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."