God is waiting to grace our hardened hearts. We just need to humbly open them up to Him. The Pope drew inspiration from today’s biblical passage which recounted the conversion of St. Paul, pointing out that zeal for holy things does not mean one’s heart is open to God. While Paul of Tarsus examplified a man extreme in his fidelity to the principles of his faith, his heart was totally deaf to Christ, the Pope said, noting Paul’s heart was so closed that he even agreed to persecute Jesus’ followers who lived in Damascus. Never too late to change On the road to Damascus, when Paul is knocked off his horse and loses his sight, everything changes, the Pope explained. Paul’s story, Francis underscored, becomes “the story of a man who allows God to change his heart.” “In that moment he lost his sight. ‘And he let himself be led.’ His heart, began to open itself. Thus, taking him by the hand, the men with him led him to Damascus and for three days he stayed there, blind, and took neither food nor drink.” While this man had ‘hit his low-point,’ the Argentine Pope said, he realized immediately that he must accept this humiliation. “And the true path towards opening one’s heart is humiliation. When the Lord sends us humiliations or allows them to visit us, it is exactly for this reason: that the heart be open, docile; that the heart convert itself to the Lord Jesus.” Holy Spirit Changes Hearts “Paul’s heart is opened,” the Pope said. “In those days of loneliness and blindness, his interior vision is changed. Then God sends him Ananias, who lays his hands on Saul and his eyes are opened. But there is an aspect to this dynamic which, Pope Francis said, must be taken into consideration: the action of the Holy Spirit.” “We must remember that the protagonist in these stories is neither the doctors of the law, nor Stephen, nor Phillip, nor the eunuch, not even Saul… The real protagonist is the Holy Spirit. The protagonist of the Church is the Holy Spirit who guides the people of God. Heartchanger Pope Francis reflected how beautiful it is to see how the Lord can change hearts, even turning hardened, stubborn ones into ones docile to the Holy Spirit. “All of us have a hardened heart. All of us. Let us ask the Lord that He make us see that hardness of heart leaves us on the ground.” The Holy Father concluded his reflection, saying, “Let us ask Him to give us the grace and – if necessary – the humiliations not to remain on the ground but to rise, with the dignity with which God created us, that is, the grace of a heart open and docile to the Holy Spirit.”
If you want joy, do not resist the Holy Spirit, but be docile to Him. The Pope drew inspiration from today’s first reading from the Acts of the Apostles in which Philip evangelized the Ethiopian, a senior official of Queen Candace, and pointed out how the protagonist of the meeting was not Philip nor the Ethiopian, but rather the Holy Spirit. “It is He who does things. It is the Spirit who gives birth to and grows the Church.” “In days past, the Church has shown us how there can be a drama of resisting the Spirit: closed, hard, foolish hearts resisting the Spirit. We’ve seen things – the healing of the lame man by Peter and John at the Beautiful Gate of the Temple; the words and the great things Stephen was doing … but they were closed off to these signs of the Spirit and resisted the Spirit. They were seeking to justify this resistance with a so-called fidelity to the law, that is, to the letter of the law.” The Holy Father warned against those who resist the Spirit with “so-called fidelity to the law,” and stressed this guise of loyalty to the law can never justify such resistance. “The Church,” Pope Francis stressed, “proposes the opposite: no resistance to the Spirit, but docility to the Spirit, which is precisely the attitude of the Christian.” “Being docile to the Spirit, this docility is the yes that the Spirit may act and move forward to build up the Church.” The Apostle Philip, Francis acknowldeged, was “busy as all bishops are, and this day surely he had his plan to work,” but the Spirit tells him to leave what he has planned and go to the Ethiopian – “and he obeyed.” The Spirit, “working in the heart of the Ethiopian,” not only offers him the gift of faith, but makes him feel “something new in his heart,” Francis said. Docility to the Spirit gives us joy “We have heard, these past days, about resistance to the Spirit; and today we have an example of two men who were docile to the voice of the Spirit. “And the sign of this is joy. Docility to the Spirit is a source of joy. “But I would like to do something, this … but I feel the Lord ask me to do something else. Joy I will find there, where there is the call of the Spirit!” ‘Recite this prayer whenever you doubt, have uncertainty’ A beautiful prayer that we can always pray, the Pope suggested, is that of Samuel: ‘Speak, Lord, because I am listening.’ This prayer asking for docility to the Holy Spirit, he underscored “carries forward the Church” and enables us “to be instruments of the Spirit so that the Church can move forward.” “‘Speak, Lord, because your servant is listening,’ Francis repeated. “We should pray this many times a day: when we have a doubt, when we do not know what to do, or when we want simply to pray. And with this prayer we ask for the grace of docility to the Holy Spirit.” Before concluding, the Pontiff invited those gathered to pray for the grace of being docile to the Spirit.
