We cannot be lukewarm in our faith, and we must eliminate those attitudes and the worldliness, that gets in the way of a free and close relationship with Christ.
Today, May 5th, Pope Francis gave this encouragement to those watching his private daily Mass at his residence Casa Santa Marta, reported Vatican News.
At the start of the Mass, Pope Francis prayed for all victims of Coronavirus.
“Today we pray for the deceased who have died because of the pandemic,” the Holy Father said, acknowledging: “They have died alone, without the caresses of their loved ones. So many did not even have a funeral.”
“May the Lord welcome them in His glory,” he said.
In his homily, the Holy Father reflected on today’s Gospel reading according to St. John (Jn 10:22-30), in which several Jews ask Jesus to say openly whether He is the Christ. Jesus responds that He has already told them so, yet they do not believe.
This episode, the Holy Father said, is an invitation to reflect on our own faith. “Do I believe? What makes me stop outside the door that is Jesus?”
The Pope encouraged faithful to take account of stumbling blocks to their faith or take stock of the worldliness which can bog us down.
When our hearts are rigid, this impedes our faith, the Pope reminded.
“Jesus,” he said, “reproached the doctors of the law for their rigidity in interpreting the law, which is not faithfulness. Faithfulness is always a gift of God; rigidity is only security for oneself.”
A good woman, Francis said, came up to him once to ask his advice after she went to a wedding one Saturday afternoon, and thought that Mass would fulfill her Sunday obligation.
But later–he recalled–she realized that the Mass readings did not correspond to those for Sunday, and felt that she was in mortal sin because she had not attended “a real Sunday Mass”.
That kind of rigidity, the Holy Father stated, drives us away from the “wisdom and beauty of the Lord, and robs us of our freedom.”
Francis also lamented those who are “imprisoned by wealth.”
“There are many of us who have entered the door of the Lord but then fail to continue because we are imprisoned by wealth. Jesus takes a hard line regarding wealth… Wealth keeps us from going ahead. Do we need to fall into poverty? No, but, we must not become slaves to wealth. Wealth is the lord of this world, and we cannot serve two masters.”
The Pope named three other attitudes that create distance between us and Jesus: apathy, clericalism, and the worldly spirit.
Apathy, the Pope said, is a type of “tiredness that takes away our desire to strive forward and leaves us lukewarm.”
Clericalism, the Pontiff noted, seeks to put us in Jesus’ place. Instead of letting the Master lead, clericalism imposes restrictions that must be met before one enters the door of faith.
“It is a terrible sickness,” he said, “that robs the faithful of freedom and impedes them from going to Jesus.”
Often being worldly stops us at the door of faith.
“We can think,” he said, “of how some Sacraments are celebrated in some parishes. At times it is impossible to discern the grace and presence of Jesus.”
These, the Pope warned, are some of the things that stop us from becoming members of Jesus’s flock.
“We are ‘sheep’ of all these things – wealth, apathy, rigidity, worldliness, clericalism, ideologies,” he said, “But freedom is lacking and we cannot follow Jesus without freedom.”
“At times freedom might go too far, and we might slip and fall. Yes, that’s true. But this is slipping before becoming free.”
Consider, the Holy Father advised, whether we are free from these temptations in order to progress in the knowledge of the Lord.
Pope Francis concluded, saying: “May the Lord enlighten us to see within ourselves if we have the freedom required to go through the door which is Jesus, to go beyond it with Jesus in order to become sheep of His flock.”
The Pope ended the celebration with Eucharistic Adoration and Benediction, inviting the faithful to make a Spiritual Communion.
The Masses in Francis’ chapel normally welcome a small group of faithful, but due to recent measures’ taken by the Vatican, are now being kept private, without their participation. The Holy Week and Easter celebrations in the Vatican were also done without the presence of faithful, but were able to be watched via streaming.
It was announced at the start of the lockdowns in Italy that the Pope would have these Masses, in this period, be available to all the world’s faithful, via streaming on Vatican Media, on weekdays, at 7 am Rome time, along with his weekly Angelus and General Audiences.
On May 4th, the country entered its so-called ‘Phase 2’, where it will slowly relaxing some of the lockdown restrictions.
In Italy where nearly 30,000 people have died from COVID19, public Masses are still prohibited. To date, in the Vatican, there have been eleven cases of coronavirus in the Vatican, confirmed a recent statement from the Director of the Holy See Press Office, Matteo Bruni.
The Vatican Museums are closed, along with the Vatican’s other similar museums. There have also been various guidelines implemented throughout the Vatican, to prevent the spread of the virus.
For anyone interested, the Pope’s Masses at Santa Marta can be watched live and can be watched afterward on Vatican YouTube. Below is a link to today’s Mass. Also, a ZENIT English translation of the Pope’s full homily is available below:
FULL HOMILY [translated by ZENIT’s Virginia Forrester]
Jesus was in the Temple, the feast of Passover was close (Cf. John 10:22-30). At that time the Jews also “gathered around Him and said to Him: ‘How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly’” (v. 24). They made one lose patience and with how much meekness “Jesus answered them: ‘ I told you, and you do not believe’” (v. 25). They continued to say: “But are you? Are you? – ‘Yes, I told you , and you do not believe!’” “But you do not believe, because you do not belong to my sheep” (v. 26). And perhaps this awakens a doubt in us: I believe and I am part of Jesus’ sheep. But if Jesus were to say to us: ‘You cannot believe because you are not part of’: is there a prior faith to the encounter with Jesus? What is this being part of Jesus’ faith? What stops me in front of the door that is Christ?
