During his morning Mass in the Chapel of Domus Sanctae Marthae, Pope Francis emphasized the calling of Christians to be courageous in their weakness. Concelebrating the Mass with the Holy Father was Cardinal Manuel Monteiro de Castro, the major penitentiary of the Apostolic Penitentiary and Archbishop Beniamino Stella, president of the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy.
The Mass was also attended by a group of priests and employees of the Tribunal of the Apostolic Penitentiary and a group from the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy.
Referring to the first reading which spoke of the escape of Lot and his family from the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, the Pope said that there are several possible attitudes in difficult situations. The Holy Father commented on Lot’s slowness in escaping the city.
“The angel tells him to run away, but he carries within an ‘inability to detach himself from evil and sin,” Pope Francis said. Despite our determination to leave “there is something that pulls us back, and so Lot begins to negotiate even with the angel.
“Its so hard to cut ties with a sinful situation,” the Holy Father continued. “It is hard! Even in a temptation, it’s hard! But the voice of God tells us this word: ‘Escape! You cannot fight there, because the fire, the sulfur will kill you. Escape!’ St. Therese of the Child Jesus taught us that sometimes, in some temptations, the only solution is to escape and not be ashamed to escape; to recognize that we are weak and we have to escape. And our popular wisdom, in its simplicity, says as much, somewhat ironically: ‘he who fights and runs away, lives to fight another day.’ Escaping to go forward along the path of Jesus.”
Referring to the angel’s command to Lot and his family to “not look back”, the Holy Father said that one way of overcoming the nostalgia of sin was to think of the “People of God in the desert.”
“They had everything, promises, everything.” And yet “they were nostalgic for the onions of Egypt” and this “longing made them forget that they ate those onions on the table of slavery.” There was the “longing to go back, to return.” The Pope went on to say that the angel’s advice, “is wise: Do not look back! Move ahead!” We must not do as Lot’s wife, we must “leave behind all nostalgia, because there is also the temptation of curiosity.”
“Faced with sin, we must escape without any nostalgia. Curiosity does not help, it hurts! ‘But, in this sinful world, what can we do? What is this sin like? I would like to know . . . ‘ No, do not! This curiosity will hurt you! Run away and do not look back! We are weak, all of us, and we must defend ourselves.”
Contemplating on the Gospel, which spoke of the disciples fear in the midst of a storm, the Holy Father stated that another situation is fear. “There is a temptation that says it is better to stay here, where I’m safe,” the Holy Father said. “But this is the slavery of Egypt.”
“I fear moving forward, I’m afraid of where the Lord will bring me. Fear, however, is not a good counselor. Jesus, so many times, said: ‘Do not be afraid.’ Fear does not help us.”
The final attitude in the face of a difficult situation is the “grace of the Holy Spirit.” Continuing his reflection on the Gospel, the Pope noted the disciples awe at Jesus calming the sea. “Faced with sin, nostalgia, fear, we must always turn to the Lord,” the Pope said.
“Looking to the Lord, contemplating the Lord. This gives us the beautiful wonder of a new encounter with the Lord. ‘Lord, I am being tempted: I want to stay in this situation of sin, Lord, I am curious to know about these things, Lord, I’m afraid.’ And they looked to the Lord: ‘Save us, Lord, we are lost!’ And wonder at a new encounter with Jesus followed.”
“We must not be naive nor lukewarm Christians, but brave, courageous,” Pope Francis concluded. “We are weak, but we must be courageous in our weakness. And often our courage must be expressed in escaping without looking back, so as not to fall into the trap of wicked nostalgia. Do not be afraid and always look to the Lord!”