“To do, to listen and to speak: these are the three signs of a true prophet.”
This was the main theme of Pope Francis’ homily today at Casa Santa Marta. According to Vatican Radio, the Holy Father reflected on the Gospel of St. Matthew, in which Jesus warns of “pseudo-prophets.”
“Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name? Did we not drive out demons in your name? Did we not do mighty deeds in your name?’ Then I will declare to them solemnly, ‘I never knew you. Depart from me, you evildoers’”, Jesus says.
The Pope said that there are three main criteria to distinguish true prophets from 'pseudo-prophets'; from true preachers of the Gospel and from "those who preach a Gospel that is not a Gospel.”
The three criteria, he said, were speaking, doing and listening. Referring to Jesus’ words that “not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the Kingdom of heaven”, the Pope said that despite their ability to speak, they lack the ability to practice what they preach and to listen.
“When Jesus warns the people to watch out for the ‘pseudo-prophets’, he says: ‘By their fruits, you will know them’”, the Pope said. “And here, from their behavior: so many words, they speak, they do wonders, they do great things but do not have their hearts open to listen to the Word of God, they fear the silence of the World of God and these are the ‘pseudo-Christians’, the ‘pseudo-pastors’. It is true, they do good things, it’s true, but they lack the rock.”
This rock, he explained, is “the rock of the love of God, the rock of the Word of God. Without it, they cannot prophecy or build on solid foundation based on God: only on themselves.”
The 78 year old Pontiff invited the faithful to remember the three criteria as a way of discerning between a true and a false prophet.
“One that knows how to listen and from listening, with the strength of word of another and not from their own, can remain balanced. Though they may be a humble person, that does not seem important, but how many of these great ones there are in the Church! How many great bishops, how many great priests, how many great faithful who know how to listening and from listening, they act.”
The Pope noted the example of Blessed Teresa of Calcutta who knew how to listen in the midst of silence.”
Concluding his homily, Pope Francis called on the faithful to follow the examples of these “great ones” who remained firm in the love of Christ.
“May the weakness of Jesus, who though strong made himself weak to make us strong, accompany us in this celebration and teach us to listen and to act from listening, not from our words,” he said.
Pope Francis says Christians need to approach and reach out to those whom society tends to exclude, as Jesus did with the marginalized of his time. During his daily morning Mass at Casa Santa Marta, the Pope stressed this point, noting this makes the Church a true "community," reported Vatican Radio.
Francis recalled how the first to dirty himself was Jesus who--without shying away--approached the excluded of his time. In Jesus getting his hands dirty, touching and healing lepers, Francis stressed, we are taught that we must have this closeness in the Church.
The Pontiff reflected on today's Gospel in which the leper prostrates himself before the Lord and says, "Lord, if you want, you can make me clean," and Jesus touches and heals him. Francis noted how the miracle was observed by the doctors of law who considered the leper 'impure.' Leprosy, he explained, was a life sentence and healing a leper was considered as difficult as raising someone from the dead.
"How many people were watching from afar and did not understand nor care," Francis said. Some, he continued, watched with bad hearts, ready to put Jesus to the test, to criticize, and to condemn him. Others, he noted, watched from a distance because they lacked courage. Jesus doing this and reaching out to the marginalized epitomizes Christian proximity.
"So many times I think how it is--I would not say impossible--but very difficult to do good without getting your hands dirty," Francis said. "And Jesus is soiled."
Jesus never marginalizes anyone, but rather includes in His life the excluded and demonstrates the fundamental value of the word 'proximity.' Without proximity, the Pope stressed, one cannot make peace or do good.
"This is the mystery of Jesus [who] takes upon himself our dirt, our impurities," Francis said, recalling how St. Paul described how Jesus emptied himself for us.
"Proximity," the Pope said, calls for an examination of conscience on behalf of "the Church, parishes, communities, consecrated persons, the bishops, priests, everyone."
Concluding his homily, Pope Francis called on the faithful to ask themselves. "Do I have the spirit, the strength and the courage to touch the marginalized?"
Reaffirming the value of marriage, Pope Francis has spoken about the sufferings within families and how this can take a toll on children.
Continuing his catecheses on the family during his weekly General Audience address this morning in St. Peter's Square, the Holy Father focused on a condition common to all families: wounds.
Saying these wounds are the worst thing, the Pope said, "We speak often of behavioral problems, mental health, well-being of the child, anxiety of parents and children ... But we still know there is a wound in the soul. We feel the weight of the mountain that crushes the soul of a child, in families where there is hurt and we hurt."
We know well, the Argentine Pope told those gathered, that all families suffer moments when one of its member offends another.
Through our words, actions, or 'lack of action', Francis highlighted, sometimes we can diminish love among family members.
The Holy Father warned that hiding actions that hurts loved ones only deepens the wounds, often resulting in anger and tension. If they become deep enough, he acknowledged how sometimes spouses search elsewhere for understanding.
"When these wounds, which are still remediable, are neglected, they get worse: they turn into arrogance, hostility, contempt. And then they can become deep lacerations, dividing husbands and wives, and lead us to look elsewhere for understanding, support and consolation. But often these "supports" do not think of the good of the family!" Francis said.
