“Neither do I condemn you. Go, [and] from now on do not sin any more.” (John 8:11)
What an extraordinary week it has been to be a Catholic. To witness history and see our new Holy Father elected has been something remarkable. Even more amazing has been seeing him so actively exercising the Petrine ministry in his own unique way. Two examples come to mind of how extraordinary this pope is (and really, all popes are extraordinary in their own right): the first came on Thursday when he celebrated his first Mass as Pope with the cardinals in the Sistine Chapel. He didn’t go the traditional route of reading a prepared homily from a text while sitting in his char. No, he went straight to the ambo, like priests do around the world every day, and without reading from a text preached to us from the heart in a short 7 minutes. The second example came this morning when he said Mass at the parish church of the Vatican, St. Ann, where he preached a 5 minute homily on today’s gospel (it takes me 5 minutes just to warm up) and after Mass, again, he did what priests around the world do after Mass, he stood at the doorway of the church and greeted parishioners as they left. Pope Francis is truly one of a kind. But back to his homilies. This morning the Holy Father highlighted the depths of God’s mercy. When referring to the gospel of the adulterous woman, he reminded us that like the accusers in the gospel, we are are faster to condemn than to forgive. But the pope’s brilliance came when he uttered the following line: “The Lord never tires of forgiving us, never! We are the ones who get tired of asking for forgiveness.”
The last two weeks we have witnessed in the gospel God reaching out to forgive. Last week, we saw the father of the prodigal son run to his son to forgive him. This week, Jesus approaches the woman caught in adultery to show her his divine mercy. As we approach Holy Week, the Lord is calling out to us, inviting us, and imploring us to return to him especially in the sacrament of confession. This coming weekend is Reconciliation Weekend in the Archdiocese of Miami and there are parishes all over who will be open and filled with priests on Friday night and Saturday morning and afternoon so that we may go to confession. Christ is reaching out to us as he did to the woman in the gospel. He does not condemn us. He wants to forgive us.
One of the striking things about our new Pope is the choice of the name Francis in memory of St. Francis of Assisi. He admitted yesterday that he chose it because he was told by a brother cardinal upon his election to remember the poor. But as we contemplate the life of St. Francis of Assisi, we cannot forget the story of how he was praying before the crucifix in San Damiano centuries ago and heard the voice of the Lord tell him clearly from the cross: “Francis, rebuild our church.” This may very well be the call of our new Holy Father, but in his first homilies, he has already reminded us that the rebuilding of the church must begin in our hearts. We must embrace the cross of Jesus because there we find true love, and we must be able to seek the Lord’s forgiveness, which he will give to us over and over again because that is how much he loves us. New hearts=Strong Church! Approach the Lord in confession these last two weeks of Lent. Do not be afraid. Do not let these extraordinary days of grace go by without allowing that grace to transform your heart. “The Lord never tires of forgiving us, never! We are the ones who get tired of asking for forgiveness.”