There is no change in doctrine, however, there is an evolution in the understanding of the Gospel and in the understanding of the doctrine itself. Commenting in the heat of the moment on the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia, the Director of the Jesuit Magazine LaCivilta Cattolica, Jesuit Father Antonio Spadaro, identified in Pope Francis’ document a distinctly Jesuit approach, which puts before everything the personal relation with God of every individual believer, with all the process of discernment that stems from it. Read this informative interview:
There are two types of persecution against Christians, says Pope Francis: that which makes martyrs and that which could be dubbed “polite persecution.” The Pope said this today during his homily at morning Mass in the Casa Santa Marta, reported Vatican Radio. His homily was drawn from the First Reading, which tells of the martyrdom of Stephen. “The tradition of the Church calls him the Protomartyr, the first martyr of the Christian community,” Francis noted. However, even “before him there had been little martyrs” who suffered persecution under Herod. “From that time until today there have been martyrs in the Church, there have been and there are.” There are “men and women persecuted only for confessing and for saying that Jesus Christ is Lord: this is prohibited!” Indeed, this confession “at certain times, in certain places, provokes persecution.” This is clearly manifest, the Pope stated, “in the passage of the Acts of the Apostles that we will read tomorrow: after the martyrdom of Stephen, a great persecution breaks out in Jerusalem.” Then, “all the Christians fled, only the Apostles remained.” Thus, persecution, Francis said, “is the daily bread of the Church: after all, Jesus said so.” When we are tourists in Rome, the Pope continued, “and we go to the Colosseum, we think that the martyrs were those who were killed with the lions.” However, martyrs are not limited to those killed in the Colosseum. In reality, martyrs “are men and women of every day: today, with Easter Sunday just three weeks ago.” The Pope said this in reference to the Christians who died at a park in Pakistan on Easter Sunday. They were “martyred just for celebrating the Risen Christ,” he said, and “thus the history of the Church continues with her martyrs.” Because “the Church is the community of believers, the community of confessors, of those who profess that Jesus is Christ: she is the community of martyrs.” Persecution, the Pope noted, “is one of the characteristics, one of the traits of Church, which pervades her entire history.” And “persecution is cruel, like that of Stephen, like that of our Pakistani brothers and sisters three weeks ago.” It is cruel “like what Saul did, who was present at the death of Stephen, the martyrdom of Stephen.” Saul “went into houses, seized Christians and took them away to be judged.” Culture, modernity and progressThere is, however, also “another kind of persecution that is not often spoken about,” Francis noted. The first form of persecution “is due to confessing the name of Christ” and it is thus “a clear, explicit type of persecution.” The other kind of persecution is “disguised as culture, disguised as modernity, disguised as progress: it is a kind of — I would say somewhat ironically — polite persecution.” You can recognize “when someone is persecuted not for confessing Christ’s name, but for wanting to demonstrate the values of the Son of God.” Thus, it is a kind of “persecution against God the Creator in the person of his children.” In this way “we see every day that the powerful make laws that force people to take this path, and a nation that does not follow this modern collection of laws, or at least that does not want to have them in its legislation, is accused, is politely persecuted.” This is a form of “persecution that takes away man’s freedom,” and even the right to “conscientious objection! God made us free, but this kind of persecution takes away freedom!” Thus, “if you don’t do this, you will be punished: you’ll lose your job and many things or you’ll be set aside.” “This is the persecution of the world,” the Pontiff continued. And “this persecution even has a leader.” In the persecution of Stephen, “the leaders were the scribes, doctors of the law, the high priests.” On the other hand, “Jesus named the leader of polite persecution: the prince of this world.” We see him “when the powerful want to impose attitudes, laws against the dignity of the children of God, persecute them and oppose God the Creator: it is the great apostasy.” ‘I am with you’Thus, “Christian life continues with these two kinds of persecution,” but also with the certainty that “the Lord promised not to distance himself from us: ‘Be careful, be careful! Don’t fall into the worldly spirit. Be careful! But go forward, I will be with you.” In his concluding prayer, Francis asked the Lord for “the grace to understand that a Christian’s path must always continue forward amid two kinds of persecution: a Christian is a martyr, that is, a witness, one who must bear witness to Christ who has saved us.” This means “on the journey of life, bearing witness to God the Father, who created us.” On this path a Christian “must suffer many times: this brings so much suffering.” But “such is our life: Jesus is always beside us, with the consolation of the Holy Spirit.” And “this is our strength.”
