Fifth Sunday of Lent
March 13, 2016
Fr. José Maria Cortex, F.S.C.B.

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Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her” (Jn 8:7). With this answer, Jesus surprised those who came with insidious questions aimed at bringing him down.

In the Gospels, we can find many instances when Jesus surprises his listeners under difficult circumstances, such as when the Pharisees asked him whether they should pay taxes to Caesar. Jesus answered them: “So give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s” (Lk 20:25). Jesus was always surprising people.

Nowadays, many people are still asking the Church difficult questions. In our world, the Church is a presence that vexes the politically correct, a foreign body that provokes allergic reactions in many minds.

The Church is holy. However, her members are sinners.  Unfortunately, many times their actions are scandalous. This is used in support of the general accusation that if such things happen in the Church, everything is a lie.

The powerful media try to transmit an image of the Church as an old-fashioned institution, plagued by scandals, power, corruption etc. They try to say that the end of the Catholic Church is coming, unless the Church starts teaching the “creed” of the prevailing mentality.

If we look at two thousand years of Church history, we see that there were good moments and bad, periods of decadence and periods of renewal. Usually, the worst times in Church history were also those when great saints appeared. The Church is not only a human organization but it is created by God.

This week, we were all surprised by the election of Pope Francis. We were surprised by his name, which evokes Saint Francis of Assisi, the saint of humility and poverty, the saint who was invited by Jesus on the Cross to rebuild His Church. We were surprised because Francis is the first non-European Pope, as he comes from Latin America. We were won over by his humility and goodness. We were won over by the informal and familiar way he spoke to the crowds. On the first day, he went to the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore to entrust his pontificate to the protection of Our Blessed Mother. It was moving to see him holding a bouquet of flowers, walking toward the altar of Our Lady. He was like a happy child bringing a gift to his mother. We have a Pope, we have a father to comfort and guide us.

This week, we were surprised. The Church has the capacity to surprise us constantly. This is a sign of the presence of Christ among us. He really can surprise our hearts.

Let us thank God for the gift of Pope Francis. Let us implore Our Lady for her maternal protection over his pontificate. Let us ask for the grace that his leadership will help all of us grow in holiness.

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