Lectio Divina consists of reading God's word in a moment of prayer and allowing it to enlighten and renew us. It begins with study and deepens as the Spirit of Counsel shows us how to apply God's Word to our life. Starting with the passage's literal sense, we are careful not be confused by making it say what is convenient, or what confirms prejudice. "Friendship with the world is emnity with God (James 4 ESV)." "And the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit" (Galatians 5:17 ESV).
Lenten Review From RomeReports
Pope Francis: It is Impossible to Dialogue with Satan
(Vatican Radio) During his weekly Angelus address on Sunday, Pope Francis spoke about the day’s Gospel reading, which focused on the temptation of Jesus in the desert.
Satan, the Pope said, tried “to divert Jesus from the Father’s plan” by tempting Him “to take an easy path,” a path “of success and power.” Jesus definitively rejects these temptations, reaffirming His “firm intention to follow the path established by the Father, without any compromise with sin or with the logic of the world.” This commitment to follow the plan of the Father is realized in Jesus actions; “His absolute fidelity to the Father's plan of love will lead Him, after about three years, to the final confrontation with the “prince of this world” (Jn 16:11), in the hour of the Passion and of the Cross, and there Jesus will achieve His final victory, the victory of love!”
The Holy Father encouraged all of us to take the opportunity afforded by Lent to renew our Baptismal promises, renouncing Satan and his seductions, “in order to walk the paths of God and ‘to arrive at Easter in the joy of the Spirit.’”
LINK: >> VR Full Remarks
Pope Francis: Lent a Time of Penance and Charity
(Vatican Radio) In his General Audience, Pope Francis spoke about the importance of Lent as a time for each of us “to promote change and conversion” in our lives. Lent, the Pope said, should help us to get out of “the tired habits and lazy addictions to evil that deceive us.”
During this season, we are invited us to be more keenly aware “of the redemptive work of Christ,” and “to live out our Baptism with greater commitment.”
It was a theme taken up in the English-language summary of the Pope’s remarks:
“In these days the Church asks us to ponder with joy and gratitude God’s immense love revealed in the paschal mystery and to live ever more fully the new life we have received in Baptism. This journey of spiritual renewal in the footsteps of Christ also calls us to acknowledge and respond to the growing spiritual and material poverty in our midst.”
“Specifically, it means consciously resisting the pressure of a culture which thinks it can do without God, where parents no longer teach their children to pray, where violence, poverty and social decay are taken for granted.”
Pope Francis concluded his remarks by re-iterating the “essential elements” of Lent: “giving thanks to God for the mystery of his crucified love” along with “true faith, conversion, and an opening of the heart” to our brothers.
Link: Summary of Remarks Listen to Christopher Wells report:
Pope Angelus Appeal for Ukraine and Christian Fraternity
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis asked for prayers for Ukraine on Sunday, which he said was living through a delicate situation. The Holy Father expressed the hope that all parts of the country “will endeavor to overcome misunderstandings and build together the future of the nation.” He also appealed to the international community “to support any initiative for dialogue and harmony;” and he underlined the need to trust in the Divine Providence of God stressing we should help our brothers and sisters who are in need.
Looking at society today where people live in precarious conditions such as poverty and the difficulties faced by many as a result of the economic crisis that offends dignity, the Pope said that in times like these the words of Jesus may seem abstract. But in reality these words are more present than ever because they remind us that we cannot serve two masters: God and money. As long as everyone tries to accumulate for themselves, Pope Francis added, there will never be justice. “A heart occupied by his own desire is an empty one “because Jesus has repeatedly warned the rich, a heart possessed by riches leaves little room for faith.
“Make sure that no one lacks bread, water, clothing, housing, work, health. We must all recognize that we are children of the Father who is in heaven, therefore brothers and sisters” and act accordingly. Looking towards Lent, realize it is a journey of conversion, to combat evil with the weapons of prayer, fasting and mercy.
