Pope Francis urged people of all religions and cultures on Thursday to unite to fight modern slavery and human trafficking, saying in his first Mass of 2015 that everyone had a God-given right to be free.
The service at St. Peter's Basilica marks the Roman Catholic Church's World Day of Peace. This year's theme is "No Longer Slaves, but Brothers and Sisters."
"All of us are called (by God) to be free, all are called to be sons and daughters, and each, according to his or her own responsibilities, is called to combat modern forms of enslavement. From every people, culture and religion, let us join our forces," he said.
Last month Francis appealed to consumers to shun low-cost goods that may be the product of forced labor or other forms of exploitation.
That message was sent to heads of state and governments, international institutions and parishes throughout the 1.2 billion-member Church.
The Argentine pope has made defense of migrants and workers a central issue of his papacy. At a Vespers service on New Year's Eve, he condemned administrators and criminals in Rome accused of pocketing public funds meant to help poor migrants, urging a "spiritual and moral renewal."
The second global slavery index released in November by the Walk Free Foundation, an Australian-based human rights group, estimated that almost 36 million people were living as slaves, trafficked into brothels, forced into manual labor, victims of debt bondage or born into servitude.
After Mass, the pope delivered his traditional New Year's Day noon address to tens of thousands of people, most of whom took part in peace marches to the Vatican.
"Peace is always possible but we have to seek it. Let us pray for peace," he told the crowd of people carrying balloons and banners with peace slogans
‘Time spent with the sick is holy time,’ Pope Francis has reaffirmed.
Pope Francis restated this in his message for the 23rd World Day of the Sick, Feb. 11, 2015, a day instituted by John Paul II. The Vatican released the message today.
Addressed to those burdened with sickness, as well as to professionals and volunteers in the field of healthcare, the Pope's message reflects on the phrase from the Book of Job: ‘I was eyes to the blind, and feet to the lame,’ and does so specifically from the perspective of “sapienta cordis” (the wisdom of the heart).
Before delving into four meanings of this type of wisdom, the Pontiff explained that this 'wisdom' is not theoretical nor abstract, but rather a “way of seeing things infused in the Holy Spirit,” which exists in those who are sensitive to the suffering of others and can see in them the image of God.
Turning to the meanings, he said that the first and second were “serving” and “being with” our brothers and sisters, respectively.
When discussing the “serving” aspect, he said, “It is relatively easy to help someone for a few days, but it is difficult to look after a person for months or even years, in some cases, when he or she is no longer capable of expressing gratitude.”
“And yet, what a great path of sanctification this is!” he exclaimed.
In those difficult moments, the Holy Father said, we not only can rely in a special way on the closeness of the Lord, but also become a special means of support for the Church’s mission.
The second “being with” aspect, he said, invites us with lively faith to ask the Holy Spirit to grant us the grace to “appreciate the value of our often unspoken willingness” to spend time with these sisters and brothers who, thanks to our closeness and affection, feel more loved and comforted.
“How great a lie, on the other hand, lurks behind certain phrases which so insist on the importance of "quality of life" that they make people think that lives affected by grave illness are not worth living!,” he condemned.
The third, he expressed, means going forth from ourselves toward our brothers and sisters.
“Occasionally our world forgets the special value of time spent at the bedside of the sick, since we are in such a rush; caught up as we are in a frenzy of doing, of producing, we forget about giving ourselves freely, taking care of others, being responsible for others." Behind this attitude, he noted, “there is often a lukewarm faith, which has forgotten the Lord’s words: ‘You did it unto me.’”
“For this reason, he added, “I would like once again to stress "the absolute priority of ‘going forth from ourselves toward our brothers and sisters.”
The fourth, he said, means showing solidarity with our brothers and sisters without judging them. Here, he said, involves the suffering seeing their illness as the Cross of Jesus and calls for caregivers to take the time needed to spend with the sick.
“True charity is a sharing which does not judge, which does not demand the conversion of others,” he said, adding, “It is free of that false humility which, deep down, seeks praise and is self-satisfied about whatever good it does.”
The Holy Father concluded, entrusting the day to the Virgin Mary’s maternal protection and imparting his Apostolic Blessing.
