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The tears of the sinner obtain forgiveness (Lk 7, 36-50)

Catechesis by Pope Francis in the Jubilee of Mercy
General Audience, Wednesday 20 April 2016, St Peter's Square - in Arabic, Croatian, English, French, German, Italian, Polish, Portuguese & Spanish

"Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!
Today we would like to stop and wonder at an aspect of mercy which is well presented in the passage we heard from the Gospel of Luke. It deals with something that happened to Jesus while he was the guest of a Pharisee called Simon. He wanted to invite Jesus to his home because he had heard others speak well of him as a great prophet. And while they were seated at a meal, there entered a woman, known throughout the city to be a sinner. This woman, without saying a word, threw herself at Jesus’ feet and burst into tears; her tears bathed the feet of Jesus and she dried them with her hair, then kissed them and anointed them with the perfumed oil she had brought with her.

Two figures stand out: Simon, the zealous servant of the law, and the anonymous sinful woman. While the former judges others based on appearances, the latter, through her actions, expresses the sincerity of her heart. Simon, though having invited Jesus, does not want to compromise himself or entangle his life with the Master; the woman, on the contrary, entrusts herself completely to him with love and veneration.

The Pharisee cannot fathom why Jesus would let himself be “contaminated” by sinners. He thinks that were Jesus a real prophet he would recognize them and keep his distance in order to keep from being sullied, as if they were lepers. This attitude is typical of a certain way of understanding religion, and it is based on the fact that God and sin are radically opposed. The Word of God, however, teaches us to distinguish sin from the sinner: one should not have to compromise with sin, but sinners — that is, all of us! — are like the sick, who need to be treated. And in order to heal them the doctor needs to get close, examine them, touch them. Naturally, the sick person, in order to be healed, must recognize that he needs the doctor!

Between the Pharisee and the sinful woman, Jesus sides with the latter. Jesus, free of the prejudices that hinder the expression of mercy, lets her do it. He, the Holy One of God, lets her touch him without fear of contamination. Jesus is free, because he is close to God who is the merciful Father. And this closeness to God, the merciful Father, gives Jesus freedom. Furthermore, by entering into a relationship with the sinner, Jesus puts an end to that state of isolation to which the ruthless judgment of the Pharisee and of her fellow citizens — the same who exploited her — had condemned her: “Your sins are forgiven” (Lk 7:48). The woman can now go “in peace”. The Lord sees the sincerity of her faith and conversion; thus before everyone he proclaims: “Your faith has saved you” (v. 50). On one side there is the lawyer’s hypocrisy, on the other, the sincerity, humility and faith of the woman. We are all sinners, but too often we fall into the temptation of hypocrisy, of believing ourselves to be better than others and we say: “Just look at your sin...”. We all need, however, to look to our own sins, our own shortcomings, our own mistakes, and to look to the Lord. This is the lifeline of salvation: the relation between the “I” of the sinner and the Lord. If I feel I am righteous, there is no saving relationship.

At this point, an even greater wonder assails all those at the table: “Who is this, who even forgives sins?” (v. 49). Jesus does not answer explicitly, but the conversion of the sinner is before the eyes of all and it shows that from him there emanates the power of the mercy of God, which is able to transform hearts.

The sinful woman teaches us the connection between faith, love, and recognition. “Many sins” have been forgiven her and therefore she has loved much; “but he who is forgiven little, loves little” (v. 47). Even Simon himself has to admit that the one who is guiltiest loves more. God has wrapped each and every one of us in the same mystery of mercy; and from his love, which always comes to us first, we learn how to love. As St Paul recalls: “in him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to his grace which he lavished on us” (Eph 1:7-8). In this passage, “grace” is virtually synonymous with mercy, and we are told that God has “lavished” it upon us, meaning that it far exceeds our expectations, since it brings to fulfillment God’s saving plan for each one of us.

Dear brothers and sisters, let us recognize the gift of faith, let us give thanks to the Lord for his love which is so great and unmerited! Let us allow the love of Christ be poured into us: the disciple draws from this love and founds himself on it; from this love each one of us can be nourished and fed. Thus, in the grateful love that we in turn pour out upon our brothers and sisters, in our homes, in our families and in our societies, the mercy of the Lord may be communicated to everyone."


"Je suis heureux de vous accueillir, chers pèlerins francophones, en particulier les Diacres du Mans et les servants d’autel de Périgueux avec leurs évêques, le séminaire d’Ars et le groupe Joie d’Evangile de Grenoble ainsi que les nombreux pèlerins de France et de Belgique. En ce temps de Pâques, laissons l’amour miséricordieux de Dieu se répandre en nos cœurs afin que nous sachions nous aussi accueillir avec amour nos frères et nos sœurs. Que Dieu vous bénisse !

I greet the English-speaking visitors taking part in today’s Audience, particularly the pilgrims from Croatia, Norway, Sweden, Australia, Singapore, Taiwan, the Philippines and the United States of America. In the joy of the Risen Lord, I invoke upon you and your families the loving mercy of God our Father. May the Lord bless you all!