Humanity needs justice, reconciliation , and peace, and it will only have them by turning to God. We extend our hearts and hands to those who are tested by poverty and violent conflict.
Listen to Lydia O’Kane’s report
Pope Francis: God Help us to be Consistent
(Vatican Radio) “If you find yourself in front of – imagine! - in front of an atheist and he tells you he doesn’t believe in God, you can read him a whole library, where it says that God exists and even proving that God exists, and he will not have faith. But if in the presence of this atheist you bear coherent witness of Christian life, something will begin to work in his heart. It will be your witness that that he will bring this restlessness on which the Holy Spirit works. It’s a grace that we all, the whole Church must ask for: ‘Lord, [grant] that we might be coherent.’”
And so, the Pope concludes, we must pray, because to live in a coherent Christian way, prayer is necessary; because Christian coherency is a gift from God and we must ask for it. “Lord, grant that I might be consistent! Lord, grant that I might never cause scandal, that I might be a person who thinks like a Christian, who feels like a Christian, who acts like a Christian.” And when we fall because of our weakness, let us ask for forgiveness:
“We are all sinners, all of us, but we all have the ability to ask for forgiveness. And He never gets tired of forgiving! Have the humility to ask for forgiveness: ‘Lord, I have not been consistent here. Forgive me!’ Go forward in life with Christian coherence, with the witness of one who believes in Jesus Christ, who knows that he is a sinner, but who has the courage to ask for forgiveness when he makes mistakes and who so afraid of giving scandal. May the Lord give this grace to all of us.”
Link: EntireArticle from VR
Jesus is Close to us
In the Sacrament of Annointing the Sick
(Vatican Radio) At his weekly General Audience, Pope Francis spoke about the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick. This Sacrament, the Pope said, “allows us to ‘touch’ God’s compassion for man.”
Listen to Christopher Wells' report:
The Holy Father said the “profound mystery” of the Sacrament is expressed in a “biblical icon,” the parable of the Good Samaritan. “Every time we celebrated the Sacrament, the Lord Jesus, in the person of the priest, is close to the one who suffers and is gravely ill, or elderly.” When the good Samaritan tends to the victim of the robbers, the oil and wine he pours on his wounds represent the oil of the sick used in Sacrament, the love and grace of Jesus for those who are suffering. The good Samaritan then takes the man to an inn, and asks the innkeeper to care for him. The innkeeper, the Pope said, represents the Church, the Christian community, to whom, every day, Christ entrusts “those who are afflicted, whether in soul or in body, so that He can continue to bestow on them, without measure, all of His mercy and salvation.
The Pope reminded the crowds that the Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick was specifically repeated in the New Testament, in the Letter of Saint James: “Is anyone among you sick? He should summon the presbyters of the church, and they should pray over him and anoint [him] with oil in the name of the Lord, and the prayer of faith will save the sick person, and the Lord will raise him up. If he has committed any sins, he will be forgiven.”
But, Pope Francis said, too often people are afraid to call for the priest, because of a certain “taboo” around the whole topic of suffering and death. He encouraged Christians not to be afraid to request the Sacrament, but to remember that in the Sacrament Jesus is close to the sick and the aged.
“It is good to know that in the moment of suffering and of sickness that we are not alone,” he said. The priest, and those present for the Sacrament represent the whole Christian community, which embraces those who are suffering and their families, supporting them with their prayers and their fraternal care. But the greatest comfort comes from knowing that Jesus Himself is present in the Sacrament, and that nothing can ever separate us from Him.
Video: Wednesday General Audience from Vatican Youtube
Pope Francis: Friday Mass at Santa Marta
(Vatican Radio) “A faith that does not bear fruit in works is not faith.” This was the affirmation with which Pope Francis opened his remarks at Mass on Friday, following the readings of the day. The Holy Father offered the Mass in the chapel of the Casa Santa Marta in the Vatican, for the intention of Cardinal Silvano Piovanelli, emeritus Archbishop of Florence, on his 90th birthday. The Pope thanked Cardinal Piovanelli for “his work, his witness and his goodness.”
