Pope Francis Sunday emphasized the need for people to have a firm resolve to change their lives when they ask for forgiveness of their sins.
“Every true conversion is aimed at a new future, at a new life, a beautiful life, a life free from sin, a generous life,” the pope said April 7. And people are not afraid to ask Jesus for forgiveness, “because He opens the door to this new life.”
Lent, Francis pointed out, is a time when Catholics are called to recognize their sinfulness and to ask God for forgiveness. “And forgiveness, in turn, as it reconciles us and gives us peace, makes us begin a renewed story.”
Pope Francis, in his Angelus address, reflected on the Gospel passage of the woman caught in adultery. The scribes and Pharisees, he said, try to trap Jesus by catching him going against the law, which says the woman should be stoned.
The scribes and Pharisees “are closed in the bottlenecks of legalism and want to lock up the Son of God in their perspective of judgment and condemnation,” the pope said. “But He did not come into the world to judge and condemn, but to save and offer people a new life.”
This episode contrasts two different attitudes, he underlined: The scribes and Pharisees “want to condemn the woman, because they feel they are the guardians of the Law and of its faithful application. Instead, Jesus wants to save her, because he personifies the mercy of God who, by forgiving redeems, reconciles, and renews.”
Francis noted that Jesus’ reaction to this “test” is to remain in silence, bending down to write in the dirt, as if to recall that the only Judge and Legislator is God, “who has written the Law in stone.”
And then Jesus says: “Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” With these words he appeals to the consciences of the scribes and Pharisees, reminding them of their own sinfulness, Pope Francis said.
Jesus continues to write in the dirt, and when he looks up, they have all left – only “misery and mercy” remain between him and the woman, he said, quoting St. Augustine.
Jesus then invites the woman to “Go, and from now on do not sin anymore.”
“And so, Jesus opens a new road before her, created by mercy, a road that requires her commitment not to sin anymore,” the pope said, noting that “it is also an invitation that applies to each of us. When Jesus forgives us, he always opens a new way to move forward.”
Speaking badly of others is one thing which makes people like the scribes and Pharisees, throwing stones, he stated.
“This scene also invites each of us to become aware that we are sinners,” he said, “and to let fall from our hands the stones of denigration and condemnation, of gossip, which at times we would like to hurl against others.”
Invoking the Virgin Mary, he concluded by asking for her help in witnessing “to all the merciful love of God who, in Jesus, forgives us and makes our existence new, always offering us new possibilities.”