Dear brothers and sisters,
Today’s Gospel proposes once again the words of Jesus to Nicodemus: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son” (Jn 3,16). Listening to this word, we turn our heart’s gaze to Jesus Crucified and we feel in us that God loves us, He truly loves us, and He loves us so much! This is the simplest expression that summarizes the whole Gospel, all of faith and all of theology: God loves us with a free and boundless love.
God shows this love above all in Creation, as the liturgy proclaims in the Eucharistic Prayer IV: “[You] have made all that is, so that you might fill your creatures with blessings and bring joy to many of them by the glory of your light.” Since the beginning of time there is only the free and gratuitous love of the Father. Saint Irenaeus, a saint from the first century, writes: “In the beginning, therefore, did God form Adam, not as if He stood in need of man, but that He might have [someone] upon whom to confer His benefits” (Adversus haereses, IV, 14,1).
Thus the Eucharistic Prayer IV continues: “And when through disobedience he had lost your friendship, you did not abandon him to the domain of death. For you came in mercy to the aid of all.” As in creation, so does the gratuitous love of God stand out in the successive steps in the history of salvation: the Lord chooses His people not because they deserve it, but precisely because it is the smallest among all peoples. And when He comes “in the fullness of time”, although men had repeatedly broken the covenant, God, rather than abandon them, forged a new bond with them, in the blood of Jesus – the bond of the new and everlasting covenant – a bond that nothing will ever break.
Saint Paul reminds us: “God, who is rich in mercy,” – never forget this, He is rich in mercy – “because of the great love he had for us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, brought us to life with Christ” (Eph, 2,4). The Cross of Christ is the supreme proof of the Love of God for us: Jesus has loved us “until the end” (Jn. 13,1), meaning not only at the final moment of his earthly life, but until extreme limit of love. If in creation the Father has given us the proof of his great love by giving us life, in the passion of His Son He has given us the sum of all proofs: He has come to suffer and die for us. And this love that is so great is the mercy of God, because He loves us, He forgives us. With his mercy, God forgives all and God always forgives.
May Mary, Mother of Mercy, place in our hearts the certainty that we are loved by God. May She be close to us in the moments of difficulty and give us the sentiments of Her Son, so that our Lenten itinerary may be an experience of forgiveness, of welcome and of charity.
Following the Angelus, the Pope said:
Dear brothers and sister,
With sorrow, with much sorry I received the news of today’s terrorist attack against two Churches in the city of Lahore in Pakistan that have caused numerous deaths and wounded people. They are Christian Churches, the Christians who are persecuted. Our brothers shed their blood solely because they are Christians. While I assure my prayers for the victims and their families, I ask from the Lord, I implore the Lord, the source of all good, to give peace and harmony to that country. And that this persecution against Christians, that the world tries to hide, end and that there may be peace.
I give a cordial greeting to you, the faithful of Rome and you who have come from so many parts of the world.
I greet the pilgrims of Granada and Malaga, Spain; as well as those from Mannheim, Germany. I greet the parish groups who come from Perugia, Pordenone, Pavia, from St. Giuseppe all’Aurelio in Rome and from the Diocese of Piacenza-Bobbio. I give a special thought to the youth of Serravalle Scrivia, from Rosolina and from Verdellino-Zingonia who are preparing to receive Confirmation; to those from the Diocese of Lodi and from the Romana – Vittoria deanery of Milano who have come to Rome to make “the promise” to follow Jesus. I also greet the ministers of Besana in Brianza. And I can see them from here, there is there banner, greetings!
I greet the various volunteer groups who, united in the work of solidarity, are participating in the “Together for the Common Good” demonstration. I express my closeness to the people of Vanuatu, in the Pacific Ocean, struck by a strong hurricane. I pray for the deceased, the wounded and the homeless. I thank those who have acted quickly to bring help and support.
To all I wish a Good Sunday. Please do not forget to pray for me. Have a good lunch and good bye.