The world is full of Christians who often recite the words of the Creed, while very seldom putting them into practice – [and of] erudite [scholars] who reduce theology to a series of neat categories, neatly removed and shielded from having any influence on real life. It is a danger that St. James feared even two thousand years ago, and that Pope Francis made the subject of his remarks to the faithful after the day’s readings on Friday, “[St. James’ statement],” said Pope Francis, commenting on the passage from his Letter, which was read at Mass, “is clear: faith without fruit in life, a faith that does not bear fruit in works, is not faith.” Listen:
“Also, we often make the mistake of saying: ‘But I have a lot of faith’, [and] ‘I believe everything, everything ...’- and maybe this person who says [something like this] leads a lukewarm life, a weak [life]. His faith is as a theory, though it is not alive in his life. The Apostle James, when he speaks of faith, speaks precisely of doctrine, of that, which is what is the content of the faith. Nevertheless, one might learn all the commandments , all the prophecies , all the truths of faith, though if these are not put into practice, put to work, they are useless. We can recite the Creed theoretically, even without faith, and there are many people who do so – even the demons! The demons know very well what is said in the Creed and know that it is the Truth.”
The words of Pope Francis echo the assertion of St. James: “You believe that there is one God? You do well: the devils also believe, and tremble.” The difference, the Pope added, is that the demons do not “have faith” insofar as authentic faith, “is not [merely] to possess knowledge.” Rather, “[to have faith means] receiving the message of God,” brought by Christ. The Holy Father went on to say that, in the Gospel, there are two telltale signs of those, who, “know what is to be believed, but do not have faith.” The first sign is a tendency to “casuistry”, represented by those who asked Jesus if it was lawful to pay taxes, or which of the seven brothers of the husband would have to marry the widowed woman. The second sign is a commitment to “ideology”:
“Christians who think of faith as a system of ideas, ideologically: there were such as these even ing Jesus’ own day. The Apostle John says of them, that they were the antichrist, the ideologues of faith, of whatsoever [ideological] stamp they might have been. At that time there were the Gnostics, but there will [always] be many – and thus, those who fall into casuistry or those who fall into ideology are Christians who know the doctrine, but without faith, like demons. The difference is that the demons tremble, these Christians, no: they live peacefully.”
The Pope recalled how in the Gospels, there are also examples of “people who do not know the doctrine, but have so much faith.” He went on to mention the episode of the Canaanite woman, who, with her faith obtains healing for her daughter, who was the victim of possession, and the Samaritan woman who opens her heart because, he says, “she has not met with abstract truths,” but “Jesus Christ.” Then there is the blind man healed by Jesus, who then faces interrogation by the Pharisees and teachers of the law until he kneels with humility and adores the one who healed him. Three people, said Pope Francis, who show how faith and witness are inseparable:
“Faith is an encounter with Jesus Christ, with God, from which faith is born, and from there it brings you to witness. That is what the Apostle means: a faith without works, a faith that does not involve one’s [whole] self, that does not lead to witness, is not faith. It is words – and nothing more than words.”
Be Courageous. Go to Confession.
(Vatican Radio) After having discussed the Sacraments of Christian initiation — Baptism, Confirmation and the Eucharist — Pope Francis moved on to the Sacraments of Healing, speaking on Wednesday about the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
“When I go to Confession, it is to be healed,” he said. “To heal the soul, to heal the heart because of something I have done that is not going well.”
The Sacrament of Reconciliation, the Pope said, “flows directly from the Paschal Mystery.” He referred to Jesus' gift of the Holy Spirit to the Apostles when He appeared to them in the evening of the first Easter. Jesus said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.” This passage, the Pope Francis explained, “reveals the deeper dynamics contained in this Sacrament.”
