In the Christian perspective, the distinction is not between “those who are already dead and who are not, but between those who are in Christ and who are not.”
Pope Francis said these words during his weekly general audience this morning in a foggy St. Peter’s Square, adding, “This is the decisive factor, really decisive for our salvation and for our happiness.”
Before reflecting on fundamental questions people ask about the end of this world and the new one to come, the Argentine Pontiff observed the weather was a “bit ugly” and joked that those present were “brave” to be there.
Journey in history
"In presenting the Church to the people of our time," he said, the Second Vatican Council had in mind a fundamental truth we must never forget.
The Church is not a "static, a still reality," nor an "end in itself," but rather a "continuous journey in history."
This "journey" that is the Church, the Pope said, works toward the “ultimate” and “wonderful goal” of the Kingdom of Heaven, of which the Church on earth “is the seed and beginning.”
When we realize this, he said, “Our imagination stops” and is “barely able to perceive the splendor of the mystery which surpasses our senses.”
From this, he explained, some questions, which "resonate in the human heart," spontaneously arise: "When will this final step happen? How will the new dimension of the Church come? What then is humanity?"
Faced with these, the Council's Constitution Gaudium et Spes says: "'We do not know the time that will end the earth and humanity, and we do not know how the universe will be transformed” but its appearance, “distorted by sin,” will certainly no longer be.
“God is preparing a new dwelling and a new earth in which righteousness dwells,” he said, “in which happiness will fill and surpass all the desires of peace arising in the hearts of men.”
“More than a place, he continued, “it is a 'state' in which our deepest expectations will be fulfilled so abundantly and our being as creatures and as children of God, come to full maturity.”
This will allow us to have joy, peace and love of God in a complete way, he said, without any limit.
“We will be face to face with Him!” the 77-year-old Pontiff exclaimed.
Given this, he said, it is nice to hear that there is a continuity and a communion between the Church in heaven and that still journeying on earth.
“Those who already live in the sight of God can indeed support us and intercede for us, pray for us. On the other hand, we are always invited to offer good deeds, prayer and the Eucharist itself to alleviate the suffering of souls who are still waiting for the bliss without end.”
What matters, he said, is not whether people are alive or dead, but whether they are or are not in Christ.
“Even Creation itself,” he said citing St. Paul, “will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God."
The whole universe, he continued, will, “once and for all,” be renewed and released from all traces of evil and death itself.
“What lies ahead, as the fulfillment of a transformation that is actually already in place from the death and resurrection of Christ, is therefore a new creation.”
“It is not an annihilation of the universe and all that surrounds us,” he stressed, but rather a bringing of everything to its fullness of being, truth, and beauty.
Pope Francis said this is the plan that God "always want to accomplish" and "is building."
The Pope concluded, saying when “we think about these wonderful realities that await us, we realize belonging to the Church is truly a wonderful gift!”
During his daily morning Mass in Casa Santa Marta, Pope Francis stressed how the Church must be poor, humble, and completely focused on God. If it is tempted into “ostentation” and “vanity,” he said, it will not accomplish its mission.
According to Vatican Radio, the Holy Father reflected on how the “poor Church must have no riches other than her Spouse.”
Clarifying, he noted, it is appropriate for the Church to, in certain respects, shed its light.
"It's true,” the 77-year-old Pontiff admitted, that sometimes the Lord can ask his Church to take a bit of light itself, in the sense that, “If the Church's mission is to illuminate humanity, the light that is given must be only one received by Christ in an attitude of humility.”
All the services the Church does help us “to get that light,” he said. “A service without this light is not good.”
Although the Pontiff reminded faithful that over the centuries, the Church wanted to have its own light, he decried, “She was wrong.”
Recalling the widow in today’s Gospel and how she was unknown, humble, and focused on her lost spouse, he stressed the Church must be likewise be focused on her Spouse: Christ, the Eucharist.
"The great virtue of the Church," he said, “must not shine on its own, but to shine the light that comes from her spouse."
When the Church is faithful to her Spouse, he said, it is joyful to receive the light from Him, to be in this sense the 'widow,' completely devoted.
The Pope gave three ways the Church can do this.
"When the Church is humble, when the Church is poor, even when the Church confesses his misery,” the Holy Father stated, “the Church is faithful.”
The Church, the Pope said, must say, “I am dark, but the light comes from there!” and must be, “Humble. Without boasting of having its own light, always seeking the light that comes from the Lord."
Pope Francis concluded saying all faithful must throw away "everything we have from life," leaving nothing for ourselves, and instead must give “everything for the Lord and for others.”