This, Pope Francis stressed, destroys the family and leads to the suffering of children. He reminded the parents that as one flesh, any wounds the parents suffer, their children suffer too.
Recalling Matthew's Gospel in which Jesus warned adults not to scandalize little ones, the Pope underscored how the faithful must maintain and protect the bond of marriage. He called on Christians to realize the impact that wrong choices can have on the spirit of children.
While admitting that wounds may lead some to separate, the Holy Father said we thank God for the many that--sustained by their faith and love for their children--stay together and remain true to their conjugal bond.
For those who enter into so-called irregular situations, the Pope said, we must reflect on how best to help and accompany them in their lives. "Around us," Francis observed, "there are several families in so-called irregular situations. I do not like that word ... And we ask ourselves many questions: How to help? How to accompany them?"
The Holy Father concluded, praying for the Lord to strengthen the faith of all Christians "to look at reality through the eyes of God" and "with great charity, to approach people with her merciful heart."
Pope Francis’ encyclical is focused on the idea of "integral ecology," connecting care of the natural world with justice for the poorest and most vulnerable people. Only by radically reshaping our relationships with God, with our neighbours and with the natural world, he says, can we hope to tackle the threats facing our planet today. Science, he insists, is the best tool by which we can listen to the cry of the earth, while dialogue and education are the two keys that can “help us to escape the spiral of self-destruction which currently engulfs us."
At the heart of the Pope’s reflections is the question: “What kind of world do we want to leave to those who come after us, to children who are now growing up?” The answers he suggests call for profound changes to political, economic, cultural and social systems, as well as to our individual lifestyles.
Chapter 1 sets out six of the most serious challenges facing “our common home”
Pollution, waste and our throwaway mentality: “the earth, our home, is beginning to look more and more like an immense pile of filth”
Climate change: “one of the principle challenges facing humanity in our day” but “many of those who possess more resources and economic or political power seem mostly to be concerned with masking the problems or concealing their symptoms”
Water: “access to safe drinkable water is a basic and universal human right” yet entire populations, and especially children get sick and die because of contaminated water
Biodiversity: “Each year sees the disappearance of thousands of plant and animal species” and the consequences cannot be predicted as “all of us, as living creatures, are dependent on one another”. Often transnational economic interests obstruct this protection
Breakdown of society: Current models of development adversely affect the quality of life of most of humanity and “many cities are huge, inefficient structures, excessively wasteful of energy and water
Global inequality: Environmental problems affect the most vulnerable people, the greater part of the world’s population and the solution is not reducing the birth rate but counteracting “an extreme and selective consumerism”
And Chapter 3 explores six of the deep root causes of these growing crises
Technology: While it can bring progress towards sustainable development, without “a sound ethics”, it gives “those with the knowledge, and especially the economic resources… an impressive dominance over the whole of humanity”
The technocratic mentality: “the economy accepts every advance in technology with a view to profit……yet by itself the market cannot guarantee integral human development and social inclusion”
Anthropocentrism: we fail to understand our place in the world and our relationship with nature. Interpersonal relations and protection of human life must be set above technical reasoning so environmental concern “is also incompatible with the justification of abortion”
Practical relativism: environmental degradation and social decay is the result of seeing “everything as irrelevant unless it serves one’s own immediate interests”
Employment: Integral ecology needs to take account of the value of labour so everyone must be able to have work and it’s “bad business for society” to stop investing in people to achieve short-term financial gains
Biological technologies: GMOs are a “complex environmental issue” which have helped to resolve problems but bring difficulties such as concentrating land “in the hands of a few owners”, threatening small producers, biodiversity and ecosystems
So where do the solutions lie? Here are six of the best
In “The Gospel of Creation”: Chapter 2 examines the Old and New Testaments to show how human life is grounded in our relationships with God, with our neighbours and with the created world. We must acknowledge our sins when we break these relationships and realize our “tremendous responsibility” towards all of God’s creation
In Integral Ecology: Chapter 4 explores this new paradigm of justice which means “the analysis of environmental problems cannot be separated from the analysis of human, family, work-related and urban contexts”, while solutions must be based on “a preferential option for the poorest of our brothers and sisters”
In Dialogue: Chapter 5, entitled ‘Lines of Approach and Action’ stresses the need for “honest and open debate, so that particular interests or ideologies will not prejudice the common good”. The Church does not presume to settle scientific questions or to replace politics, but it can promote dialogue on global and local governance, transparent decision-making, sustainable use of natural resources, as well as engaging in respectful dialogue with other people of faith and with the scientific world
In Education: Chapter 6 urges schools, families, the media and the churches to help reshape habits and behavior. Overcoming individualism, while changing our lifestyles and consumer choices, can bring much “pressure to bear on those who wield political, economic and social power” causing significant changes in society.
In Ecological Conversion: Chapter 6 also highlights St Francis of Assisi as the model of “a more passionate concern for the protection of our world”, characterized by gratitude and generosity, creativity and enthusiasm
In Spirituality: Finally Chapter 6 and the two concluding prayers show how faith in God can shape and inspire our care for the environment. The Sacraments, the Trinity, the model of the Holy Family and our hope for eternal life can teach, motivate and strengthen us to protect the natural world that God has given us.
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