Pope tells the story of how a murderer inspired “the greatest saint of modern times” to adopt her “first sinner”
VATICAN CITY — Here below we publish an English translation of the Pope’s Angelus address for the Third Sunday of Lent, delivered this morning, February 28, 2016, in St. Peter’s Square.
Dear brothers and sisters,
Good morning. Each day, unfortunately, the papers report bad news: homicides, accidents, disasters. … In today’s Gospel passage, Jesus refers to two tragic events, which at that time had caused quite a stir: a bloody crackdown by Roman soldiers inside the temple; and the collapse of the tower of Siloam in Jerusalem, which had caused eighteen victims (cf. Luke 13:1-5).
Jesus knows the suspicious mentality of his listeners, and he knows that they interpret this sort of occurrence erroneously. Indeed, they think that if those men died so cruelly, it is a sign that God chastised them for some grave offense they committed, as if to say “they deserved it.” On the other hand, the fact that they had been spared of the disaster was tantamount to feeling “okay.” They “deserved it”; I’m “okay.”
Jesus clearly rejects this view, for God does not allow tragedies to punish sins, and he states that those poor victims were not worse than others. Rather, he invites us take away from these painful events a warning that concerns everyone, because we are all sinners. He says to those who asked him: “Unless you repent, you will all likewise perish” (v. 3).
Today too, in the face of certain misfortunes and tragic events, the temptation can be to “unload” the responsibility on the victims, or even on God himself. But the Gospel invites us to reflect: What idea of God had we fashioned for ourselves? Are we really convinced that this is what God is like, or is it not rather our own projection, a god made “in our image and likeness”?
Jesus, by contrast, calls us to a change of heart. He calls us to make a radical turn on the journey of our life, by abandoning compromises with evil — and we all so this, i.e., make compromises with evil … hypocrisy … I think that almost all of us have at least a snippet of hypocrisy — and decisively taking the path of the Gospel. But here again the temptation is to justify ourselves: “But what do we need to be converted from? All in all, we’re good people.” How many times have we thought: But all in all I’m good, isn’t that right? We believe, we practice our faith enough? And we think we are justified.
Unfortunately, each of us greatly resembles a tree that, for years, has given many proofs of its barrenness. But fortunately for us, Jesus is like the vinedresser who, with limitless patience, continues to obtain a reprieve for the barren fig tree: “Let it alone, sir, this year also,” he says to the master […] And if it bears fruit next year, well and good” (v. 9).
A “year” of grace: the time of Christ’s ministry; the time of the Church before his glorious return; the time of our lives, punctuated by a number of Lents, which are offered to us as opportunities for repentance and salvation; the time of a Jubilee Year of Mercy.
Jesus’ invincible patience! Have you thought about God’s patience? Have you also thought about his unyielding concern for sinners and how this should move us to impatience with ourselves. It is never too late to convert, never. Up to the last moment … the patience of God that waits for us. Do you remember the little story about St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus, when she prayed for the man who had been condemned to death, a criminal who did not want to receive the comfort of the Church. He refused the priest, he didn’t want to see him: he wanted to die as he was. And she was praying in the convent. And when the man was right on the verge of being executed, he turned to the priest, took the crucifix and kissed it.
The patience of God. And he does the same with us, with all of us. How many times — we don’t know, we will only know in heaven — how many times we are there, right there [about to fall] and the Lord saves us? He saves us because he has great patience with us. And this is his mercy. It’s never too late to repent, but it is urgent, and the time is now. Let’s begin today.
May the Virgin Mary support us, so that we may open our hearts to God’s grace, to his mercy. And may she help us never to judge others but to allow ourselves to be spurred on by daily misfortunes to make a serious examination of conscience and mend our ways.
Translation by Diane Montagnaof Aleteia’s English edition.