“There are two things that the people of God cannot forgive: a priest attached to money and a priest who mistreats people. This they cannot forgive!" These were the words of the Holy Father during his morning Mass at Casa Santa Marta. According to Vatican Radio, Pope Francis reflected on today’s Gospel, which recalled Jesus driving out the merchants from the Temple. “It is written, My house shall be a house of prayer, but you have made it a den of thieves,” Jesus says to the merchants.
"People are good," he said, since "people went to the Temple and did not look at these things, they sought God and prayed ... but they had to change their money into coins to make offers."
Pope Francis said that those who sought to pray at the Temple were scandalized by the corruption of the merchants.
"When those who are in the Temple – be they priests, lay people, secretaries, [...] become businessmen," the Pope said, "people are scandalized."
Laity, he continued, have a role to play in informing their parish priest of things that would cause scandal to others. Speaking on the scandal of "doing business," he criticized wrong Church practices. "How often when we enter a church do we see – even today – do we see a price list hanging there "for baptism, blessings, Mass intentions. And people are scandalized."
"When the Temple, the House of God, becomes a place of business," this too is scandalous.
He clarified that "Jesus is not angry," rather it is God's wrath, because "either you worship the living God, or your worship money" and you cannot serve two masters.
Asking "Why does Jesus have an issue with money?" Francis responded: "Because redemption is free. It is God’s free gift, He comes to brings us the all-encompassing gratuity of God’s love."
So when the Church or churches start doing business, he explained, then it is said that salvation is not free.
Concluding his homily, Pope Francis noted that today's liturgy celebrates the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin in the Temple, and prayed that She "teach all of us, pastors and those who have pastoral responsibility, to keep the Temple clean, to receive with love those who come, as if each one were the Blessed Virgin."
“We are afraid of conversion because conversion means allowing the Lord to lead us.” Pope Francis said these words during his homily at Casa Santa Marta this morning. Today’s Gospel from St. Luke recalled Jesus weeping as he was overlooking the city of Jerusalem because they did not recognize the bringer of peace. “If this day you only knew what makes for peace– but now it is hidden from your eyes,” Jesus says in the Gospel.
According to Vatican Radio, the Pope said that the people of Jerusalem did not welcome Christ because they “were content with what they had.”
“The city was afraid to be visited by the Lord; afraid of the gratuity of the Lord’s visit,” he said. “The city felt safe in the knowledge of what it could handle. We all feel safe in the things that we can handle. But the visit of the Lord, its surprises, those we cannot handle.”
The Holy Father went on to say that many times, Christians fear the “surprises of the Lord. Although God brings joy and leads all to conversion, the Pope explained, “we all fear happiness – that joy that the Lord brings, because we cannot control it.”
“We are afraid of conversion because conversion means allowing the Lord to lead us,” he said.
Concluding his homily, the Pope called on the faithful to reflect on whether they truly believe they need God’s visits or if they are content with themselves.
The Lord, he said, “continues to knock on the door of each one of us and of His Church, the pastors of the Church. Yes, the door of our hearts, of the heart of the Church, of her pastors will not open: and the Lord weeps, even today.”
Pope Francis says every state of life leads to holiness, if lived in communion with the Lord and in the service of others. During his weekly general audience this morning in St. Peter’s Square, the Pope said that since holiness “is a gift that the Lord Jesus gives us, when He takes us to Himself, clothes us with Himself, and renders us like Himself,” all of us can be saints.
Asking how we can realize our universal vocation to saints, he outlined three ways to do so.
First, Christians must be reminded that holiness is not something that we procure for ourselves. Holiness, he said, is not something "that we obtain with our qualities and our capacities," rather it is gifted by God.
Outlining his second point, the Pope explained that all are called to holiness in their ordinary lives. "It is not necessary to be bishops, priests or religious," he said. "We are all called to become saints!"
"Very often, however, we are tempted to think that holiness is reserved only to those who have the possibility to detach themselves from ordinary tasks, to dedicate themselves exclusively to prayer. But it is not so! Some people think that holiness is closing your eyes and putting on a pious face... No! That is not holiness!"
Not a burden
Turning to the third point, he called on all faithful to do an examination of conscience, and to ask whether or how they have responded to the Lord’s call to holiness. "When the Lord invites us to become saints, He does not call us to something burdensome, sad,” he said.
The 77-year-old Pontiff said that God doesn't ask for Christians do something beyond our strengths but by little steps such as choosing not to gossip, spending time with their children, in prayer and giving to those in need.