There are prior attitudes to the confession of Jesus, also for us, who are in Jesus’ flock. They are as “prior antipathies,” which don’t let us go forward in knowledge of the Lord. The first of all is riches. Also many of us, who have entered by the Lord’s door, then stop and don’t go forward because we are imprisoned in riches. The Lord was harsh<when it came to> riches: He was very harsh, very harsh, to the point of saying that it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle that for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven (Cf. Matthew 19:24). This is hard. Riches are an impediment to go forward. But, must we fall into pauperism? No, but we must not be slaves of riches, not live for riches, because riches are a master, they are the master of this world and we cannot serve two masters (Cf. Luke 16:13). And riches stop us.
Another thing that hinders going forward in knowledge of Jesus, in belonging to Jesus, is rigidity: rigidity of heart. Rigidity too in the interpretation of the Law. Jesus rebuked the Pharisees, the Doctors of the Law for this rigidity (Cf. Matthew 23:1-36), which isn’t fidelity: fidelity is always a gift to God; rigidity is a security for myself. I remember once going to a parish and a lady — a good lady — approached me and said: “Father, <I need> advice . . . “ – “Tell me . . .” “Last week , Saturday, not yesterday, the other Saturday, we went as a family to a marriage; it was with Mass. It was Saturday afternoon, and we thought that with this Mass we had fulfilled the Sunday precept. But then, going back home, I thought that the Readings of that Mass were not those of Sunday. And I realized that I was in mortal sin, because I didn’t go on Sunday as I had gone on Saturday, but to a Mass that wasn’t <valid>, because the Readings weren’t <right>.” Such rigidity . . . and that lady belonged to an Ecclesial Movement — rigidity. This moves us away form Jesus’ wisdom, from Jesus’ wisdom; it takes away one’s freedom. And many Pastors make this rigidity grow in the souls of the faithful, and this rigidity does not let us enter by Jesus’ door (Cf. John 10:7). Is it more important to observe the Law as it is written or as I interpret it, which is the freedom to go forward following Jesus?
Something else that doesn’t let us go forward in knowledge of Jesus is sloth — that tiredness. We think of the man at the pool: <he was there for> 38 years (Cf. John 5:1-9). Sloth takes away from us the will to go forward and everything is “yes, but no, not now, no, no, but . . . . ,” which leads one to lukewarmness and makes one tepid. Sloth . . . is another thing that impedes one form going forward.
Another, which is quite awful, is the clericalist attitude. Clericalism puts itself in Jesus’ place: “No, this must be like this, like this , like this and if you don’t do it this, like this , like this you can’t enter.” It is a clericalism, which takes away the freedom of believers’ faith. This is a sickness, an awful <sickness> in the Church, this clericalist attitude.
Then, something else that hinders going forward, to enter to know Jesus and to confess Jesus, is a worldly spirit — when observance of the faith, the practice of the faith ends in worldliness, and everything is worldly. We think of the celebration of some Sacraments in some parishes: how much worldliness there is there! And the grace of Jesus’ presence isn’t understood.
These are the things that stop being part of Jesus’ sheep. We are “sheep” [following] all these things: riches, sloth, rigidity, worldliness, clericalism, formality, ideologies <and> ways of life. Freedom is lacking. And Jesus can’t be followed without freedom. “However, sometimes freedom goes beyond and one slips.” Yes, it’s true. It’s true. We can slip going in freedom. However, it’s worse to slip before going, with these things that hinder to begin to go.
May the Lord illumine us to see within us if there is freedom to pass by the door that is Jesus and to go beyond, to become flock, to become sheep of His flock.
At the end of the Eucharistic Liturgy, the Pope invited <the faithful> to make a Spiritual Communion with this prayer:
My Jesus, I believe You are really present in the Most Blessed Sacrament of the altar. I love You above all things and I desire You in my soul. As I cannot receive you sacramentally now, come at least spiritually into my heart. As if You have already come, I embrace You and unite myself wholly to You. Do not permit me to be ever separated from You.
The Pope ended the celebration with Eucharistic Adoration and Benediction. Before leaving the Chapel, dedicated to the Holy Spirit, the Marian antiphon “Regina Caeli” was intoned, sung in Eastertide:
Regina caeli laetare, alleluia.
Quia quem meruisti portare, alleluia.
Resurrexit, sicut dixit, alleluia.
Ora pro nobis Deum, alleluia.
(Queen of Heaven, rejoice, alleluia.
Christ, whom you bore in your womb, alleluia,
Is Risen, as He promised, alleluia.
Pray for us to the Lord, alleluia).