First, he said, it shows that we cannot forgive ourselves. Forgiveness must be requested: “it is a gift, a gift of the Holy Spirit, who fills us with the washing of mercy and grace that flows from the opened heart of the crucified and risen Christ.”
Second, it reminds us that we can only truly be at peace if we are reconciled with the Father and with our brothers, in and through Jesus. “And we have heard this in the heart, when we go to make our Confession, with a weight on our soul, a little sadness... we hear the forgiveness of Jesus, we are at peace, with that peace of soul that is so beautiful, that only Jesus can give, only Him!”
Pope Francis noted that, over time, the Sacrament of Confession, which had been a more public celebration, took on a more private form that we are familiar with today. We must not, however, lose site of the Sacrament’s ecclesial aspect, “which constitutes it’s vital context.” In fact, the Pope said, “The Christian community is the place in which the Spirit is made present, who renews our hearts in the love of God and makes us all brothers in one thing, in Jesus Christ.” This is why one cannot simply “ask the Lord’s forgiveness in your own mind and in your heart, but it is to confidently and humbly confess your own sins to the ministry of the Church.” In the Sacrament, the priest represents not only God, but also the whole Church, “which recognizes the fragility of its members, listens to their heartfelt repentance, is reconciled with them, and heartens them and accompanies them along the path of conversion and human and Christian maturity.”
“Don’t be afraid of Confession,” Pope Francis said. When someone is in line for Confession, he might feel all sorts of things, even fear and shame. “But then, when you have finished your confession, you go out free, great, beautiful, forgiven, white, happy. And that’s the beauty of Confession.”
The Pope then asked the crowd when they had last been to Confession. “Don’t say it in a loud voice!” he said. “When was the last time you went to confession?... Two days? Two weeks? Two years? Twenty years? Forty years?... And if a lot of time has passed, don’t lose a day! Go ahead, the priest will be good! Jesus is there, right? And Jesus is better than the priest, it is Jesus who receives you. He receives you with great love. Be courageous, and go to Confession!”
Pope Francis concluded, “Dear friends, celebrating the Sacrament of Reconciliation means being wrapped in a warm embrace. It is the embrace of the infinite mercy of the Father.”
Pope Francis: Be Patient Even in the Midst of Trials
(Vatican Radio) The people of God endure the challenges of daily life with faith and patience. That – Pope Francis said – is what keeps the Church going.
Speaking at morning Mass at Casa Santa Marta on Monday, the Pope commented on the Letter of St. James in which he says: “Consider it pure joy whenever you face trials of many kinds.” Patience he explained – has nothing to do with resignation – “when we endure trials with faith they ripen our lives.”
(Listen to the report... ;)
He who wants everything immediately – the Pope said – he who does not know the wisdom of patience and perseverance is like a spoiled child. That kind of person – he added – is a person who does not grow, who is incapable of facing life as it presents itself. And another temptation for those who have no patience – the Pope said – is in the omnipotence of getting what you want immediately, as in the case of the Pharisees who asked Jesus for a sign form heaven: “they wanted God to perform a miracle to show that God approved of him.”
“They confuse God’s way of acting with that of a sorcerer. But God does not behave like a sorcerer, God has his own way of proceeding. And God is patient. Each time we receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation, we sing a hymn to God’s patience. And the Lord carries us on his shoulders with much patience! Christians must live their lives in time with the music of patience, because it is the music of our fathers, of the people of God, of those who believed in his Word, who followed the commandment that the Lord gave to our father Abraham: “Walk before me and be blameless.”
And quoting from the Letter to the Hebrews, Pope Francis said “God’s people has suffered and has been persecuted but it has had the joy of looking forward to God’s promises”. This is the kind of patience – he said - that we must have when we are faced with trials and challenges: the patience of a mature person, the patience of God that carries us on His shoulders. This – Pope Francis said – is “the patience of our people”.
And Pope Francis turned his thoughts to the many people he meets when he visits parishes who face problems and suffer. People with a disabled child or challenged by disease, but he said – “who go forward in their lives with patience”.
