However, the Word of God teaches how to distinguish between sin and the sinner: one must not descend to compromises with sin, while sinners – that is, all of us! – are like the sick that are cured, and to cure them the doctor must come close to them, visit and touch them. And, of course, to be cured, the sick person must admit that he is in need of a doctor!
Between the Pharisee and the sinful woman, Jesus aligns Himself with the latter. Free of prejudices that impede mercy from being expressed, the Master lets her be. He, the Holy One of God, lets Himself be touched by her without fear of being contaminated. Jesus is free because He is close to God who is a Merciful Father. Therefore, by entering in relation with the sinful woman, Jesus puts an end to that condition of isolation to which the merciless judgment of the Pharisee and of his fellow citizens, who insulted her, condemned her: “Your sins are forgiven” (v. 48). So the woman can now go “in peace.” The Lord saw the sincerity of her faith and of her conversion, therefore, He proclaimed before everyone: “Your faith has saved you” (v. 50). On one hand, the hypocrisy of the Doctors of the Law, on the other, the humility and sincerity of the woman. All of us are sinners, but we often fall into the temptation of hypocrisy, of believing ourselves better than others and we say: “Look at your sin …” Instead, we should all look at our sin, our falls, our mistakes and look at the Lord. This is the line of salvation: the relationship between “I” a sinner and the Lord. If I consider myself just, this relationship of salvation does not happen.
At this point, even greater astonishment assails all the table companions: “Who is this, who even forgives sins?” (v. 49). Jesus does not give an explicit answer, but the sinful woman’s conversion is before the eyes of all and demonstrates that in Him shines the power of God’s mercy, capable of transforming hearts.
The sinful woman shows us the bond between faith, love and gratitude. “Many sins” were forgiven her, therefore, she loves much; “instead, he who is forgiven little, loves little” (v. 47). Simon himself must admit that he loves more to whom more has been condoned. God has enclosed all in the same mystery of mercy and, from this love, which always precedes us, we all learn to love. As Saint Paul recalls: “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace which He lavished upon us” (Ephesians 1:7-8). In this text, the term “grace” is practically a synonym of mercy, and is said to be “lavish,” that is, beyond our expectation, because God’s salvific plan acts for each one of us.
Dear brothers, let us be grateful for the gift of faith; we thank the Lord for His very great and unmerited love! Let us allow the love of Christ to be poured into us: the disciple draws from this love and is founded on it; everyone can be nourished and fed by this love. Thus, in the grateful love that we in turn pour on our brothers, in our homes, in the family, in the society, the Lord’s mercy is communicated to all.
I give a cordial welcome to the Italian-speaking pilgrims. I am happy to receive with particular affection the faithful of the dioceses of Pesaro, Biella, Nicosia and Ozieri, accompanied by their respective Bishops, Monsignor Coccia, Monsignor Mana, Monsignor Muratore and Monsignor Melis: I hope that your Jubilee pilgrimage will awaken in you the desire to become increasingly witnesses of mercy and render your communities rich with the dynamism of the faith and a missionary spirit.
I greet the doctors taking part in the European Congress ”Pain Therapy and Palliative Care”; the pilgrimage of the Apostolic Movement; the Religious of the Union of Major Superiors of Italy and the Foundation “Let Us Help Them to Live” of Terni.
A particular greeting goes to the young people, the sick and the newlyweds. Tomorrow we remember Saint Anselm of Aosta, Bishop and Doctor of the Church. May his example of life drive you, dear young people, especially you youngsters of Aversa and of Ascoli Piceno, to see in the merciful Jesus the true Teacher of life; may His intercession obtain for you, dear sick, the serenity and peace present in the mystery of the cross; and may His Doctrine be an encouragement for you, dear newlyweds, to become educators of your children with the wisdom of the heart.[Original text: Italian] [Translation by ZENIT]
The Holy Father’s Appeal
Ukraine’s population has been suffering for some time the consequences of an armed conflict, forgotten by many. As you know, I have invited the Church in Europe to support the initiative announced by me to support this humanitarian emergency. I thank ahead of time all those that will contribute generously to the initiative, which will take place next Sunday, April 24.[Original text: Italian] [Translation by ZENIT]