Pope: Judge Not Your Neighbor


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VATICAN CITY, MARCH 21, 2010 ( Benedict XVI is warning the faithful this Lent against judging others, and to be more aware of the mercy and forgiveness of Christ.

The Pope said this today in a reflection on the Gospel episode in which Jesus saved an adulterous woman from being condemned to death. He delivered his comments before praying the midday Angelus with the pilgrims gathered in St. Peter's Square.

He recounted how in the Gospel scene -- found in John 8:1-11 -- the Pharisees sought to test Jesus by bringing to him "a woman caught in adultery, for whom the Mosaic Law prescribes stoning."

"The scene is full of drama," the Holy Father explains. "The woman's life and Jesus' own life depend on his words. The hypocritical accusers, in fact, pretend to entrust him with the judgment while in reality they want to accuse and judge him.

"But Jesus is 'full of grace and truth': He knows what is in every man's heart, he wants to condemn sin but save the sinner, and unmask hypocrisy."

Benedict XVI recalled how Jesus then "bends down and starts writing with his finger on the ground."

He explained: "St. Augustine observes that this gesture displays Jesus as the divine lawgiver: Indeed, God wrote the law with his finger on the tables of stone. Thus, Jesus is the lawgiver, justice incarnate. And what is his judgment? 'Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to cast a stone at her.'"

"These words are full of the disarming power of the truth, which makes the wall of hypocrisy crumble and opens consciences to a greater justice, that of love, in which consists the perfect fulfillment of every precept," the Pontiff reflected.

The woman's accusers departed, and Jesus said to the woman: "Neither do I condemn you; go and from now on do not sin any more."

"God only wants goodness and life for us," the Pope said. "He provides for the salvation of our soul through his ministers, freeing us from evil by the sacrament of reconciliation, so that no one is lost but all have a way to be converted."

He invited priests to imitate St. John Mary Vianney, the holy Curé d'Ars, in the ministry of the sacrament of penance, "so that the faithful rediscover its meaning and beauty, and are again healed by the merciful love of God."

And addressing the faithful, Benedict XVI urged them to "learn from the Lord Jesus not to judge and not to condemn our neighbor. Let us learn to be intransigent with sin -- beginning with our own! -- and indulgent with people."