In this first Sunday after Christmas, while we are still immersed in the joyful climate of the celebration, the Church invites us to contemplate the Holy Family of Nazareth. Today's Gospel presents the Madonna and St. Joseph in the moment in which, 40 days after the birth of Jesus, they go to the temple in Jerusalem. They do it in religious obedience to the Law of Moses, which prescribes to offer the firstborn to the Lord (cfr. Lk. 2,22-24). We can imagine this little family, in the midst of so many people, in the great courtyard of the Temple.
They do not stand out to the eye, they can't be distinguished. Yet they do not go unnoticed! Two elderly people, Simeon and Anna, moved by the Holy Spirit, approach them and begin to praise God for that Child, in which they recognize the Messiah, light of the peoples and salvation of Israel (cfr Lk 2,22-38). It is a simple moment but rich in prophecy: the meeting between a young couple full of joy and faith for the graces of the Lord and two elderly people also full of joy and faith for the actions of the Spirit. Who brings them together? Jesus! Jesus brings them together, the youth and the elderly. Jesus is the One who brings the generations together. He is the source of that love that unites families and people, overcoming all mistrust, all isolation, every distance. This makes us reflect on grandparents: how important is their presence, the presence of grandparents! How precious is their role within the family and society! The good relation between youth and the elderly is decisive for the path of the civil and ecclesial community. And looking at these two elderly people, Simeon and Anna, we greet with applause all the grandparents of the world!
The message that comes from the Holy Family is above all a message of faith. In the family life of Mary and Joseph, God is truly at the center, and it is in the person of Jesus. This is why the Family of Nazareth is holy. Why? Because it is centered on Jesus!
When parents and children breathe together this climate of faith, they possess an energy that allows them to confront difficult trials, as shown by the experience of the Holy Family, for example, during the tragic event of the flight into Egypt: A hard trial.
The Child Jesus with his Mother Mary and with Saint Joseph are the icon of the family, simple yet illuminating. The light they radiate is a light of mercy and salvation for the whole world, a light of truth for every man, for the human family and for individual families. This light that comes from the Holy Family encourages us to offer human warmth in those family situations in which, for various reasons, lack peace, lack harmony and lack forgiveness. Our concrete solidarity does not fail especially in the challenges of the families that are living in more difficult situations due to sickness, lack of work, discrimination, the need to migrate. And here we pause for a moment and in silence, we pray for all these families in difficulty. Be it difficulties of sickness, lack of work, discrimination, the need to migrate, be it the lack of understanding each other, as well as also disunion. In silence, we pray for all these families.
On the Feast of St. Stephen, Pope Francis explained that Christians can prolong the joy of the Holy Night of Jesus Christ’s birth through the Gospel.
During his Angelus to the faithful in St. Peter’s Square today, the Holy Father spoke of the witness of the Church’s first martyr, St. Stephen, and how Christians are to welcome Jesus in their lives this holiday season.
“To truly welcome Jesus in our existence, and to prolong the joy of the Holy Night, the path is precisely the one indicated in this Gospel,” he said, adding that it involves bearing witness in humility, in silent service, and without fear of going against the current.
"Every Christian is called in every circumstance to be to live a life that is coherent with the faith he or she professes,” the Pope said.
The Pope explained that at times Christians may be called, as Saint Stephen was, to shed their own blood. Stephen, he explained, was chosen by the Apostles, together with six others, for the diaconate of charity in the community of Jerusalem, and became the first martyr of the Church.
"With his martyrdom, Stephen honored the coming into the world of the King of kings, offering to Him the gift of his own life," the Pope said, adding that in doing so, "he shows us how to live the fullness of the mystery of Christmas."
While admitting that following the Gospel is a demanding path, Francis reminded those gathered that they are called to do as St. Stephen did.
Recalling the Lord’s words on those who are hated for their faith in Christ, the Pope said that these words “do not disrupt” the celebration of Christmas, “but strip it of that false saccharine-sweetness that does not belong to it.”
When following the Gospel with fidelity and courage, the faithful receive the gift promised by the Lord to men and women of good will: the favor of God and His peace. This peace, he added, "is able to soothe the conscience of those who, through the trials of life, know to welcome the Word of God and observe it with perseverance to the end."
Turning to those who are discriminated against because of their witness to Christ, he said: “If you carry this cross with love, you have entered into the mystery of Christmas, you are in the heart of Jesus and of the Church.”