Pope Francis today warned against judging people according to false interpretations of God’s Word and God’s Law. The Holy Father offered a reflection on this topic during his Mass this morning at Casa Santa Marta,
He drew from today’s First Reading, in which Stephen is accused of “speaking blasphemous words against Moses and God.”
Those who protested Stephen, “closed to God’s truth, clutch only at the truth of the law, taking it by ‘the letter,’ and do not find outlets other than in lies, false witness and death,” he said. The Pope pointed out that Jesus had already reprimanded them for this attitude, because “their fathers had killed the prophets,” and they were now building monuments to those prophets. He said that the response of the “doctors of the letter” is more cynical than hypocritical when they say that had they been in the days of their fathers, they would not have done the same. Thus – the Pope said – they wash their hands of everything and judge themselves pure. But, he continued: “The heart is closed to God’s Word, it is closed to truth, and it is closed to God’s messenger who brings the prophecy so that God’s people may go forward.” Pope Francis said: “It hurts when I read that small passage from the Gospel of Matthew, when Judas, who has repented, goes to the priests and says: ‘I have sinned’ and wants to give … and gives them the coins. ‘Who cares!’ – they say to him: ‘it’s none of our business!’ They closed their hearts before this poor, repentant man, who did not know what to do. And he went and hanged himself. And what did they do when Judas hanged himself? They spoke amongst themselves and said: ‘Is he a poor man? No! These coins are the price of blood, they must not enter the temple’ … and they referred to this rule and to that… The doctors of the letter. ” The life of a person did not matter to them, the Pope observed, they did not care about Judas’ repentance. The Gospel, he continued, says that Judas came back repentant. But all that mattered to them “were the laws, so many words and things they had built.” This – he said – shows the hardness of their hearts. It’s the foolishness of their hearts that could not withstand the wisdom of Stephen’s truth so they go to look for false witnesses to judge him. Stephen – the Pope continued – ends up like all prophets, like Jesus. And this is repeated in the history of the Church: “History tells us of many people who were judged and killed, although they were innocent: judged according to the Word of God, against the Word of God. Let’s think of witch hunts or of St. Joan of Arc, and of many others who were burnt to death, condemned because according to the judges they were not in line with the Word of God” he said. Pope Francis pointed out that Jesus himself ended up on the cross for having trusted in God and obeyed His Word and he reminded the faithful of Jesus’ words of tenderness when he said to the disciples on the Road to Emmaus: “Oh, how foolish you are! How slow of heart to believe all that the prophets spoke.” He concluded saying: “Let us ask the Lord to look to the large and to the small follies of our hearts with the same tenderness, to caress us gently and to say to us: ‘Oh you foolish and slow of heart’ and begin to explain things to us.”
I came across this article by Dargen Thompson. She offers "Timeless Wisdom from a Giant of Christian Thinking": "Initially, Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s parents discouraged him from studying theology. The Bonhoeffers were an upper-middle class German family of doctors and scientists, so going into ministry was not thought to be a fitting profession for their sixth child. It’s a good thing for the modern Church that Bonhoeffer was determined in his course. There’s no doubt that Bonhoeffer is one of the most influential theologians of the 20th century. Bonhoeffer’s thoughts are powerful in and of themselves, but even more so in the context of his circumstances. As a pastor in Germany in the era between WWI and WWII, he saw firsthand the subtle shifts in the German church and the German consciousness. Many of Bonhoeffer’s actions seem nonsensical when viewed with an objective eye. He split from the German Church to form the Confessing Church, he got involved in an assassination plot (against Hitler), he returned to Germany from the safety of the U.S. right before the war reached its worst. But put all together, they reveal the story of a man of great conviction, who was willing to go against the norm and undergo suffering for his people and for the God he was committed to following. He was a man who, by the end of his life, really understood the cost of discipleship he famously wrote about. On April 9,1945, Bonhoeffer was killed at a concentration camp—just a few months after his 39th birthday. But his legacy continues. Even today, 71 years after his death, Bonhoeffer’s life is a challenge to us all to pursue justice even when it’s not popular, to care for and defend the persecuted and to relentlessly follow God’s leading. He had much wisdom to share—his numerous books are not the easiest reads, but are well worth reading in full—but for now, here are 12 of his quotes that are sure to give you some food for thought: On Silence “Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.” On Judging Others “Judging others makes us blind, whereas love is illuminating. By judging others we blind ourselves to our own evil and to the grace which others are just as entitled to as we are.” ― The Cost of Discipleship On Gratitude “In normal life we hardly realize how much more we receive than we give, and life cannot be rich without such gratitude. It is so easy to overestimate the importance of our own achievements compared with what we owe to the help of others.” ―Letters and Papers from Prison On Injustice “We are not to simply bandage the wounds of victims beneath the wheels of injustice, we are to drive a spoke into