At morning Mass in the Casa Santa Marta today, Pope Francis renounced those who judge others, calling them hypocrites and comparing them to Satan. He who judges another puts himself in the role of God, the only judge, the Pope said. He went on to recall that if one hopes to one day have his offenses forgiven, then he must not judge others. The Holy Father reflected on the liturgy of today, in which Jesus commanded his disciples to: “Stop judging, so that you may not be judged. For as you judge, so will you be judged, and the measure with which you measure will be measured out to you.” Francis warned faithful not to usurp the role of judging. He said it's not any person’s responsibility and if one does try to judge his brother, he will be a “loser, because he will end up a victim of his own lack of mercy. This is what happens to a brother who judges." Speaking on mercy, the Pope stressed that Jesus “never accuses,” rather he does the “opposite,” he defends. Not only did God send Jesus to defend us, but also he sent the Holy Spirit to “defend our charges.” “Who is the accuser?” of these charges, the Pontiff asked. He answered, “In the Bible, the 'accuser' is called the devil, Satan,” but he noted that although the devil accuses, “Jesus will judge, yes, at the end of the world, but in the meantime [he] intercedes for and defends” us. “He who judges a brother is wrong and will eventually be judged the same way. God is "the sole judge" and whoever is judged can always rely on the defense of Jesus, his first defender, and also the Holy Spirit,” he said. Ultimately, those who judge, said Pope Francis, “imitate the prince of this world," who waits in the background, ready to accuse. The Holy Father concluded, “May the Lord give us the grace to imitate Jesus, the intercessor, advocate, lawyer,” for ourselves and others, and he warned the faithful not to imitate others who judge, for “in the end, it will destroy us."
Pope Francis has urged the Calabrian mafia to end its “adoration of evil” and “contempt of the common good.” The Holy Father used the occasion of the closing Mass at the Piana di Sibari, his last stop before returning to Vatican City, to make these remarks. The Mass, which started at about 4 p.m. and took place at Piana di Sibari, Calabria's largest plain, drew this one-day visit to a close. In the homily, he stressed that there are two inseparable aspects of today’s feast, two aspects that mark the entire life of the Christian people: a people that adores God and walks with him. Regarding those that adore him, he said, there are no substitutes which can take the place of adoring God. “When adoration of the Lord is substituted by adoration of money,” he said, “the road to sin opens to personal interest ... When one does not adore the Lord, one becomes an adorer of evil, like those who live by dishonesty and violence.” Using this point to discuss the prevalence of Mafia in the region he said, our land, which is so beautiful, knows the signs of the consequences of this sin. The ‘ndrangheta (Calabrian mafia) is this: adoration of evil and contempt of the common good. This evil must be fought, must be expelled. It must be told no. The Church, which is so committed to educating consciences, must always expend itself even more so that good can prevail.” Regarding those that walk with God, he said we do so when “we commit to follow him and to walk with him, seeking to put into practice his commandment which he gave to the disciples at the Last Supper: Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.” “A people who adores God in the Eucharist is a people who walks in charity,” Pope Francis said, linking the two elements.