The Holy Father also prayed that through the sacrifices of today's martyrs, there would be a strenghtening of “the commitment to recognize and concretely to ensure religious liberty — an inalienable right of every human person — in every part of the world.”
The 78-year-old Pope wished all gathered a peaceful Christmas and prayed that Saint Stephen sustain them and all people on their daily paths of life.
After the traditional Angelus prayer, Pope Francis expressed his gratitude for all the Christmas letters he received and apologized for not being able to respond to each one. He also gave a special salute to those with the names Stefano or Stephania who celebrated the feast of their namesake.
Jesus is born this night to assume "our frailty, our suffering, our anxieties, our desires and our limitations," because He is a God "who is in love with our smallness."
This was a reflection offered by Pope Francis at the Christmas Eve Mass he celebrated tonight in St. Peter's.
He said that as we contemplate the manger scene, we are invited to reflect on how well we welcome the tenderness of God.
"Do I allow myself to be taken up by God, to be embraced by him, or do I prevent him from drawing close?," he asked. "'But I am searching for the Lord' – we could respond. Nevertheless, what is most important is not seeking him, but rather allowing him to find me and caress me with tenderness. The question put to us simply by the Infant’s presence is: do I allow God to love me?"
We also should ask ourselves if we have the courage to share that tenderness with those around us, the Pope continued.
"The Christian response cannot be different from God’s response to our smallness. Life must be met with goodness, with meekness. When we realize that God is in love with our smallness, that he made himself small in order to better encounter us, we cannot help but open our hearts to him, and beseech him: 'Lord, help me to be like you, give me the grace of tenderness in the most difficult circumstances of life, give me the grace of closeness in the face of every need, of meekness in every conflict.'"
This morning Pope Francis held his annual meeting with the Roman Curia to exchange Christmas greetings with the members of its component dicasteries, councils, offices, tribunals and commissions.
Here is a summary of some of the points he made:
* * *
“It is good to think of the Roman Curia as a small model of the Church, that is, a body that seeks, seriously and on a daily basis, to be more alive, healthier, more harmonious and more united in itself and with Christ," he said.
“The Curia is always required to better itself and to grow in communion, sanctity and wisdom to fully accomplish its mission. However, like any body, it is exposed to sickness, malfunction and infirmity. … I would like to mention some of these illnesses that we encounter most frequently in our life in the Curia. They are illnesses and temptations that weaken our service to the Lord," continued the Pontiff, who after inviting all those present to an examination of conscience to prepare themselves for Christmas, listed some common 'Curial ailments':
The first is “the sickness of considering oneself 'immortal', 'immune' or 'indispensable', neglecting the necessary and habitual controls. A Curia that is not self-critical, that does not stay up-to-date, that does not seek to better itself, is an ailing body. … It is the sickness of the rich fool who thinks he will live for all eternity, and of those who transform themselves into masters and believe themselves superior to others, rather than at their service”.
The second is “'Martha-ism', or excessive industriousness; the sickness of those who immerse themselves in work, inevitably neglecting 'the better part' of sitting at Jesus' feet. Therefore, Jesus required his disciples to rest a little, as neglecting the necessary rest leads to stress and agitation. Rest, once one who has brought his or her mission to a close, is a necessary duty and must be taken seriously: in spending a little time with relatives and respecting the holidays as a time for spiritual and physical replenishment, it is necessary to learn the teaching of Ecclesiastes, that 'there is a time for everything'”.
Then there is “the sickness of mental and spiritual hardening: that of those who, along the way, lose their inner serenity, vivacity and boldness and conceal themselves behind paper, becoming working machines rather than men of God. … It is dangerous to lose the human sensibility necessary to be able to weep with those who weep and to rejoice with those who rejoice! It is the sickness of those who lose those sentiments that were present in Jesus Christ”.
“The ailment of excessive planning and functionalism: this is when the apostle plans everything in detail and believes that, by perfect planning things effectively progress, thus becoming a sort of accountant. … One falls prey to this sickness because it is easier and more convenient to settle into static and unchanging positions. Indeed, the Church shows herself to be faithful to the Holy Spirit to the extent that she does not seek to regulate or domesticate it. The Spirit is freshness, imagination and innovation”.
The “sickness of poor coordination develops when the communion between members is lost, and the body loses its harmonious functionality and its temperance, becoming an orchestra of cacophony because the members do not collaborate and do not work with a spirit of communion or as a team”.