the wheel itself.” On 'Defending' the Bible "Do not try to make the Bible relevant. Its relevance is axiomatic. Do not defend God's word, but testify to it. Trust to the Word. It is a ship loaded to the very limits of its capacity." On Real Morality “The ultimate test of a moral society is the kind of world that it leaves to its children.” On Spirituality “When all is said and done, the life of faith is nothing if not an unending struggle of the spirit with every available weapon against the flesh.” On Fellowship "The first service that one owes to others in the fellowship consists of listening to them. Just as love of God begins with listening to his word, so the beginning of love for our brothers and sisters is learning to listen to them." --Life Together On Proof of God “A God who let us prove his existence would be an idol” “We are not to simply bandage the wounds of victims beneath the wheels of injustice, we are to drive a spoke into the wheel itself.” On Peace “There is no way to peace along the way of safety. For peace must be dared, it is itself the great venture and can never be safe. Peace is the opposite of security. To demand guarantees is to want to protect oneself. Peace means giving oneself completely to God’s commandment, wanting no security, but in faith and obedience laying the destiny of the nations in the hand of Almighty God, not trying to direct it for selfish purposes. Battles are won, not with weapons, but with God. They are won when the way leads to the cross.” On God's Love "God does not love some ideal person, but rather human beings just as we are, not some ideal world, but rather the real world." — Meditations on the Cross"On God's Will “Being a Christian is less about cautiously avoiding sin than about courageously and actively doing God's will.”
“You can’t underestimate the impact those two people had on the popular conception of the Catholic Church,” he says. “A few years ago, people’s predominant perception of the Catholic Church was sex abuse. Now, when I walk down the street in the collar, people come up to me and say, ‘I love your pope.’ That is a big change.” Fr James Martin Who do think Fr James Martin is talking about? I found this article very interesting. Click on the button to read more.
The well-being of the people is the highest law,” is a maxim of ancient Roman Law that still holds a place of honor in the Code of Canon Law. Salus populi suprema lex, it reads in Latin. Pope Francis salus populi is the superscript over his pastoral theology: people, first; the spiritual welfare of people above all. Francis quotes the maxim in “Amoris Laetitia,” his apostolic exhortation on the family. Read this perspective on Pope Francis' as found in a recent article in AMERICA.
In a radical departure from recent pastoral practice, Pope Francis has asked the world's Catholic clergy to let their lives become "wonderfully complicated" by embracing God's grace at work in the difficult and sometimes unconventional situations families and marriages face -- even at risk of obscuring doctrinal norms. The pontiff has also called on bishops and priests globally to set aside fears of risking moral confusion, saying they must avoid a tendency to a "cold bureaucratic morality" and shift away from evaluating peoples' moral status based on rigid canonical regulations. Read about it below:
Only the Holy Spirit grants true harmony. Pope Francis highlighted this during his daily morning Mass at Casa Santa Marta, as he reflected on today’s reading from the Acts of the Apostles and observed that one word sums up the lifestyle and sentiments of the very first Christian community: harmony. The harmony which bound together the Church’s first Christians, Pope Francis pointed out, “came as a gift of the Holy Spirit,” and was not “man-made” nor a contrived form of tranquil coexistence.”“We can negotiate some sort of peace … but harmony is an inner grace that only the Holy Spirit can grant,” the Pope said, stressing the first Christian community illustrated this. When a community is united in Christ, the Pontiff underscored, it is courageous. One Heart When there is no one wanting, the Argentine Pope noted, this is a sign of harmony. “In what sense?” he asked. “They had one heart, one soul, and no one considered as his own any property that belonged to him, but everything was shared in common amongst them. None of them was ever in need. The true ‘harmony’ of the Holy Spirit has a very strong relationship with money: money is the enemy of harmony; money is selfish.” The fact that the first Christian community freely gave their own goods “so that others would not be in need” evidenced its harmony. Warning While drawing from the day’s reading of Barnabas’ virtuous example of selling his field and giving his proceeds to the Apostles, Francis offered a contrast by citing another passage from Acts which recounts the story of Ananias and Sapphira who after selling their field, pretended to give the proceeds to the Apostles while keeping it for themselves. The Pope pointed out how the lie cost them dearly as the both died on the spot. God and money, Francis stressed, are two “irreconcilable” masters. Warning against confusing “harmony” with “tranquility,” the Pope stressed that a community can seem tranquil, but it is not necessarily harmonious. Never ‘Negotiated Harmony’ “I once heard a wise thing from a bishop: ‘There is tranquility in the diocese. But if you touch on a certain problem – this problem or that problem – war breaks out.’ This is negotiated harmony, and this is not of the Spirit.” The Holy Father went on to encourage a re-reading of the Acts of the Apostles and their portrayal of the first Christians and their life together, noting we should look to them as examples of how to bear witness in our daily lives. “When there is harmony in the Church, in the community, there is courage, the courage to bear witness to the Risen Lord.”