Ein herzliches Willkommen sage ich den Pilgern deutscher Sprache. Ich grüße besonders die Seminaristen des überdiözesanen Seminars St. Lambert in Burg Lantershofen sowie die Mitglieder und Freunde der Stiftung Ecclesia mundi. Liebe Brüder und Schwestern, Gott hat uns zuerst geliebt (1 Joh 4,19): Dies wollen wir mit unserer Liebe zum Herrn und zu den Mitmenschen erwidern; so können wir die Welt verändern. Von Herzen segne ich euch alle.

Saludo cordialmente a los peregrinos de lengua española, en particular a los grupos provenientes de España y América latina. Queridos hermanos, en Cristo, que perdona los pecados, brilla en Él la fuerza de la misericordia de Dios, capaz de transformar los corazones. Abrámonos al amor del Señor, y dejémonos renovar por Él. En esta lengua que nos une a España y Latinoamérica, Hispanoamérica, quiero decir también a nuestros hermanos del Ecuador, nuestra cercanía, nuestra oración, en este momento de dolor.

De coração, saúdo os peregrinos brasileiros da Comunidade Obra de Maria e todos os presentes de língua portuguesa. Sede bem-vindos! Que nada vos impeça de viver e crescer na amizade do Senhor Jesus, e testemunhar a todos a sua grande bondade e misericórdia! Desça generosamente a sua Bênção sobre vós e vossas famílias.

أُرحّبُ بالحجّاجِ الناطقينَ باللغةِ العربيّة، وخاصّةً بالقادمينَ من الشّرق الأوسط. أيّها الإخوةُ والأخواتُ الأعزّاء، أن نكون رسل رحمة يعني أن نلمس بحنان الجّراح الحاضرة في أجساد ونفوس العديد من إخوتنا وأخواتنا؛ وإذْ نعتني بهذه الجّراح، نعترف بيسوع ونجعله حاضرًا وحيًّا، ونسمح للآخرين بأن يلمسوا رحمته بأيديهم. ليُبارككُم الربّ!

Serdecznie witam polskich pielgrzymów. Drodzy bracia i siostry, bądźmy wdzięczni za dar wiary, dziękujmy Panu za Jego miłość! Pozwólmy, aby miłość Chrystusa rozlała się w nas: z tej miłości uczeń czerpie i na niej się opiera. Tą miłością każdy może się karmić i posilać. W ten sposób, we wdzięcznej miłości, którą z kolei przelewamy na naszych braci, w naszych domach, w rodzinie, w społeczeństwie przekazywane jest wszystkim miłosierdzie Pana. Niech Bóg wam błogosławi!

Вітаю паломників, що прибули з України та Білорусі в рамках міжнародної конференції з нагоди 30-ї річниці Чорнобильської трагедії.
Знову підносячи молитви за жертви цієї катастрофи, висловлюємо вдячність рятівникам та визнання всім ініціативам, покликаним полегшити страждання і виправити завдану шкоду.

Сердечно приветствую верных из Российской Федерации, в особенности паломников из епархии Святого Климента в Саратове во главе с епископом монс. Клеменсом Пиккелем.
Господь да благословит вас обильно в этот Год Милосердия, да соделает всех вас свидетелями Своей любви!


"The people of Ukraine have long been suffering the consequences of armed conflict, which many have forgotten. As you know, I invited the Church in Europe to support the initiative which I began to confront this humanitarian emergency. In anticipation of their generosity, I thank all those who will contribute to the collection, which will take place this Sunday, 24 April.

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Rivolgo un cordiale benvenuto ai pellegrini di lingua italiana. Sono lieto di accogliere con particolare affetto i fedeli delle Diocesi di Pesaro, Biella, Nicosia e Ozieri, accompagnate dai rispettivi Vescovi Mons. Coccia, Mons. Mana, Mons. Muratore e Mons. Melis: auspico che il vostro pellegrinaggio giubilare susciti in voi il desiderio di diventare sempre più testimoni di misericordia e rendere le vostre comunità ricche del dinamismo della fede e di spirito missionario. Saluto i medici partecipanti al Congresso Europeo “Terapia del dolore e cure palliative”; il pellegrinaggio del Movimento Apostolico; le religiose dell’Unione Superiore Maggiori d’Italia e la Fondazione “Aiutiámoli a vivere” di Terni.

Un saluto particolare porgo ai giovani, agli ammalati e agli sposi novelli. Domani ricordiamo Sant’Anselmo di Aosta, vescovo e dottore della Chiesa. Il suo esempio di vita spinga voi, cari giovani, specialmente voi ragazzi di Aversa e di Ascoli Piceno, a vedere in Gesù misericordioso il vero maestro di vita; la sua intercessione ottenga per voi, cari ammalati, la serenità e la pace presenti nel mistero della croce; e la sua dottrina sia un incoraggiamento per voi, cari sposi novelli, a diventare educatori dei vostri figli con la sapienza del cuore."