“Spiritual Alzheimer's disease, or rather forgetfulness of the history of Salvation, of the personal history with the Lord, of the 'first love': this is a progressive decline of spiritual faculties, that over a period of time causes serious handicaps, making one incapable of carrying out certain activities autonomously, living in a state of absolute dependence on one's own often imaginary views. We see this is those who have lost their recollection of their encounter with the Lord … in those who build walls around themselves and who increasingly transform into slaves to the idols they have sculpted with their own hands”.
“The ailment of rivalry and vainglory: when appearances, the colour of one's robes, insignia and honours become the most important aim in life. … It is the disorder that leads us to become false men and women, living a false 'mysticism' and a false 'quietism'”.
Then there is “existential schizophrenia: the sickness of those who live a double life, fruit of the hypocrisy typical of the mediocre and the progressive spiritual emptiness that cannot be filled by degrees or academic honours. This ailment particularly afflicts those who, abandoning pastoral service, limit themselves to bureaucratic matters, thus losing contact with reality and with real people. They create a parallel world of their own, where they set aside everything they teach with severity to others and live a hidden, often dissolute life”.
The sickness of “chatter, grumbling and gossip: this is a serious illness that begins simply, often just in the form of having a chat, and takes people over, turning them into sowers of discord, like Satan, and in many cases cold-blooded murderers of the reputations of their colleagues and brethren. It is the sickness of the cowardly who, not having the courage to speak directly to the people involved, instead speak behind their backs”.
“The sickness of deifying leaders is typical of those who court their superiors, with the hope of receiving their benevolence. They are victims of careerism and opportunism, honouring people rather than God. They are people who experience service thinking only of what they might obtain and not of what they should give. They are mean, unhappy and inspired only by their fatal selfishness”.
“The disease of indifference towards others arises when each person thinks only of himself, and loses the sincerity and warmth of personal relationships. When the most expert does not put his knowledge to the service of less expert colleagues; when out of jealousy … one experiences joy in seeing another person instead of lifting him up or encouraging him”.
“The illness of the funereal face: or rather, that of the gruff and the grim, those who believe that in order to be serious it is necessary to paint their faces with melancholy and severity, and to treat others – especially those they consider inferior – with rigidity, hardness and arrogance. In reality, theatrical severity and sterile pessimism are often symptoms of fear and insecurity”.
“The disease of accumulation: when the apostle seeks to fill an existential emptiness of the heart by accumulating material goods, not out of necessity but simply to feel secure. … Accumulation only burdens and inexorably slows down our progress”.
“The ailment of closed circles: when belonging to a group becomes stronger than belonging to the Body and, in some situations, to Christ Himself. This sickness too may start from good intentions but, as time passes, enslaves members and becomes a 'cancer' that threatens the harmony of the Body and causes a great deal of harm – scandals – especially to our littlest brothers”.
Then, there is the “disease of worldly profit and exhibitionism: when the apostle transforms his service into power, and his power into goods to obtain worldly profits or more power. This is the disease of those who seek insatiably to multiply their power and are therefore capable of slandering, defaming and discrediting others, even in newspapers and magazines, naturally in order to brag and to show they are more capable than others”.
After listing these ailments, Pope Francis continued, “We are therefore required, at this Christmas time and in all the time of our service and our existence – to live 'speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love'”.
“I once read that priests are like aeroplanes: they only make the news when they crash, but there are many that fly. Many criticise them and few pray for them”, he concluded. “It is a very nice phrase, but also very true, as it expresses the importance and the delicacy of our priestly service, and how much harm just one priest who falls may cause to the whole body of the Church”.
Pope Francis today assured that Christ is coming into our lives this Christmas and is asking for a response like Mary's, but warned that we might be too busy to pay attention.
The Pope made this reflection today during his address before praying the midday Angelus with those gathered in St. Peter's Square.
He suggested two aspects to learn from Mary, as a guide to preparing for Christmas.
The first is her "'here I am' full of faith."
"Mary does not know which paths she will have to trod, which sorrows she will have to suffer, which risks she will face," the Pontiff said. "But she knows that it is the Lord who is asking, and she trusts totally in Him and abandons herself to His love. This is Mary's faith."