When God calls on us, do we say ‘yes’ like Mary, no, or avoid responding? Pope Francis asked this during his daily morning Mass at Casa Santa Marta, the first since a break for Easter, and exhorted faithful to say ‘yes’ like Mary did. In his homily, the Holy Father discussed those figures who trusted and said yes to the Lord, such as Abraham, Moses, Jeremiah and Isaiah, before turning to the model of the Virgin Mary, whose “yes,” he said, “opened the door to the ‘yes’ of Jesus.” “The ‘yes’ of Mary,” the Pope said, “opens the ‘yes door’ of Jesus: ‘I have come to do your will’, the ‘yes’ that goes with Jesus throughout His life, even to the Cross.” Francis stressed that the ‘yes’ of Mary is the ‘yes’ of the whole history of salvation. Jesus was so obedient, the Pope pointed out, stressing that while He asked the Father to take the cup from Him the cup, He concludes: “Thy will be done.” “In Jesus Christ,” Francis exclaimed, “you have the ‘yes’ of God: He is the ‘yes.'” Francis urged those present to contemplate how they respond to the Lord: “All of us, throughout each day, we have to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ and think if we always say ‘yes’ or many times we hide, with our heads down, like Adam and Eve?”“Today, is the celebration of ‘yes,'” Francis said. “In the ‘yes’ of Mary, there is the ‘yes’ of all the history of Creation,” and here begins the last ‘yes ‘ of man and God.” With Mary’s yes, he underscored, “God recreates, as [He did] in the beginning with a ‘yes’ that made the world and man, that beautiful Creation,” and now with this ‘yes,’ “recreates the world more marvelously, recreates all of us … It is the ‘yes’ of God that sanctifies us, that makes us go ahead in Jesus Christ.”
“It is a day,” the Pope encouraged, “to thank God and ask ourselves: Am I a man or woman of ‘yes’ or are a man or woman of ‘no’ or a woman or man that looks a bit away to not respond?'” May the Lord, the Pope prayed, “give us the grace to enter this road of men and women who were able to say yes.” After his homily, the Vincentian Sisters who serve Casa Santa Marta renewed their vows. “They do this every year,” Francis said, “because Saint Vincent was very smart and knew that the mission that was entrusted to them was very difficult and for this reason wanted that they renew their vows annually.”
Many of Jesus’ works and signs are not recorded in the Gospel, St. John explains. And Pope Francis is inviting the faithful to continue writing “those pages of the Gospel,” which recount God’s continuous mercy. “The Gospel is the book of God’s mercy, to be read and reread, because everything that Jesus said and did is an expression of the Father’s mercy. Not everything, however, was written down; the Gospel of mercy remains an open book, in which the signs of Christ’s disciples – concrete acts of love and the best witness to mercy – continue to be written,” the Pope said during his homily this morning at Mass on this Divine Mercy Sunday. The Holy Father added that we are “all called to become living writers of the Gospel, heralds of the Good News to all men and women of today.” We do this by practicing the works of mercy, he explained. Fear vs mission Pope Francis went on to note the “evident contrast” noted in today’s Gospel: “there is the fear of the disciples, who gathered behind closed doors; and then there is the mission of Jesus, who sends them into the world to proclaim the message of forgiveness.” The Pope said this contrast might be present in us, as we struggle “between a closed heart and the call of love to open doors closed by sin.” Christ “wants to enter into each one of us to break open the locked doors of our hearts,” Francis said. “Jesus, who by his resurrection has overcome the fear and dread which imprison us, wishes to throw open our closed doors and send us out.” The Pope said that in God’s mercy “all of our infirmities find healing” and that mercy “desires to reach the wounds of all, to heal them.” “Being apostles of mercy means touching and soothing the wounds that today afflict the bodies and souls of many of our brothers and sisters,” the Pope said. “Curing these wounds, we profess Jesus, we make him present and alive; we allow others, who touch his mercy with their own hands, to recognize him as ‘Lord and God.’”
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