At Sunday Mass in the Parish of St. Josemaría, Rome (March 17, 2013)

My dear sisters and brothers:

Today we begin the fifth week of Lent, so it’s only natural that we want to reflect on how we are preparing for Holy Week, and on how we are responding to the love of Christ, who redeemed us, who opened to us the path of salvation, that is to say, the path of holiness.

St. Augustine, who was a sinner like us, but who, after his conversion, came to live as a saint, a great servant of the Church and of souls, wrote: “If God didn’t love sinners he wouldn’t have come down from heaven to earth.”[1] We need to meditate on the infinite mercy of our Lord, who loved, and loves, us to the point of giving his life for us, for you, for me. How great is our Lord’s love! With human logic, we can understand that someone might give their life for their father, for a child, for a brother or sister, for a friend; but to give one’s life, not just for a stranger, but for someone who is behaving as an enemy, doesn’t fit into our mental categories. Jesus, in contrast, did so, and he renews this great generosity of his whenever we go to the sacrament of Penance to seek forgiveness for our faults, for our sins, no matter how great they might be.

My brothers and sisters, let us be filled with joy at this God of ours who never wants to abandon us! But we have to keep up a close dialogue with him, each day, dedicating a few minutes expressly to him and trying to keep up this conversation throughout the whole day, as St. Josemaría, a great lover of God, taught. Let us resolve, then, to pray more, to seek an intimate friendship with God, because he is a true friend who never betrays us, who follows us closely, who listens to us, who wants us to learn to do likewise with our relatives, friends, and colleagues. I ask you: do you try each day to serve, to help those at your side? Do you pray as well for all humanity? Do you and I realize that we need the charity, the friendship of others, and that others also need our affection, our prayer?

It is fashionable nowadays to speak about solidarity, but that is still very little: we need to “fill” the world with charity, with Christ’s love. St. Josemaría often insisted that we cannot serve someone just once, carrying out a good action that is extraordinary, and think that we have done enough. He taught us that we need to persevere in love for God and in love for others. And we can do so throughout the course of every day. If we read our Lord’s teachings in the Gospel attentively, we can discover his marvelous perseverance in doing good. He listens closely to our requests; at times it seems that he doesn’t answer right away, because he wants us to insist in our prayer with faith. But he cured the blind, the crippled, the sick. Always with a total availability.

What is our prayer like during this Year of Faith? Are we asking God to protect the Church, Pope Francis, the bishops, the priests, families, your family?

It is very important that we love one another, but we also need to pray for one another.

Let us turn once more to the example of St. Josemaria: From time to time he confided to us: “How long I waited for you! How much I prayed for you!” He did this especially in the Holy Mass. Therefore I suggest that you take part in the Mass not only on Sunday. If you can, come more frequently, to become a woman or a man of the Eucharist who then will be able to dedicate yourself with joy and determination to others.

The scene from today’s Gospel, like all the others there, is very beautiful and can help us not to take refuge in excuses, saying: “I am a poor person without good qualities or virtues; I let myself be dragged along by my small or great miseries.”

As we have just heard, some Pharisees brought before Jesus a sinful woman, caught in the act of adultery (see Jn 8:1-11). They don’t want this woman to repent and begin living an orderly life, and they try to involve Jesus in their attitude of condemnation. Those accusers don’t realize that they are in the presence of the Son of Man, the beloved Son of his Father God, although they had seen Jesus’ constant concern to help those in need.

The Master first led the woman’s accusers to examine their own conscience, so that the would seek God’s forgiveness, and then learn to help those in error.

Let us reject a critical attitude toward others. We have to help them to correct their behavior, telling them where they need to do so and extending a helping hand to them.

Jesus did not let himself be led by curiosity or by the scandalous news that today draws the attention of so many people. He remained calm, showing respect for the sinful woman, for all sinners, and made clear that evil is evil, that sin is sin, because the right understanding shown others does not consist in leaving sin alone, but in correcting the person with charity and helping the one who is in error. That is Jesus’ attitude, who did not condemn, but gave light to consciences: “Go and sin no more.”

Brothers and sisters, let us always draw close to Jesus, also when we have sinned, and he will come to help us. But we have to repent for our falls in confession.

Before ending, I invite you to pray for Pope Francis. He needs our help; he needs us to behave as good children; he needs us to commit ourselves to carry out a constant effort to “build up the Church.”

Let us go to Jesus, through our Lady, so that he protect the Pope, those who assist him, all humanity, and this entire parish community, to which I feel very closely united. By your conduct, help the pastor and the other priests and all the faithful. I pray for you every day.

Praised be Jesus Christ!

[1] St. Augustine, Commentaries on the Gospel of St. John, 49, 5.

Romana, n. 56, January-June 2013, p. 58-60.

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