POPE FRANCIS’ REFLECTION FOR THE 3RD SUNDAY OF LENT YEAR C
Saint Peter’s Square
Sunday, 20 March 2022
Dear brothers and sisters, happy Sunday!
We are at the heart of our Lenten journey, and today the Gospel begins by presenting Jesus who comments on some news of the day. While people still remember the eighteen who died when a tower collapsed on them, they tell Him about some Galileans whom Pilot had killed (cf. Lk 13:1). And there is a question that seems to accompany these tragic affairs: who is to blame for these terrible events? Perhaps those people were guiltier than others and God punished them? These are questions that also come up today. When bad news weighs on us and we feel powerless before evil, we often ask ourselves: is it perhaps a punishment from God? Did He bring about a war or a pandemic to punish us for our sins? And why does the Lord not intervene?
We must be careful: when evil oppresses us, we risk losing our clarity and, to find an easy answer to what we are unable to explain, we end up putting the blame on God. And so often the very bad habit of using profanities comes from this. How often we attribute to Him our woes and misfortunes in the world, to Him who instead leaves us always free and hence never intervenes imposing, but only proposing; He who never uses violence and instead suffers for us and with us! Indeed, Jesus refuses and contests strongly the idea of blaming God for our evils: those persons who were killed by Pilate and those who died when the tower collapsed on them were not any more at fault than others, and they were not victims of a ruthless and vindictive God, which does not exist! Evil can never come from God because “He does not deal with us according to our sins” (Ps 103:10), but according to His mercy. This is God’s style. He cannot treat us otherwise. He always treats us with mercy.
Rather than blaming God, Jesus says we need to look inside ourselves: it is sin that produces death; our selfishness can tear apart relationships; our wrong and violent choices can unleash evil. At this point the Lord offers the true solution, and that is conversion: He says, “unless you repent you will all likewise perish“ (Lk 13:5). It is an urgent call, especially during this time of Lent. Let us welcome it with an open heart. Let us turn from evil, let us renounce the sin that seduces us, let us be open to the logic of the Gospel because where love and fraternity reign, evil has no more power!
But Jesus knows that conversion is not easy, and he wants to help us here, given that so many times we repeat the same mistakes and the same sins. We can become discouraged, and sometimes our commitment to do good can seem useless in a world where evil seems to rule. So, after his appeal, He encourages us with a parable that tells of the patience God has for us. We must keep in mind God’s patience that He has for us. He offers the consoling image of fig tree that does not bear fruit during the accorded season, but it is not cut down. He gives it more time, another possibility. I like thinking that a nice name for God could be “the God of another possibility”: God always gives us another opportunity, always, always. That is what His mercy is like. This is how the Lord works with us. He does not cut us out of his love. He does not lose heart or tire of offering us again His trust with tenderness. Brothers and sisters, God believes in us! God trusts us and accompanies us with patience, the patience of God with us. He does not get discouraged, but always instills hope in us. God is Father and looks after you like a father. As the best of fathers, He does not look at the achievements you have not yet reached, but the fruits you can still bear. He does not keep track of your shortcomings but encourages your potential. He does not dwell on your past, but confidently bets on your future. This is because God is close to us. Let us not forget that the style of God is closeness, He is close with mercy and tenderness. In this way God accompanies us: with closeness, mercy, and tenderness.
So let us ask the Blessed Virgin Mary to fill us with hope and courage, and kindle in us the desire for conversion.
After the Angelus
Dear brothers and sisters,
Unfortunately, the violent aggression against Ukraine does not stop, a senseless massacre where every day there is a repetition of slaughter and atrocities. There is no justification for this! I plead with all those involved in the international community to truly commit to ending this abhorrent war.
This week again missiles and bombs have fallen on civilians, the elderly, children, and pregnant mothers. I went to see the wounded children who are here in Rome. One was missing an arm; one had a head injury…innocent children. I think of the millions of Ukrainian refugees who must flee leaving everything behind, and I feel a great pain for those who do not even have the possibility to escape. So many grandparents, sick and poor people separated from their own families, so many children and fragile people are left to die under the bombs without being able to receive help and find safety even in the air raid shelters. All this is inhuman! Indeed, it is also sacrilegious because it goes against the sacredness of human life, especially against defenseless human life, which must be respected and protected, not eliminated, and this comes before any strategy! Let us not forget it is inhuman and sacrilegious cruelty! Let us pray in silence for those who are suffering.