“They do not ask for signs – he said – they know how to read the signs of the times: they know that when the fig tree blossoms spring is on its way. Those who wanted a sign from heaven did not know how to read the signs of the times, that is why they did not recognize Jesus.”
Pope Francis concluded his homily praising those who “suffer but do not lose the smile of faith. Those who have the joy of faith”:
These are the people of God, in our parishes, in our institutions – so many of them – that keep the Church going with their everyday holiness. Brothers – he said: “consider it pure joy when you face trials, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”
Faith in the Word of God Leads to Salvation
(Vatican Radio) In his Homily at the Casa Santa Marta, Pope Francis, referring to Thursday’s readings recalled a courageous woman, a pagan, who asks Jesus to free her daughter from the devil. Jesus, recounted the pope, says to her, “Let the children be fed first. For it is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs.” She replies, “Lord, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s scraps.”
The Holy Father explained that this woman was “not ashamed” of having faith in Jesus and, therefore, he grants her a miracle and drives the demon out of her daughter.
On the other hand, continued Pope Francis, there are people like Solomon from today’s reading that are wise and receive great blessings from God. But, said the Pope, he surrounds himself with pagan concubines and his faith is weakened and his heart is corrupted by the life he is living. The Holy Father noted that, yes, Solomon is able to recite the Creed, but one can do this and still have a lack of faith.
The bad seed of his passions led Solomon to idolatry, but the Pope underlined that we should follow the path of the pagan women who accepted the Word of God, the Word that leads us to salvation.
Listen to Lydia O’Kane report:
Consecrated Life is an Encounter with Christ
(Vatican Radio) The Feast of the Presentation of Jesus at the Temple is also known as the Feast of the Encounter: the encounter between Jesus and his people. The liturgy tells of when Mary and Joseph brought their child to the Temple in Jerusalem; it is when the first encounter between Jesus and his people took place. This day is also called the Feast of Encounter because on it the New Testament, represented by the Baby Jesus, encountered the Old Testament, represented by Simeon and Anna.
He points out it was also a meeting between the young and the elderly: the young were Mary and Joseph with their infant, and the elders were Simeon and Anna, two characters who always attended the Temple.
We observe what the evangelist Luke tells us of them, as he describes them. He says four times that Our Lady and St Joseph wanted to do what was required by the law of the Lord (cf. Luke 2, 188.8.131.52). One perceives that Jesus' parents have the joy of observing the precepts of God, the joy of walking according to the law of the Lord! They are two newlyweds, they have just had their baby, and they are motivated by the desire to do what is prescribed. This is not an external fact; it is not just to feel right, no! It's a strong desire, a deep desire, full of joy. That’s what the Psalm says: "I rejoice in following your statutes…. Your law is my delight (119, 14.77)."
It is a meeting between young people who are full of joy in observing the Law of the Lord, and the elderly who are filled with joy for the action of the Holy Spirit. It is a unique encounter between observance and prophecy, where young people are the observers and the elderly are prophetic! In fact, if we think carefully, the desire to keep the Law is animated by the Spirit and the prophecy moves forward in the path traced by the Law. Who, more than Mary, is full of the Holy Spirit? Who better is docile than she to its action?
Read: Entire Transcript
A Church Without Nuns is Unthinkable
Pope Francis on Sunday highlighted the great value that nuns bring to the Church. “What would happen” – the Pope said – “if there were no nuns? … No it is unthinkable!” ... He said “they are a gift, the leaven that carries the message of Christ.” “These women – he said – are great!” ... [C]onsecrated persons in different sectors are “the leaven of a more just and fraternal society.” He said that “Consecrated Life is a gift of God to the Church and to His people.”
The Pope said that the Church and the world needs the witness of religious and consecrated lay people to the love and the mercy of God, and he asked for prayers so that many young people may say “yes” to God who calls them “to consecrate their lives to Him and to be of service to their brothers and sisters.”