At morning Mass in the Casa Santa Marta today, Pope Francis returned to the theme of how the faithful only will have true happiness when they accumulate spiritual treasures, and not those of this world. He thus echoed his message from Thurday evening's homily at the Corpus Christi Mass. He reiterated that the things of this world will not bring happiness, as they end and decay, and leave faithful with nothing of true value. The Holy Father reflected on the liturgy of today, in which Jesus warns his disciples against earthly treasures, saying: “'Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and decay destroy, and thieves break in and steal. But store up treasures in heaven ... For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be." In his homily, Francis warned against three elements in particular: money, vanity and power. Jesus asks us to keep our hearts free from these unnecessary elements, the Pope noted. They leave the faithful as “prisoners,” “weighing down” and “binding” their hearts, he said. He pointed out two types of hearts faithful can have: a "free heart" or a "slave's heart." Francis said that a “free heart” makes one’s heart “feel light,” as "it shows us the path that leads to God," and is fulfilled in worshipping God and loving one’s neighbor. The Pontiff pleaded, “please, have a free heart! ... Only with a free heart can you have the treasures of heaven: love, patience, service to others, worship of God. These are the true riches, that cannot be stolen,” whereas the other, worldly riches “encumber” and “chain our hearts.” A “slave’s heart," Francis said, "is not a bright heart: it will be dark," adding that “if we accumulate the treasures of the earth, we accumulate darkness.” He warned these treasures don’t give joy, but above all, rob our freedom. The Argentine Pontiff went on to explain the evils of money, power, and vanity. Money: Despite money having the power to do much good, including providing for one’s family, he noted, it is dangerous because many become obsessed with it. “Do not build your life upon accumulating riches,” he warned. Those consumed with investing, he noted as an example, will have nothing if the stock market crashes. Vanity: Vanity relates to one's desire for "prestige" and "to be seen,"having a prestige to be seen," he said, adding that Jesus "always condemned vanity." Noting the lawyers of Scripture as an example of vanity, he said they fast, give alms, or pray, they do so just "to be seen." The vanity, he reiterated, has "no use," as "it ends." Quoting St. Bernard, he said: "'Your beauty will end up being the meal of worms.'" Power: Using the first reading to illustrate how power can suddenly disolve, the Pope noted the fall of the cruel Queen Athaliah, who reigned for seven years, and then was killed. “The power ends!" He cautioned:" How many great, proud men and women of power are finished in anonymity, in poverty or in prison." Treasures of Heaven: After cautioning the faithful, the Pope concluded with what the Lord asks us to accumulate: the “treasures of heaven,” not the elusive “treasures” of money, vanity, and power.
The Pope says that since the Church is a mother, we should speak about the Church like a child speaks about his mom and family. The Pope said this today as he began a new series of catecheses for the general audiences, taking up the theme of the Church. To speak of the Church, he said, is like "a child speaking of his mother, of his family." He continued to say that the Church is "not an institution oriented to herself, or a private association, an NGO," and it should not "be restricted to the clergy and the Vatican." Rather, it is "a much broader reality, which opens to the whole of humanity." Francis noted the Church was not born suddenly. "She was founded by Jesus," he said, "but is a people with a long history behind it and a preparation that began much before Christ himself." 3 Aspects The Pontiff stressed three aspects of the Church: the first is tied to its history, the second relates to how God gave life to its people, and the third reflects how despite the faithful's doubts and resistance, God doesn't give up on them. The History The first aspect is tied to the Church's history, its “pre-history,” which Francis stressed is found in the pages of the Old Testament. God chose Abraham, our Father in faith, asking him to go out, leave his earthly homeland and go to another land. Francis pointed out that in entrusting this role to Abraham, God did not call him alone, as an individual, but "his family, his relatives and all those who serve his household." He said that once God "got this underway," He "widened the horizon again and filled Abraham with His blessing, promising him numerous descendants as the stars of the heavens and the sand on the seashore. The first important detail in fact is this: beginning with Abraham God forms a people to take His blessing to all the families of the earth." He suggested this was significant, as "Jesus was born within this people." God Gives Life The Pope said the second aspect relates to how God himself was the one responsible for creating and giving life to his people. He said, "It is not Abraham who constitutes a people around him, but God himself who gives life to this people." Francis noted we witness something "unheard of" when God took this initiative to address his people. This shocks some because in other cases, it is man who is the one who had turned to the divinity, "seeking to fill the distance and invoking support and protection." In this case, however, roles