VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Jesus asks people to turn away from evil and renounce the temptation to sin rather than blame God for terrible events, Pope Francis said.
"Jesus says we need to look inside ourselves: It is sin that produces death; our selfishness can tear apart relationships; our wrong and violent choices can unleash evil. At this point the Lord offers the true solution, and that is conversion," he said March 20 before leading the Angelus prayer with thousands of people gathered in St. Peter's Square.
The pope's remarks were a reflection on the Sunday Gospel reading, which recounted Jesus' call to repentance and the parable of the barren fig tree in which a gardener convinces the orchard owner to continue to care for the tree, be patient and open to the possibility it may bear fruit in the future.
Pope Francis said this symbolizes the patience God has for humanity -- he does not "cut down" people when they fail to give fruit, and he always gives them more time and another chance.
"This is how the Lord works with us. He does not cut us out of his love. He does not lose heart or tire of offering us again his trust with tenderness," he said.
"He does not look at the achievements you have not yet reached, but the fruits you can still bear. He does not keep track of your shortcomings but encourages your potential. He does not dwell on your past, but confidently bets on your future," the pope said.
God is always close, accompanying people and treating them with mercy, which is why God should never be blamed for terrible things that happen or for the evil in the world, he said.
God "never uses violence and instead suffers for us and with us. Evil can never come from God, because 'he does not deal with us according to our sins,' but according to his mercy," he said.
"Rather than blaming God, Jesus says we need to look inside ourselves" and respond to his urgent call for conversion, the pope said.
"Let us welcome it with an open heart. Let us turn from evil, let us renounce the sin that seduces us, let us be open to the logic of the Gospel because where love and fraternity reign, evil has no more power!"
By Carol Glatz
Catholic News Service