Pope Francis recalled that the year 2015 will be dedicated to Consecrated Life and asked for prayers for this initiative. After the recitation of the Angelus Prayer, Pope Francis reminded those present that in Italy “The Day for Life” is celebrated today with the theme “Generating the Future.” He sent his greetings and encouragement to those committed to the defense of life from its conception to its natural end.
Pope’s Santa Marta Homily:
Christian mediocrity leads to a ‘loss of sense of sin’
(Vatican Radio) All too often today, the Pope observes, grave sin such as adultery is declassified as simply a "problem to be solved." That’s what happens in today’s reading in which King David falls in love with Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah, one of his generals. Taking up this story, Pope Francis says David took her for his own and sent her husband to the front lines of battle where the man was killed. In actual fact, the Pope stressed, David also committed murder. And yet, having committed both grave sins, the King is not moved. Despite committing a grave sin, the Pope observes, David does not feel pity and fails to ask forgiveness. He only considers how he can resolve a problem.
This can happen to any of us, the Pope says, and observes “When the Kingdom of God diminishes, one of the signs is that you lose the sense of sin."
Conversely, you also lose the "sense of the Kingdom of God" and in its place, reflects the Pope,
there emerges an “all-powerful anthropological vision," that leads us to believe we “can do anything.”
The Pope confesses that even he himself can fall into the trap of losing a sense of sin. But a commitment to daily prayer, he stresses, can counter the injustices perpetrated out of human pride and stop so many from falling victim to “Christian mediocrity” and our “unrecognized sins.”
Listen to Tracey McClure’s report:
Pope Francis: Confirmation Completes our Bond with Christ
(Vatican Radio) The Pope, bundled up in a white winter coat on this frigid and overcast day, continued his catechesis on the seven Sacraments, telling the crowds gathered in St. Peter’s Square that Confirmation is “linked inseparably to Baptism.” These two sacraments, together with the Eucharist, the Holy Father said, “form a unique salvific event: Christian initiation” in which we become living members of the Church.
Through our anointing with the sacred chrism, Confirmation strengthens and “confirms” us in the grace of our Baptism, uniting “us more firmly to Christ.” Confirmation “completes our bond with the Church,” he noted, and “grants us a special strength of the Holy Spirit to spread and defend the faith, to confess the name of Christ and to never be ashamed of his cross.”
The working of the Holy Spirit in our lives, he noted, is reflected in the seven spiritual gifts of wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety and fear of the Lord.
Departing from his prepared remarks, Pope Francis several times urged families to ensure their children receive the sacrament of Confirmation, without which, he stressed, they’ve only come “half-way.”
When we welcome the Holy Spirit in our hearts, Christ Himself becomes present in us and takes form in our lives, the Pope said. Through us and our actions, it will be He "who prays and forgives, gives hope and consolation, serves our brothers, helps those in need," and helps spread communion and peace.
In remarks following his catechesis, Pope Francis challenged authorities to make employment, “a source of dignity, everyone’s central concern.” He also condemned all forms of usury, saying that when families cannot eat because they have to pay off loan sharks, “it is not Christian; it is not human.”
Listen to Tracey McClure's report:
Pope Francis: The Fruitfulness of Praise
(Vatican Radio) Reflecting on the episode from the Second Book of Samuel, which was read at Mass, in which “David danced with all his might before the Lord,” Pope Francis recalled that the whole people of Israel were celebrating because the Ark of the Covenant was returning home. He went on to say that David’s prayer of praise, “led him to move beyond all composure,” adding, “this was precisely a prayer of praise.”
