Vatican City (AsiaNews) - On 28 and 29 March, a "special moment of penance" called the '24 Hours for the Lord' will be held in St Peter's Basilica and in many churches in Rome and around the world." Pope Francis made the announcement himself after the Angelus today before the faithful in St Peter's Square.
"It will start with a celebration in St Peter's Basilica on Friday afternoon," the pope said. "Then, in the evening and overnight some churches in the centre of Rome will be open for prayers and confessions. It will be a festival of forgiveness, which will also take place in many dioceses and parishes around the world."
"We must celebrate the forgiveness the Lord gives us," the pope noted, "as did the father in the parable of the prodigal son who, when the latter returned, organised a party, putting out of his mind all the things the son had done."
Before the Angelus, the Holy Father focused his meditation on forgiveness, mercy and our "truer spiritual needs". He was inspired by the Gospel in today's Mass, which describes Jesus' encounter with the woman of Samaria (John, 4:5-42), at Jacob's well, "where the woman went every day to draw water."
"That day," the pope said, "she found Jesus, sitting, 'tired from his journey' (John, 4:6), who asked her right away, 'Give me a drink' (John, 4:7). In doing this, he tore down the barrier of hostility that had existed between Jews and Samaritans and tore through the biased mind-set against women. Jesus' simple request was the start of a frank exchange, through which He, with great sensitivity, entered the inner world of a person to whom, according to the social mores [of his time], he was not even supposed to talk. [Instead,] Jesus confronted her with the situation, not by judging her but by showing her consideration and recognition, thus making her to want to go beyond her daily routine."
"Jesus was not that thirsty for water," the pope explained, "as he was of meeting a parched soul. Jesus needed to meet the woman of Samaria to open up her heart. He asked her for a drink to show the thirst that was in her. The woman was touched by this encounter, and asked Jesus the profound questions we all have inside but often ignore. We too have many questions to ask but cannot find the courage to ask them to Jesus! Lent is the right time to look inside, reveal our true spiritual needs, and ask for God's help through prayers. Consequently, the example of the woman of Samaria calls upon us to ask, 'Jesus, give me the water that will quench my thirst for eternity.'"
"The Gospel says that the disciples were astonished that their Master was talking to that woman. But the Lord is stronger than any bias, and for this reason he was not afraid of speaking to the woman of Samaria: Mercy is greater than bias. We must fully learn this and Jesus is so merciful."
"As a result of this encounter, the woman was transformed. She "left her water jar" (Ibid, 4:28) and ran into town to tell about her extraordinary experience. 'Come see a man who told me everything I have done. Could he possibly be the Messiah?'
"She had gone to draw water from the well, and found another kind of water, the living water of mercy that gushes for eternal life. She found the water she had always been looking for! She ran to the village, the village that had passed judgment against her and had rejected her, to announce that she had met the Messiah, the one who had changed her life." Indeed, every encounter with Jesus changes our lives.
"In this Gospel," the pope said in concluding, "we too feel a desire to 'leave our water jar,' symbol of everything that is apparently important, but which loses value when confronted with of 'God's love'."
"All of us have one [jar]; perhaps more. [So,] I ask myself and I ask you, what is your inner jar, the one that takes you away from God? In our hearts, we hear God's voice who gives us another kind of water. We are called to rediscover the importance and the meaning of our Christian life, which begins with Baptism. [We are also called] to bear witness, as the Samaritan woman did, before our brothers and sisters of the joy of encountering Jesus and the wonders that God's love does to our lives." Every encounter with Jesus changes our life and fills us with inner joy.
Right after the Angelus, Pope Francis spoke again about what he had said before. Speaking to the tens of thousands of pilgrims in the square, he said, "Let us remember two sentences: Every encounter with Jesus changes one's life; every encounter with Jesus fills us with joy. Let us say them together." And the people went along with him and repeated them.
After the Marian prayer, the pope reminded everyone that tomorrow is World Tuberculosis Day. With this in mind, he called for prayers "for all those affected by this disease, and for those who help them in various ways."
In his greetings, the Holy Father also mentioned the 'Capitanio' School in Seto-Shi, Japan.