"Small things are small steps toward holiness," he said. "And every step towards holiness will make us better people, free from selfishness and being closed in on ourselves, and open us up to our brothers and sisters and their needs."
Concluding his catechesis, the Pope echoed St. Paul's call for the faithful to be "good stewards of God's varied grace." The path towards holiness, he said, is not traveled on one’s own. "It is traveled together, in the one Body that is the Church, loved and rendered holy by the Lord Jesus."
Feeling spiritually comfortable is a "state of sin," Pope Francis cautioned today during his morning homily at the Casa Santa Marta as he reflected on the problem of lukewarmness. As reported by Vatican Radio, the Pope drew his homily reflections from the readings of the day taken from Revelation Chapter 3 and the Gospel according to St. Luke on the encounter of Jesus and Zacchaeus the tax collector.
In the first reading, he noted, the Lord asks Christians in Laodicea to convert because they have become "lukewarm." They live a "comfortable spirituality." They think: "I do what I can, but I am at peace and do not want to be disturbed with strange things."
Pope Francis noted that people who “live well think nothing is missing: I go to Mass on Sundays, I pray a few times, I feel good, I am in God's grace, I'm rich" and "I do not need anything, I'm fine."
This "state of mind," he warned, "is a state of sin, feeling spiritually comfortable is a state of sin."
The Lord has harsh words for people like this, he said: "Because you are lukewarm, I will spit you out of my mouth."
Then, he added, "there is a second call" to "those who live by appearances, Christians of appearances."
These believe they are alive but they are dead. And the Lord asks them to be vigilant.
"Appearances," the Pope said, "are these Christians' shroud: they are dead."
And the Lord "calls them to conversion."
"Am I one of these Christians of appearances? Am I alive inside, do I have a spiritual life? Do I hear the Holy Spirit, do I listen to the Holy Spirit, do I move forward, or ...? But, if everything looks good, I have nothing to reproach myself about: I have a good family, people do not gossip about me, I have everything I need, I married in church ...I am 'in the grace of God', I am alright.
"Appearances! Christians of appearance ... they are dead! Instead [we must] seek something alive within ourselves, and with memory and vigilance, reinvigorate this so we can move forward. Convert: from appearances to reality. From being neither hot nor cold to fervor."
Change of heart
The third call to conversion is with Zacchaeus, "the chief tax collector, and a rich [man]."
"He is corrupt," the Pope said, "he was working for foreigners, for the Romans, he betrayed his homeland."
"He was just like many leaders we know: corrupt. Those who, instead of serving the people, exploit the people to serve themselves. There are some like this in the world. And people did not want him. Yes, he wasn’t lukewarm; He was not dead. He was in a state of putrefaction. He was corrupt. But he felt something inside: 'This healer, this prophet who people say speaks so well, I would like to see him, out of curiosity.' The Holy Spirit is clever, eh! He sowed the seed of curiosity, and so in order to see him this man even does something a little 'ridiculous.' Think of an important leader, who is also corrupt, a leader of leaders – he was the chief - climbing a tree to watch a procession: Just think of it. How ridiculous!”.
Zacchaeus "had no shame," the Holy Father noted. He wanted to see Jesus and "the Holy Spirit was working in him."
Then "the Word of God came into the heart and with the Word, the joy."
"Those of comfort and those of appearance," Francis reflected, "had forgotten what joy was; this corrupt man immediately gets it", "his heart changes, he converts."
And the tax collector promises to give back what he had taken.
"When conversion touches pockets, it's a certainty," the Pope declared. "Christians in heart? Yes, everyone is. Christians by blood? All of us. However, Christians with pockets, very few. But, conversion ... and here, it arrived straight away: the authentic word. He converted."
Pope Francis reiterated that these are "the three calls to conversion" that Jesus himself makes to "the lukewarm, the comfortable, to those of appearance, to those who think they are rich but are poor, who have nothing, who are dead.”
The Word of God, "is able to change everything," but "we don’t always have the courage to believe in the Word of God, to receive that Word that heals us within.”
In the last weeks of the Liturgical Year, the Church wants us all to "think very, very seriously about our conversion," Francis added, "so that we can move forward on the path of our Christian life."