The other aspect to learn from "this simple young woman of Nazareth," the Pope said, is her ability to "recognize the time of God."
She makes the Incarnation possible, "thanks to her humble and courageous 'yes,'" the Pope said. "Mary teaches us to welcome the favorable moment in which Jesus comes into our lives and asks for a generous and prepared response."
Jesus is coming this Christmas in the "today of the liturgy," the Pope explained. "The Word, who dwelled in the virginal womb of Mary, in the celebration of Christmas, comes to call anew the heart of each Christian. He comes by and calls. Each one of us is called to respond, as Mary did, with a personal and sincere 'yes,' placing ourselves fully at the disposal of God and his mercy."
"How many times Jesus comes in our lives and how many times he sends us an angel. And how many times we don't realize it because we are very busy, submerged in our thoughts, in our activities, and in these days, in the preparation for Christmas, and we don't realize the one who is passing by and knocking at the door of our hearts asking to be welcomed, asking for a 'yes' like that of Mary."
The Pope said that when we feel in our hearts a desire to be better, to repent, that the Lord is the source of that feeling.
"If you feel this, stop," he said. "The Lord is there. Go to pray, and maybe go to confession to clean up the dwelling a bit. This is good. But remember well, if you feel this desire to improve, it is He who is calling. Do not let him pass by."
Pope Francis concluded by inviting the faithful to learn from Mary's and Joseph's example, and to "welcome Jesus with an entirely open soul."
Jesus, he said, "comes to bring to the world the gift of peace. [...] The precious gift of Christmas is peace and Christ is our true peace. And Christ calls to our hearts to give us peace. Peace of the soul. Let us open the gates to Christ."
Pope Francis is lamenting that characteristics such as power-hungry and egotistic at times are appropriate for describng people of the Church.
According to Vatican Radio, during his daily morning Mass at Casa Santa Marta, the Pope reminded the faithful that the Church is instead a loving, tender mother
"Many times I think that in some places the Church is more like an entrepreneur than a mother," he said, noting this makes the Church sterile.
Recalling the two miraculous births of Samson and John the Baptist, both born to women who were formerly sterile, the Pope suggested that situations can be turned around and this should give us hope.
Since this symbol of sterility as recounted in the Bible is seen as the sign of a human person incapable of moving forward, he noted the Church wants to make us reflect on the issue.
“From sterility, the Lord is able to restart a new lineage, a new life. And that is the message of today," he said.
"When humanity is exhausted and can no longer go forward," Francis said, "grace comes."
Just as today's message reminds us how the second Creation comes when the earth is exhausted, the Pope added that we do the same as we await the newness of God.
"That's what Christmas is about," the Holy Father said.
"We must open ourselves to the Spirit of God because we cannot do it by ourselves," he added.
He explained that thr Church is a mother and only becomes a mother when she opens to the newness of God, to the strength of the Spirit.
"When she says to herself: 'I do everything, but I’ve finished, I can’t go forward!'" then, the Pope said, "the Spirit comes.”
Let’s pray, the Holy Father said, that this Christmas "our Church may be open to the gift of God, that she may allow herself to be surprised by the Holy Spirit and be a Church that gives birth, a mother Church," never hypocritical.
Pope Francis says even when we do not understand the difficulties of life, we must realize that God, our loving father, has a plan and is there to save his children.
According to Vatican Radio, during his daily morning Mass at Casa Santa Marta, Pope Francis reminded those gathered that "God walks with us, makes history, tests us and saves us in the worst moments."
The Apostle St. Paul reminds us God is our Father, the Pontiff recalled, noting that "step by step" as God ‘makes’ history with us, he continues the history of salvation.
"Making history with his people," the Pope observed, "means for God to walk and to test his elect." But in the end God saves them, Francis stressed.
From the very beginning, Francis said, God made a journey through history with his people. Therefore, "there is no salvation without history. And to get to the point of today there was a long history, a long history."
Moreover, Francis pointed out that when we fail, "God corrects" and "brings us forward, forward, always walking with us."
Saying some may ask: "Father, this story is over with Christmas?"
He responded, "No!" saying, "Even now the Lord saves us in history" and "walks with his people."
The Pope explained that we are the elect of God, those chosen by Him "to help his people to move forward," just as Abraham, Moses, and Elijah were chosen.