are reversed, as it is God who addresses His Word to man. Through this initiative, God creates a bond and new relationship with man. He "forms a people with all those who listen to His Word and who go out, trusting in Him." God's doing this is evidence that His "love precedes everything," the Pontiff said. God Doesn't Give Up Noting the third aspect, Francis said it relates to God not "tiring with us," although we resist Him. Although Abraham and his own hear God’s call and go out, "despite not knowing well who this God is and where He wishes to lead them," this does "not mean that they were always convinced and faithful," the Pope said. Rather, he stressed that from the beginning they were resistant, often turning in on themselves and their own interests and the temptation to bargain with God and resolve things their way." "Betrayals and sins mark the way of the people throughout the history of salvation, which is the history of God’s fidelity and the people’s infidelity. God, however, does not tire; God has patience, so much patience, and continues in time to educate and form his people, as a father with his son." Francis noted that God maintains this same patient, fatherly attitude in dealings with the Church. "We also," he said, "despite our resolution to follow the Lord Jesus, experience every day our egoism and the hardness of our heart. However, when we recognize ourselves sinners, God fills us with His mercy and His love. It is precisely this that makes us grow as people of God, as a Church." It is not our merits, but the daily experience of how much the Lord loves us and takes care of us which makes us truly feel that we are his, "in His hands, and makes us grow in communion with Him and among ourselves," the Pope said. "This is God’s plan: to form a people blessed by His love and take His blessing to all the peoples of the earth," he said. "This plan does not change, it is always in act. It had its fulfillment in Christ and God continues still today to realize it in the Church." "Let us now ask for the grace to remain faithful in following the Lord Jesus and in listening to his Word, ready to go out every day, like Abraham, towards the land of God and of man, our true homeland, and thus become a blessing, a sign of the love of God for all His children," he concluded.
At morning Mass in the Casa Santa Marta on Tuesday, Pope Francis returned to the theme of corruption in the Church and in society, saying those who commit this crime must beg for God’s forgiveness. Echoing his message from Monday's Mass, he reiterated that it is always the poor who pay the price for the corruption of others. The liturgy of today continues with the story of King Ahab, who with the help of his wife Jezebel, had Naboth killed so as to be able to take possession of his land. In today's passage, King Ahab repents after receiving a warning from the Prophet Elijah. When we embark on the path of corruption, the Pope said, we lose our humanity and sell ourselves, just as the prophet Elijah tells Ahab, I have found you "because you have given yourself up to doing evil in the Lord's sight." This is the definition of corruption, the Pope insisted, it’s a commodity that we buy and sell. Recalling yesterday’s homily in which he identified three areas of corruption – in politics, in business and in the Church – he said all three hurt the poor who always pay the price for the other’s gain. To all of these people, the Pope noted, God says clearly that he will bring disaster on them and their families. Corruption, he said irritates God and scandalizes people because it exploits, enslaves, even kills the vulnerable, but those who commit this crime are only focused on money and power. The corrupt, the Pope said, are traitors who steal and kill, who exploit the innocent, but they do it at a distance with gloves on so that they do not have to get their hands dirty. These people, he said, are cursed by God, but just as Ahab tore his garments and fasted and humbled himself before the Lord, so the corrupt must repent and make amends for what they have done. Our duty as Christians, the Pope concluded, is to ask forgiveness from God for these people we read about in the papers, to pray for their conversion of heart and for the grace that we may never become corrupt ourselves.
When the Lord wants to entrust a mission to us, “He prepares us” to do it well. And our response should be based on prayer and fidelity. That was the main reflection offered by Pope Francis today during his homily at morning Mass in Casa Santa Marta.
In his homily, Pope Francis took the story of Elijah from 1Kings as a model of the experience of every person of faith.
The day’s liturgical passage shows Elijah on Mount Horeb receiving the invitation to come out of the cave in order to see the presence of the Lord. When the Lord passed, there was a strong wind, an earthquake, and a fire, one after another – but the Lord was not present in any of them. Then there was a light breeze … and it was in the breeze, the Pope recalled, that Elijah recognized the passage of the Lord:
“But the Lord was not in the wind, the earthquake, the fire, but in that whisper of a light breeze, in the peace, or, as the original says, -- the true original, a beautiful expression – it says: ‘The Lord was in a thread of silent sound’ [un filo di silenzio sonoro]. It seems to be a contradiction: He was in that thread of silent sound. Elijah knew how to discern where the Lord was, and the Lord prepared him with the gift of discernment. And then He gave him the mission.”