Christians in every age face the temptation to reject Christ when he appears in the faces of the poor, Pope Francis said at his morning Mass in Casa Santa Marta today. The Pope drew from today's Gospel reading of the healing of the man on the road to Jericho. The blind man was a no-account in the eyes of the world, a man who, “desired only salvation,” who so greatly “desired to be cured,” of his affliction that he shouted and shouted, until the wall of indifference collapsed and he was able to knock, “on the door of the Lord’s heart,” the Pope said. Referring to the disciples' desire to silence the man, the Pope warned: “This [person on the margins] could not reach the Lord, because this clique – with a the best of intentions, mind you – closed the door. This happens frequently, among us believers: when we have found the Lord, without our noticing it, we create this sort of ecclesiastical micro-climate . Not only the priests, the bishops, but the faithful, as well: ‘We’re the ones who are with the Lord,’ [we say to ourselves], though for all our looking on Him, we fail to see His needs. We do not look to the Lord who is hungry, who is thirsty, who is in prison, who is in hospital – to the Lord, who is in the marginalized – and being [so closed off, so sealed up], does great harm.” The Holy Father also warned against being the kind of Christian who feels somehow elite. Such as these say and think things like, “Now we are the elect, we are with the Lord,” said Pope Francis, adding that they therefore want to keep “this little world” to and for themselves – to keep it away from anyone – even little children – who might “disturb the Lord.” “When in the Church, the faithful, ministers, become a group like this ... not ‘ecclesial’, but ‘ecclesiastical’, [enjoying] the privilege of closeness to the Lord, they are tempted to forget their first love – a love so beautiful – one we all had when the Lord has called us, saved us, told us: ‘But I love you so much.’ This is a temptation all disciples have: to forget our first love, that is, to forget the [rough neighborhoods], where [we all came from], even though [we are now] ashamed of it.” There is another way, the Pope continued, pointing to the “simple folk” – the ones who praise God for the healing of the blind man. “How many times,” he asked, “do we find simple people, how many old ladies who can barely walk,” but who make the trip, “to pray at a one of Our Lady’s shrines.” He went on to say that such as these, “do not ask for privileges, but only for grace.” Such as these, he continued, are “the faithful people” who know how to “waste time with the Lord,” and, “to follow the Lord, without asking special privileges,” and who, above all else, remember the “Church on the margins,” comprised of children, of the sick, of the imprisoned: “Let us ask the Lord for the grace that all of us who have received the grace of being called, never, never, never move away from this Church. Let us never enter into this micro-climate of the privileged ecclesiastical disciples, who turn away from the Church of God, which is suffering, asking for salvation, which calls for faith, which begs to hear God's Word. Let us ask the grace to be faithful to God, without asking the Lord for privileges, which separate us from God's people.”
God calls us to make the wealth He has entrusted to us grow, not to lock it in a safe. This was the theme of Pope Francis’ address during Sunday’s Angelus prayer. The Holy Father reflected on the Gospel of St. Matthew, which recalled the parable of the talents: a parable, he said, with a “very clear” meaning. “The man of the parable represents Jesus, we are the servants and the talents are the wealth the Lord entrusts to us,” he said. “What is this wealth? His Word, the Eucharist, faith in the Heavenly Father, His forgiveness, so many things. In short, his most precious goods.”
The Holy Father noted that while the word “talent” is often referred to someone’s exceptional skill in music or sports, its use in the Gospel is meant to represent the goods given to the faithful by the Lord. However, like the servant who buried his talent, Christians may also block “the creativity and fruitfulness of love” out of fear.
“Jesus does not ask us to preserve His Grace in a safe!” the Pope exclaimed. “He wants us to use it for the benefit of others and that’s how it grows. It’s as if He tells us: ‘Here is my mercy, my tenderness, my forgiveness: take it and use it.’”
“And what have we done with it? Who have we “infected” with our faith? How many people have we encouraged with our hope? How much love have we shared with our neighbor?”
The 77 year old Pontiff went on to say that the talents entrusted to the faithful can only bear fruit through “the Christian presence and witness”. The parable calls Christians to not bury the Word of the Gospel, but “to make it circulate in our life, in our relationships, in our concrete situations.”
Departing from his prepared remarks, the Pope called on those present in St. Peter’s Square to read and meditate on the parable of the talents. He also called on them to ask whether they make the talents entrusted to them by God “grow in others” or “preserved in a safe.”
Prior to reciting the Angelus prayer, Pope Francis urged the faithful to not be fooled by fear and to remember that “God trusts us” with the talents he has given.
“Do not be fooled by fear,” he said. “Reciprocate trust with trust!”
This is a modest effort at a "blog" my attempt to offer some brief reflections each day that come from various sources that I find interesting - primarily the daily reflections of Pope Francis as found on Zenit and Rome Reports. Fr. John