Memorial of Pope Saint John XXIII
Scripture Readings: Rom 1:1-7; Lk 11:29-32
“This generation is an evil generation.” Ouch! That must have hurt the crowds who came to hear good news from Jesus, not their condemnation.
It must have hurt even more when Jesus said, “The people of Nineveh will rise up at the judgement with this generation and condemn it because they repented at the proclamation of Jonah.” Turning to the Pharisees Jesus continued with even more harsh sayings, “Woe to you Pharisees…” And then to the lawyers, “Woe also to you lawyers…” These encounters conclude with Luke telling us that “The scribes and the Pharisees began to be very hostile towards him, … lying in wait for him, to catch him in something he might say.”
But the hard and difficult sayings of Jesus are more than matched by the beatitudes and promises of eternal life for those who open their hearts to repentance.
There’s a story in the life of Saint Pope John XXIII that illustrates this. He used to visit the prison in Rome. Among the prisoners there was a notorious murderer. After hearing the Holy Father’s words, he said, “These words of hope that you have just spoken. Do they also apply to me, such a great sinner?” Pope John’s only answer was to open his arms and clasp him to his heart. Without repentance there can be no salvation. With repentance there can be no condemnation, only a loving embrace.