The mission God entrusted to Elijah was to anoint the new king of Israel and the new prophet called to succeed Elijah himself.
Pope Francis drew attention in particular to the paternal sensitivity with which this task was entrusted to a man who, capable of strength and zeal in one moment, now seemed defeated.
“The Lord,” the Pope said, “prepares the soul, prepares the heart, and He prepares it in the trial, He prepares it in obedience, He prepares it in perseverance.”
“When the Lord wants to give us a mission, wants to give us a task, He prepares us. He prepares us to do it well, as he prepared Elijah. And the most important part of this is not that he has encountered the Lord: no, no, this is well enough. What is important is the whole journey by which we arrive at the mission the Lord entrusts to us. And this is the difference between the apostolic mission given us by the Lord, and a common task: ‘Ah, you have to complete this task, you have to do this or that…’ a human duty, honest, good… [But] when the Lord gives a mission, He always has us enter into a process, a process of purification, a process of discernment, a process of obedience, a process of prayer."
And “the fidelity to this process,” Pope Francis continued, consists in “allowing ourselves to be led by the Lord.”
In this case, with the help of God, Elijah overcame the fear kindled in him by the queen Jezebel, who had threatened to kill him:
“This queen was a wicked queen, and she killed her enemies. And he was afraid. But the Lord is more powerful. But it makes him understand that they, the great and the good, also need the help of the Lord and the preparation for the mission. We see this: he walks, obeys, suffers, discerns, prays… he finds the Lord. May the Lord give us the grace to allow ourselves to prepare every day the way of our life, so that we can bear witness to the salvation of Jesus.”
During his morning Mass in Casa Santa Marta, Pope Francis today proposed a three-step plan for overcoming conflict and living in fraternal communion with one's neighbor. He addressed the question of how we ought to love one another, drawing from the Gospel reading of the day, which recounts the Lord’s conversation with His disciples about brotherly love (Mt 5:20-26). The Pope first recommended a "criterion of realism: of sane realism." "If you have something against another and you cannot fix it, look for a [compromise] solution - at least," he suggested. The Pontiff acknowledged that a compromise might not be ideal but is at least a good thing and is "realism." In order to save many things, in fact, “one must make a deal – and one takes a step, the other takes another step and at least there is peace: a very [imperfect] peace, but a peace agreement [nevertheless].” We face many difficult situations in life, and, “while we are on the road, we make compromises … and in this way we put a stop to hate and strife among us," Francis said. He proposed a second criterion, coherence, meaning a recognition that "to speak ill of someone is to kill the other, because the act [of insulting] is rooted in hatred all the same.” It is to “kill” our neighbor in “a different way: with gossip, with calumny, with defamation. Jesus warns us: The one who calls his brother stupid is killing his brother, because the act is rooted in hate," Francis said. “In our day, we think that ‘not killing our brother’ means simply not actually murdering him – but no – not killing our brother means not [even] insulting him. The insult comes from the same root of the crime: hatred. If you do not hate, and you would not kill your enemy, your brother, then do not insult him either." Finally, the Pope said, Jesus offers a third criterion, that of "fraternity rooted in sonship.” “If we must not kill our brother, it is because he is our brother, that is, because we have the same Father. I cannot go to the Father if I do not have peace with my brother," the Pontiff reflected. “Do not talk to the Father if you are not at peace with your brother – if you do not have at least a compromise agreement," he insisted. "Do not talk to the Father without being at peace with your brother." Summarizing, Pope Francis admitted that these three criteria are not easy to fulfill: "Three criteria: a criterion of realism; a criterion of coherence, meaning not to kill and not even to insult, because those who insult kill; and a criterion of fraternity rooted in sonship. "One cannot talk to the Father if one cannot even speak to one’s brother – and this means overcoming the holier-than-thou attitude of the scribes and the Pharisees. This program is not easy, is it? Though, it is the way that Jesus tells us to keep going. "Let us ask Him for the grace to move forward in peace among ourselves, with compromises, and always with coherence and in a spirit of fraternity rooted in sonship.”