Yet, he noted this is not always a peaceful path, but sometimes calls for the elect to experience some bad times, and even dark, awkward, and even disturbing moments.
Moses and Elijah, he said, exemplify people who God tested, who the Lord took out of their comfort zone.
Turning to the day’s Gospel in which Joseph discovers that his betrothed, Mary, is pregnant, he said this marks another test and a big moment in salvation history.
Francis noted how Joseph suffered and would see village women gossiping, but knew Mary was “incapable of infidelity" and trusted her.
"In these difficult moments," the Pontiff noted, God’s elect, to make history, must take the problem on their shoulders, even if they don’t understand why.
"Joseph does so. The man, in the worst moment of his life, the most obscure, takes the problem upon himself,” trusting in the Lord, the Holy Father said.
"Let us always remember, with confidence, even in the worst moments, even in times of illness, when we realize that we have to ask the last rites, because there is no exit, saying: 'But, Lord, the story did not start with me and will not end with me!'"
Rather, the Pope noted, "You must go ahead," saying, "I am willing," and put difficult moments and doubts in the hands of the Lord.
"May the Lord make us understand this mystery of his walk with his people in history, his testing his elect, and the greatness of the heart of his elect, who take upon themselves the pains, problems, even the appearance of sinners - we think of Jesus - to advance history," the Holy Father prayed.
During a special weekly general audience coinciding with his 78th birthday, Pope Francis called on all families to make a special place for Jesus in their homes this Advent.
Although the Holy Father did not himself draw any attention to his birthday, those gathered were ready to celebrate. Tango enthusiasts had been dancing on Via della Conciliazione, the street leading into St. Peter's Square, for the Pope’s big day.
While making his way through the Square before the audience, not only did Francis sip some mate, a traditional Argentinian drink, given him by pilgrims in the square, he also stopped by seminarians of the Legionaries of Christ who gave him a birthday cake with candles.
Following the welcoming festivities, the Pope continued his catechesis on the family, reminding the jubilant pilgrims that the Son of God chose to be born into a human family, in an obscure town on the periphery of the Roman Empire.
"This Advent season of prayerful expectation for the Lord’s coming," he reflected, "invites us to consider how God’s original gift of the family was taken up and confirmed in the mystery of the Incarnation."
In imitation of the Holy Family, the Holy Father said, every Christian family is to "make a place for Jesus in its home."
The Argentine Pontiff noted Jesus lived a normal life, in a normal family, and how his and his parents’ examples can serve as role models to people nowadays.
"He was raised in an atmosphere of religious devotion," the Pope said, noting, "He learned from the words and example of Mary and Joseph, and grew in wisdom, age and grace."
Like Jesus' parents did, he said, each Christian family is to welcome, speak, and develop their relationship with Christ, which will in turn "improve the world."
"For it is through the love of such 'normal' families that God’s Son quietly comes to dwell among us, bringing salvation to our world," Francis proclaimed.
"We must make room in our hearts and in our days for the Lord," he said, just like Mary and Joseph did, even when it's not easy.
“How many difficulties they had to overcome!” he continued, noting they were a real family with struggles like ours.
The family of Nazareth, the 78-year-old Pope said, "commits us to rediscover the vocation and mission of the family," especially this blessed Advent.
"When we will be able to say to the Lord: 'Lord, these are my sins. They are not his or hers, they are mine… They are mine. Take them and I will be saved.' When we will be able to do this, we will be that people, that meek and humble people, that trusts in the Lord's name. May the Lord grant us this grace." This was a prayer made this morning by Pope Francis as he celebrated morning Mass at the Casa Santa Marta, reported Vatican Radio.
The Pope drew his homily from today's reading from Zephaniah, Chapter 3, which includes the text: "On that day / You need not be ashamed / of all your deeds, / your rebellious actions against me; / For then will I remove from your midst / the proud braggarts, / And you shall no longer exalt yourself / on my holy mountain. / But I will leave as a remnant in your midst / a people humble and lowly, / Who shall take refuge in the name of the LORD: / the remnant of Israel."
He also drew from the Gospel reading of Matthew, Chapter 21, which relates the story of the man with two sons, one who tells his father he will not go work in the vineyard, but later repents and goes; and the other who says he will go but in fact does not.
The repentant group described by Zephaniah has "humility, poverty, and trust in the Lord," Francis said. But there are also those who "do not accept correction, they do not trust in the Lord."
