GENERAL AUDIENCE: THE WORD OF GOD TEACHES US TO DISTINGUISH BETWEEN THE SINNER AND THE SIN” Pope Francis focused on the encounter between Jesus and the sinful woman in the house of Simon the Pharisee

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During the Wednesday general audience in St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis focused “on an aspect of mercy which is well-represented by the passage of Luke’s Gospel.” The sacred text narrates the encounter between Jesus and the sinful woman, when he was a guest in the house of a Pharisee called Simon. The woman throws herself at his feet in tears and Jesus forgives her sins because she “loved much.”

“What stands out – the Pope observes – is the comparison between the two figures: that of Simon the zealous servant of the law and that of the anonymous sinful woman. Whereas the first one judges the others according to appearances, the second one, with her gestures sincerely expresses her heart. Despite having invited Jesus, Simone does not want to compromise nor involve his life with the Master; the woman, on the contrary, entrusts herself fully to Him with love and reverence.”

“The Pharisee cannot imagine that Jesus allows himself to be ‘contaminated’ – so to say! – by sinners. That is what they thought! He thinks that if he had truly been a prophet, he should have recognize them and keep them away, so as to avoid being tainted, as if they were lepers. This attitude is typical of a certain way of understanding religion, and it is motivated by the fact that God and sin are radically opposed. But the Word of God teaches us to distinguish between the sinner and the sin: with sin we must not bow down to compromise, whereas sinners – that is, all of us! – are like the sick, who need to be cured, and to heal them the doctor must be close to them, examine them, and touch them. And naturally the sick, to be healed, must acknowledge that they are in need of a doctor”.

“Between the Pharisee and the sinful woman, Jesus sides with the latter. Free of prejudices that prevent mercy from being expressed, the Master allows Himself to be touched by her without fear of being contaminated. Jesus is free, free because he is close to God who is a merciful Father. And this closeness to God, the merciful Father, gives freedom to Jesus. Indeed, entering into a relationship with the sinful woman, Jesus puts an end to the condition of isolation to which she had been condemned by the pitiless judgment of the Pharisee and his fellow citizens – who exploited her -: ‘Your sins have been forgiven’. The woman can now, therefore, go ‘in peace’. The Lord has seen the sincerity of her faith and her conversion, and therefore proclaims to her before everyone, ‘Your faith has saved you'”.

Then the Pontiff has added of the cuff: “On the one hand, there was the hypocrisy of the Pharisees, whereas on the other hand, there was the sincerity, humility, and faith of women. We are all sinners, but many times we fall into the temptation of hypocrisy, of thinking that we are better than others. ‘But look at your sin…’ We all look at our sin, our falls, our mistakes, and we look at the Lord. This is the line of salvation: the relationship between ‘I’ the sinner and the Lord. If I feel rightful, this relationship of salvation is not given to me.”

“At this point, all diners are amazed even more: ‘Who is that man who even forgives sins?’. Jesus does not give an explicit answer, but the conversion of the sinful woman is before everyone’s eyes and it shows that in Him shines the power of God’s mercy, capable of transforming hearts.” The sinful woman teaches us the relationship between faith, love and gratitude. Her many sins were pardoned and for this reason she loves greatly; ‘but he who has forgiven little, loves little’, as even Simon himself admits. God has enclosed all this in the same mystery of mercy; and from this love, which always precedes us, we all learn to love.

“Dear brothers – Francesco finishes his explanation – let us be grateful for the gift of faith, let us thank the Lord for His love, so great and undeserved! Let us allow Christ’s love be poured into us… and in this way, may the grateful love that we in turn bestow upon our brothers, in our homes, in the family, and in society, communicate the Lord’s mercy to all. Thank you”.

Greeting the Spanish-speaking pilgrims, the Pope then expressed “our closeness and our prayers to our Ecuadorian brothers at this time of sorrow” because of the violent earthquake of magnitude 7.8 that caused at least 507 victims, more than 4 thousand injured , 1700 missing and 20 thousand displaced people.

At the end of the general audience, the Pope has launched also an appeal for Ukraine: “Ukraine’s population has been suffering the consequences of an armed conflict for a long time, forgotten by many people. As you know, I invited the Church in Europe to support the initiative I had called to meet this humanitarian emergency. I thank in advance those who will generously contribute to this initiative, which will take place next Sunday, April 24 “. Finally, greeting the pilgrims who have come from Ukraine and Belarus, on the occasion of the international conference on the 30th anniversary of the Chernobyl tragedy, he said: “While we renew our prayer for the victims of this disaster, we express our gratitude to the rescuers and for all the initiatives which tried to alleviate the damage and their suffering”.

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