Pope Francis has warned against having a ‘perverse heart,’ stressing no one is immuned.
According to Vatican News, Pope Francis stressed this during his daily morning Mass at Casa Santa Marta as he reflected on the harsh ‘warning’ in today’s liturgy of the author of the Letter to the Hebrews. Addressing the Christian community, he said: “Take care, brothers, that none of you may have an evil and unfaithful heart, so as to forsake the living God.
The Holy Father asked: “What does it mean for a Christian to have a “perverse heart,” a heart that can lead to faintheartedness, ideology, and compromise? The Pontiff also noted how all the Church’s components, including “priests, nuns, bishops,” run this danger.
Explaining what this perversion entails, the Jesuit Pontiff focused on three items: hardness, obstinacy and seduction.
The Pope first spoke on hardness, stressing a ‘hard heart’ is a ‘closed’ heart, namely one “that does not want to grow, that defends itself, that is closed in on itself.”
The Holy Father acknowledged that in life this can happen for many reasons, including a great sorrow, it also has happened to saints.
“We can ask ourselves,” he said: “Do I have a hard heart, do I have a closed heart? Do I let my heart grow? Am I afraid that it will grow? And we always grow with trials, with difficulties, we grow as we all grow as children: we learn to walk [by] falling.
“From crawling to walking, how many times we have fallen!” he called on those before him to ask themselves: “But we grow through difficulties. Hardness. And, what amounts to the same thing, being closed. But who remains in this? “Who are they, father?” They are the fainthearted. Faintheartedness is an ugly attitude in a Christian, he lacks the courage to live. He is closed off…”
Turning to the second word of “obstinate,” Francis recalled that in the Letter to the Hebrews we read, “Exhort each other every day, as long as this today lasts, so that none of you may be obstinate.” He also recalled that this is “the accusation that Stephen makes to those who will stone him afterwards.”
Obstinacy, he noted, is “spiritual stubbornness.” An obstinate heart, he continued, is rebellious, stubborn and not “open to the Spirit” as it is closed in by its own thought. Francs said this characterizes “ideologues”, the proud and the arrogant.
“Ideology is a kind of obstinacy. The Word of God, the grace of the Holy Spirit is not ideology: it is life that makes you grow, always, [that makes you] go forward, and also opens your heart to the signs of the Spirit, to the signs of the times. But obstinacy is also pride, it is arrogance. Stubbornness, that stubbornness that does so much harm: closed-hearted, hard – the first word – those are the fainthearted; the stubborn, the obstinate, as the text says the ideologues are.”
“But do I have a stubborn heart?” he continued, recommending: “Each one should consider this. Am I able to listen to other people? And if I think differently, do I say, “But I think this…” Am I capable of dialogue? The obstinate don’t dialogue, they don’t know how, because they always defend themselves with ideas, they are ideologues. And how much harm do ideologues do to the people of God, how much harm! Because they close the way to the work of the Holy Spirit.”
Turning to the third word of “seduction,”: the seduction of sin, used by the devil, the “great seducer”, “a great theologian but without faith, with hatred”, who wants to “enter and dominate” the heart and knows how to do it.
“A perverse heart,” Francis summarized, “is one that lets itself be seduced and seduction leads him to obstinacy, to closure, and to many other things.”
With seduction, Francis went on to stress, either you convert and change your life or you try to compromise. This unfortunately, he noted, is often done a little here and a little there, a little here and a little there.
“Yes, yes, I follow the Lord, but I like this seduction, but just a little…” And you’re starting to lead a double Christian life. To use the word of the great Elijah to the people of Israel at that moment: “You limp from both legs”. To limp from both legs, without having one set firmly. It is the life of compromise: “Yes, I am a Christian, I follow the Lord, yes, but I let this in…”.
This is what the lukewarm are like, he said, those who always compromise.
“Christians of compromise. We, too, often do this: compromise,” he acknowledged, Even when the Lord lets us know the path, even with the commandments, also with the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, but I prefer something else, and I try to find a way to go down two tracks, limping on both legs.”
Pope Francis concluded, praying: “May the Holy Spirit, therefore, enlighten us so that no one may have a perverse heart: a hard heart, which will lead you to faintheartedness; a stubborn heart that will lead you to rebellion, that will lead you to ideology; a heart that is seduced, a slave to seduction.”