.- On Sunday, Pope Benedict XVI paid a pastoral visit to the Roman Church of Saint Felicity and the Children Martyrs. After the reading of the Gospel, his Holiness addressed those present with a brief homily, encouraging them to continue the renewal of their parish and their personal lives, by the Grace which God provides.
The Pope opened noted the many problems faced by men and women today, “situations,” he said, “that demand your constant testimony to the love of God.” This love of God is manifested in “Christ, crucified, and risen, Who embraces the world without distinction of race or culture.”
This, the Holy Father noted, is “the mission of every parochial community, called to announce the Gospel.” And the fulfillment of this mission is made possible, he continued, referring to the first reading, “by Divine Intervention, which actually makes it easy [to live this out].”
Pope Benedict recalled that all Christians ought to be animated by this knowledge that God provides the means by which they can live out their evangelical life and be able to “cross the desert of this world, turning it into a fertile garden.”
In order to spread cross the desert, the Holy Father added the Lord offers us, “the Word, the Sacraments, and every other spiritual resource of the liturgy and personal prayer."
Above all, however, "the true provision is love,” he said, it is the love of Christ that makes this journey possible.
The Pope reminded the congregation of last week's Gospel, saying that it “helps us to understand that only the Love of God can change human existence from the inside . . . because only His infinite love can free us from sin, which is the root of all evil.” While it is true that God is Just, “one must not forget that He is - above all - Love.” God hates sin, “and because of this, He loves every individual person infinitely.”
Turning to this Sunday's Gospel, Benedict pointed out that there are “two scenes: the first is a discussion between Jesus and the Scribes and Pharisees . . . the second is the brief and touching dialogue between Jesus and the sinner.” The Scribes asked Jesus His opinion because the Law of Moses left no room for doubt, and they “knew of His mercy and love for sinners.”
Jesus, however, “immediately takes the side of the woman, writing the mysterious word on the ground . . . and saying the famous sentence: ‘Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.’” The Pope noted that this is the only place in the entire New Testament where the phrase “without sin” is used.
Continuing his explanation of the Gospel, the Pope added that once “all had left the Divine Master was alone with the Woman.” He then cited St. Augustine's interpretation of the Gospel, saying, “Only those two remained, Misery and Mercy.”
The Holy Father asked those present to pause for a moment here and contemplate “man's misery and the Divine Mercy, a woman accused of a terrible sin and He Who is without sin.” Again citing St. Augustine, Benedict concluded, “The Lord condemns the sin, but not the sinner.”
“Jesus,” the Pope added, “does not engage his interlocutors in a theoretical discussion, He is not interested in winning a debate on the interpretation of the Mosaic Law." Instead, “His goal is to save the soul and to reveal the salvation that is only found in the Love of God.”
Jesus came to tell us “that He wants us all to be in Paradise, and that Hell, something that very few talk about these days, exists eternally for those who close their hearts to His Love.” Jesus tells the woman, “Go and sin no more.” The real enemy of our existence is sin.
Benedict also noted that forgiveness is granted if “from now on she sins no more.” This shows that “there is no pardon without penance.” It is the Divine Love that “gives us the strength to resist evil and to ‘sin no more.’”
In closing his homily, the Pope reminded all, that God “never abandons us and His love is the source of joy and peace, it is the strength that pushes us along the road to Holiness and, if it is necessary, to martyrdom.”
This is exactly what happened “to the children and then their courageous mother, Felicity, the patrons of this Church.” The Holy Father turned to Felicity and the Children Martyrs, asking them to help all Christians, "to meet Christ more profoundly and to follow him with a faithful docility."