It comforts me to know that the people left under the bombs do not lack the closeness of their pastors, who in these tragic days are living the Gospel of charity and fraternity. I have spoken with some of them on the phone during these days, they are close to the people of God. Thank you, dear brothers and sisters, for this witness and for the concrete support you are offering courageously to so many desperate people! I also think of the apostolic nuncio, who was just made a nuncio, Archbishop Visvaldas Kulbokas, who since the beginning of the war has stayed in Kyiv together with his collaborators and who with his presence brings me close every day to the martyred Ukrainian people. Let us be close to this people, let us embrace them with affection, with concrete commitment and prayer. And please, let us not get used to war and violence! Let us not tire of welcoming them with generosity as we are doing now not only during the emergency, but also in the weeks and months to come. As you know at first, we do all we can to welcome everyone, but then we can get used to it, and our hearts cool a bit, and we forget about it. Let us think of these women and children who in time, without work, separated from their husbands, will be sought out by the ‘vultures’ of society. Please, let us protect them.
I invite every community and all the faithful to unite with me on Friday 25 March, the Solemnity of the Annunciation, for the Solemn Act of Consecration of humanity, especially Russia and Ukraine, to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, so that she, the Queen of Peace, may help us obtain peace.
I greet all of you, Romans and pilgrims who have come from Italy and various countries. In particular, I greet the faithful from Madrid, the international group “Agorà degli abitanti della terra”, the doctors and rescuers of the 118 Emergency Service, the Rinnovamento Carismatico Cattolico “Charis” – the only one officially recognized, “Charis”, not others -, and the members of the Focolari Movement. I greet the Piccolo Coro dell’Antoniano di Bologna choir with the band from the Polizia di Stato, the “Ensemble Vox Cordis” choir of Fornovo San Giovanni, the “San Vincenzo Grossi” choir of Pizzighettone, the young people of the profession of faith of Angera, Sesto Calende e Ternate, the pilgrimage of the Diocese of Asti, and the faithful from Venice and Sassari.
I wish all of you a good Sunday. And please, do not forget to pray for me. Have a good lunch and arrivederci.
Saint Peter’s Square
3rd Sunday of Lent Year C, 24 March 2019
Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning,
The Gospel for this third Sunday of Lent (cf. Lk 13: 1-9) speaks to us about God’s mercy and of our conversion. Jesus recounts the parable of the barren fig tree. A man has planted a fig tree in his vineyard, and with great confidence, each summer, he goes in search of its fruits, but he finds none because that tree is barren. Spurred by this disappointment which has recurred for at least three years, the man considers cutting down the fig tree in order to plant another. So he calls the field hand who is in the vineyard and tells him of his disappointment, ordering him to cut down the tree so as not to use up the ground needlessly. But the vinedresser asks the master to be patient and asks him for one more year during which the vinedresser himself would take special and delicate care of the fig tree, so as to stimulate its productivity. This is the parable. What does this parable symbolize? What do the characters in this parable symbolize?
The master represents God the Father and the vinedresser is the image of Jesus, while the fig tree is the symbol of an indifferent and insensitive humanity. Jesus intercedes with the Father in favour of humanity — and he always does so — and implores him to wait and to give it more time so that it may bring forth the fruits of love and justice. The fig tree that the master in the parable wants to uproot represents a sterile existence that is incapable of giving, incapable of doing good. It is the symbol of one who lives for himself, sated and calm, enjoying his own comforts, incapable of turning his gaze and his heart to those beside him who find themselves in conditions of suffering, poverty and hardship. This attitude of selfishness and spiritual barrenness, is compared to the vinedresser’s great love for the fig tree. He asks the master to wait. He is patient, knows how to wait, and devotes his time and his work to it. He promises the master to take special care of that unfortunate tree.
And this vinedresser’s likeness manifests the mercy of God who leaves us time for conversion. We all need to convert ourselves, to take a step forward; and God’s patience and mercy accompanies us in this. Despite the barrenness that marks our lives at times, God is patient and offers us the possibility to change and make progress on the path towards good. However, the deferment requested and received in expectation of the tree bearing fruit also indicates the urgency of conversion. The vinedresser tells the master: “Let it alone, sir, this year also” (v. 8). The possibility of conversion is not unlimited; thus, it is necessary to seize it immediately; otherwise it might be lost forever. This Lent, we can consider: what do I have to do to draw nearer to the Lord, to convert myself, to “cut out” those things that are not good? “No, no, I will wait for next Lent”. But will I be alive next Lent? Today, let us each think: what must I do before this mercy of God who awaits me and who always forgives? What must I do? We can have great trust in God’s mercy but without abusing it. We must not justify spiritual laziness, but increase our commitment to respond promptly to this mercy with heartfelt sincerity.
