In his homily on Sunday, Pope Francis encouraged the faithful to be sinners on a journey, always working towards conversion and repentance, rather than “sitting sinners” who are closed off to the Lord.

His reflection was based on the parable in the Gospel of Matthew, in which Jesus asks the people about two sons - one who initially refuses to do his father’s will but then does it anyway, and one who says he will do his father’s will but then does not. “...there is a big difference between the first child, who is lazy, and the second, who is hypocritical,” the Pope said.

Pope Francis gave his homily at Mass on Sunday during his day trip to the northern Italian cities of Bologna and Cesena. During the trip, he met with various groups including religious, workers, students and migrants. “Let's imagine what happened inside them,” Francis said, referring to the sons in the parable.

“In the heart of the first, after no, his father's invitation again resounded; in the second, however, despite saying yes, the voice of his father was buried.” This ultimate rejection of the father’s will made the second son’s heart “impermeable to the voice of God and conscience, and so he had embraced a double life without any problems.”

Rather than living double and hypocritical lives, we need to recognize that while we are sinners, we can choose to repent, the Holy Father said. “...we can choose to be sinners on a journey, who are listening to the Lord and when they fall they repent and rise, like the first son; or sinners sitting, always and only ready to justify ourselves with words according to what is convenient,” he said.

Jesus originally addressed this parable to the chief priests and elders of the people, which shows us that rank does not make us holy, Pope Francis noted. “(The) Christian life is a humble journey of a conscience never rigid and always in relationship with God, who can repent and entrust itself to Him in its poverty, never pretending to be enough in itself,” he said.

“The key word is to repent: it is repentance that makes it impossible to be rigid, to transform the ‘no's’ to God into ‘yes’, and the ‘yes's’ to sin into ‘no’ for the love of the Lord.” The Pope then asked the people to remember three “P” words on the journey: the parola (the Word of God), the pane (the Bread of Life), and the poor. “In all of them we find Jesus,” he said. “The Word, the Bread, the Poor: We ask for the grace to never forget these basic elements that support our path.”