"These people cannot receive Salvation. They are closed to Salvation. ‘I will leave within you the meek and humble; they will trust in the name of the Lord throughout their lives.' And that is still valid today, isn’t it? When we look at the holy people of God that is humble, that has its riches in its faith in the Lord, in its trust in the Lord - the humble, poor people that trust in the Lord: these are the ones who are saved and this is the way of the Church, isn’t it? This is the path I must follow, not the path in which I do not listen to His voice, do not accept correction and do not trust in the Lord," the Pope said.
Francis proposed that the scandal provoked by Jesus in the Gospel when he says, "tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the Kingdom of God before you," is felt today by those who feel "pure" because they go to Mass and receive Communion.
God, Francis said, needs much more:"If your heart is not a repentant heart, if you do not listen to the Lord, if you don’t accept correction and you do not trust in Him, your heart is unrepentant," he said. "These hypocrites who were scandalized by what Jesus said about the tax collectors and the prostitutes, but then secretly approached them to vent their passion or to do business - but all in secrecy - were 'pure!' The Lord does not want them."
Jesus' message is one of hope, the Pope said, if we have the courage to give God our sins.
He recalled the story of a saint who thought he had given everything to the Lord:
"He listened to the Lord, he always followed His will, he gave to the Lord, and the Lord said to him: 'There is still one thing you have not given me.' And the poor man who was good said: 'But, Lord, what is it that I have not given you? I have given you my life, I work for the poor, I work for catechesis, I work here, I work there ...'
"'But there is something you have not given me yet.'
"'What is it Lord?'
"When we will be able to say to the Lord: 'Lord, these are my sins. They are not his or hers, they are mine… They are mine. Take them and I will be saved.' When we will be able to do this we will be that people, that meek and humble people, that trusts in the Lord's name. May the Lord grant us this grace."
Pope Francis is warning against being rigid, noting that often it's a trait of hypocrisy. According to Vatican Radio, during the Pope's daily Mass in Casa Santa Marta this morning, he said our hearts must be fixed on Christ and open to love and forgiveness, never closed and judgmental.
The Pontiff reflected on the day’s Gospel reading, which speaks of the chief priests asking Jesus by what authority he did his works.
Their insistence to find out from Jesus, Francis said, demonstrates the “hypocritical heart” of those authorities who were not interested in the truth, but only in seeking their own interests.
“This is the drama of these people,” he stressed, reminding those present that Jesus denounces hypocrisy and opportunism.
Such people, the Argentine Pontiff suggested, went where the wind blew: “You should go this way, you should go that way… They were weathervanes, all of them! All of them! Without consistency.”
Reflecting on those with "hearts without consistency," the Pope said, "They negotiated everything," including their interior freedom, faith, country.
The one thing they didn't negotiate, he said, was appearances. The most important thing for such people was getting the best and most out of every situation: "They were opportunists. They profited from the situations.”
“And yet,” he continued, “some of you might ask me: ‘But Father, these people were observers of the law.'"
Responding, Francis admitted, "they were a very observant people, very secure in their habits. Yes, it’s true – but only in appearance." He noted, "They were strong, but on the outside. The heart was very weak, they didn’t know what they believed."
Jesus, on the other hand, teaches us that the Christian should have a strong and firm heart, one "built on the rock, that is Christ." With that foundation, such a heart is not negotiable.
“This is the drama of the hypocrisy of this people," he repeated. The Pharisees were so rigid in their discipline, saying: ‘No, the discipline can’t be touched, it’s sacred.’”
He noted, they were "rigid on the outside, but, as Jesus said of them, ‘rotting in the heart,’ weak, weak to the point of rottenness. Gloomy in the heart.”
“Even our life can become like that," the Pope said, "And sometimes, I confess something to you, when I have seen a Christian, a Christian of that kind, with a weak heart, not firm, not fixed on the rock—Jesus – and with such rigidness on the outside.
"I ask the Lord: ‘But Lord, throw a banana peel in front of them, so that they will take a good fall, and feel shame that they are sinners, and so encounter You, [and realize] that You are the Saviour."
Many times a sin, Pope Francis said, "will make us feel shame, and make us encounter the Lord, Who pardons us, as the sick who were there and went to the Lord for healing.”
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