During the time of Lent, the Lord invites us to convert. Each of us must feel addressed by this call, and correct something in our lives, in our way of thinking, of behaving and of living our relationships with others. At the same time, we must imitate the patience of God who trusts in everyone’s ability to “rise again” and to continue the journey. God is Father and does not extinguish the weak flame, but rather, accompanies and cares for those who are weak so that they may gain strength and bring their contribution of love to the community. May the Virgin Mary help us to live these days of preparation for Easter as a time of spiritual renewal and trusting openness to the grace of God and his mercy.
Saint Peter’s Square
3rd Sunday of Lent Year C, 28 February 2016
Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!
Unfortunately, every day the press reports bad news: homicides, accidents, catastrophes…. In today’s Gospel passage, Jesus refers to two tragic events which had caused a stir: a cruel suppression carried out by Roman soldiers in the temple, and the collapse of the tower of Siloam in Jerusalem, which resulted in 18 deaths (cf. Lk 13:1-5).
Jesus is aware of the superstitious mentality of his listeners and he knows that they misinterpreted that type of event. In fact, they thought that, if those people died in such a cruel way it was a sign that God was punishing them for some grave sin they had committed, as if to say “they deserved it”. Instead, the fact that they were saved from such a disgrace made them feel “good about themselves”. They “deserved it”; “I’m fine”.
Jesus clearly rejects this outlook, because God does not allow tragedies in order to punish sins, and he affirms that those poor victims were no worse than others. Instead, he invites his listeners to draw from these sad events a lesson that applies to everyone, because we are all sinners; in fact, he said to those who questioned him, “Unless you repent you will all likewise perish” (v. 3).
Today too, seeing certain misfortunes and sorrowful events, we can be tempted to “unload” the responsibility onto the victims, or even onto God himself. But the Gospel invites us to reflect: What idea do we have of God? Are we truly convinced that God is like that, or isn’t that just our projection, a god made to “our image and likeness”?
Jesus, on the contrary, invites us to change our heart, to make a radical about-face on the path of our lives, to abandon compromises with evil — and this is something we all do, compromises with evil, hypocrisy…. I think that nearly all of us has a little hypocrisy — in order to decidedly take up the path of the Gospel. But again there is the temptation to justify ourselves. What should we convert from? Aren’t we basically good people? — How many times have we thought this: “But after all I am a good man, I’m a good woman”… isn’t that true? “Am I not a believer and even quite a churchgoer?” And we believe that this way we are justified.
Unfortunately, each of us strongly resembles the tree that, over many years, has repeatedly shown that it’s infertile. But, fortunately for us, Jesus is like a farmer who, with limitless patience, still obtains a concession for the fruitless vine. “Let it alone this year” — he said to the owner — “we shall see if it bears fruit next year” (cf. v. 9).
A “year” of grace: the period of Christ’s ministry, the time of the Church before his glorious return, an interval of our life, marked by a certain number of Lenten seasons, which are offered to us as occasions of repentance and salvation, the duration of a Jubilee Year of Mercy. The invincible patience of Jesus! Have you thought about the patience of God? Have you ever thought as well of his limitless concern for sinners? How it should lead us to impatience with ourselves! It’s never too late to convert, never. God’s patience awaits us until the last moment.
Remember that little story from St Thérèse of the Child Jesus, when she prayed for that man who was condemned to death, a criminal, who did not want to receive the comfort of the Church. He rejected the priest, he didn’t want [forgiveness], he wanted to die like that. And she prayed in the convent, and when, at the moment of being executed, the man turned to the priest, took the Crucifix and kissed it. The patience of God! He does the same with us, with all of us. How many times, we don’t know — we’ll know in heaven — but how many times we are there, there … [about to fall off the edge] 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 convert, but it’s urgent. Now is the time! Let us begin today.
May the Virgin Mary sustain us, so that we can open our hearts to the grace of God, to his mercy; and may she help us to never judge others, but rather to allow ourselves to be struck by daily misfortunes and to make a serious examination of our consciences and to repent.
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