Pope Francis continued his catechesis on the gifts of the Holy Spirit this week, discussing the last of the gifts -- the fear of God-- which he said allows us to recognize our littleness, so we can abandon ourselves into the loving arms of God, our Father. The spiritual gift of fear of the Lord, the Holy Father declared to the thousands gathered in St. Peter’s Square at Wednesday's General Audience, does not mean being afraid of God, a common misconception, but rather refers to “abandonment into the goodness of our Father who loves us so.” There is no reason to be afraid of God, for He is our Father, who loves and forgives us, Francis said. “The fear of God, instead, is the gift of the Spirit that reminds us how little we are before God and His love, and that our good lies in abandoning ourselves with humility, with respect and with trust into His hands.” During the audience he underscored this aspect, but also how the gift does instill fear in those who sin, who are corrupt, such as human traffickers and arms manufacturers, who one day will find it difficult to answer to the Lord. 3 aspects The Pontiff stressed three aspects of this gift: the first relates to our littleness, the second to our source of strength, and the third to our witness. The first aspect is tied to our “littleness.” When the Holy Spirit comes to dwell in our heart, the Pope said, he infuses in us consolation and peace, and "leads us to see ourselves as we are, namely, little." Recognizing our littleness allows us to entrust all our preoccupations and expectations to God, so we -- just “as a child with His Daddy" -- can feel “enveloped and sustained by His warmth and His protection.” “This is what the Holy Spirit does in our hearts: He makes us feel like children in the arms of our Daddy. In this connection, then, we understand well how the fear of God assumes in us the form of docility, of gratitude and praise, filling our heart with hope,” he said. Turning to the second aspect, the Pope said this spiritual gift makes us aware that everything comes from grace and that our real strength lies “only in following the Lord Jesus and allowing the Father to pour His goodness and mercy on us.” The gift of the fear of God, the Pope stressed, opens hearts, allowing “the Father’s forgiveness, mercy, goodness, and caresses to come to us, because we are infinitely loved children.” Noting the third aspect, Francis said that "when we are permeated by the fear of God, then we are led to follow the Lord with humility, docility and obedience." He added that this, however, does not cause one to have a “resigned, passive even mournful attitude,” but rather one of “the wonder and joy of a child who sees himself served and loved by his Father.” The fear of God does not make us “timid, compliant Christians," but it generates “courage and strength,” which “makes us convinced, enthusiastic Christians, who are not subjected to the Lord out of fear, but because we are moved and conquered by His love!” Be careful However, Pope Francis warned, we must be careful, because this gift of God, the gift of the fear of God is also an “alarm” in face of the tenaciousness of sin. When we sin, the holy fear of God puts us on alert, he said, stressing, “With all this power, with all this money, with all your pride, with all your vanity, you will not be happy.” The Pontiff explained, “No one can take with him to the other side money, or power, or vanity or pride. Nothing! We can only take the love that God the Father gives us, God’s caresses, accepted and received by us with love," as well as what we have done for others, the Pope said. He warned that those who live corrupt lives will not be satisfied in this life or the next, noting traffickers of persons and manufacturers of arms, as those who will have difficulty going to the Lord since “all the fruit of his corruption has corrupted his heart.” The Pontiff said manufacturers of arms "manufacture death." "They are merchants of death and make death merchandise," the Pope said, praying that "the fear of God may make them understand that one day everything will end and they will have to render an account to God." Reminding the faithful of Psalm 34, in which a poor man cried, the Lord heard him and saved him out of all his troubles, he recalled, "the angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and delivers them." Just like the fearful man was delivered, he stressed we too must cry to the Lord, and ask Him for "the grace to unite our voice to that of the poor, to receive the gift of fear of God and to be able to recognize ourselves, together with them, clothed with the mercy and love of God, who is our Father, our Daddy.”
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