Explaining that the passage caused his thoughts to turn to Sarah, Abraham’s wife, who, after giving birth to her son, Isaac, said, “The Lord made me dance with joy.” He said that it is easy to understand a prayer of petition – asking something of the Lord – and prayer of thanksgiving, as well. Even prayer of adoration, he said, “is not so difficult,” to understand. Prayer of praise, however, “We leave aside – it does not come to us so easily [It. Non ci viene così spontanea].”:
“‘But, Father! This is for the Renewal in the Spirit folks, not for all Christians!’ No: prayer of praise is a Christian prayer, for all of us. In the Mass, every day, when we sing the Holy, Holy, Holy ... This is a prayer of praise: we praise God for his greatness, because He is great. We say beautiful things to Him, because we happy for His greatness [It. perché ci piace che sia così]. ‘But, Father! I am not able...I have to...’ Well, you’re able to shout when your team scores a goal, and you are not able to sing praises to the Lord? To come out of your shell ever so slightly to sing [His praise]? Praising God is completely gratis. [In it] we do not ask [Him to give us anything]: we do not express gratitude for anything [He has given]; we praise [Him]!”
We need to pray “whole-heartedly,” he said. “It is also an act of justice, because He is great! He is our God.” David, Pope Franics went on to observe, “was so happy, because the ark was returning, the Lord was returning: his body, too, prayed with that dance.”:
“[Here is] a good question for us to pose to ourselves today: ‘But how am I doing vis à vis prayer of praise? Do I know how to praise the Lord? Do I know how to praise the Lord when I pray the Gloria or the Sanctus? Is my whole heart really in it, or do I merely mouth [the words]. What does David dancing here say to me, and Sarah, dancing for joy? When David enters the city there begins another thing: a party!”
Link: Full Article Listen:
Article: Pope Francis: Bishops, Priests, Ordained to Serve
Pope Francis: jealousy, envy and gossip divide and destroy Christian communities
(Vatican Radio) "Jealousy leads to murder. Envy leads to murder,” the Pope says. “It was this door, the door of envy, through which the devil entered the world.” “Jealousy and envy open the doors,” the Pope says, to “all evil things…They also divide the community.”
When some members of a Christian community suffer from envy and jealousy, the Pope reminds us, the community “ends up divided: one against the other.” And “this is a strong poison – a poison that we find on the first page of the Bible in Cain."
Pope Francis goes on to say that in the heart of a person affected by jealousy and envy " two things are very clear." The first thing is bitterness:
"The envious person, the jealous person, is a bitter person who doesn’t know how to sing, how to praise, (or) know what joy is.” This kind of person, reflects the Pope, always looks at what someone else has that he or she does not have . “And this leads to bitterness, a bitterness that spreads throughout the whole community.” These people, he says, are the “sowers of bitterness.”
The second approach, the Pope remarks, that “brings jealousy and envy, are rumors.” When someone cannot stand to see that someone else has something he wishes for himself, Pope Francis says often, the “solution is to put the other person down” so that “I am a bit higher up.” And the tool used to do this, the Pope points out, is “gossip.” Behind every rumor, says the Pope, “there is jealousy and envy. And gossip divides the community, destroys the community. Rumors are the weapons of the devil."
"How many beautiful Christian communities," the Pope exclaimed, “were getting along well,” but then were divided and destroyed because one member allowed the “worm of jealousy and envy” to enter his heart. And with it, come “sadness, resentment and gossip." A person under the influence of envy and jealousy, the Pope insists, “kills."
In concluding, Pope Francis called for prayer for “our Christian communities so that this seed of jealousy will not be sown between us, so that envy will not take root in our heart, in the heart of our communities, and so we can move forward with praise to the Lord, praising the Lord with joy. It is a great grace, the grace of not falling into sadness, being resentful, jealous and envious."
Link: Full Article Listen to Tracey McClure's report:
Pope Francis at Weekly General Audience: the Scandal of Division
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis devoted the catechetical portion of his weekly General Audience on Wednesday to the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, which this year is dedicated to a question taken from the First Letter to the Corinthians: “Has Christ Been Divided?” The English-language synthesis, read out after the main reflection delivered by Pope Francis in Italian, said, “We know that Christ has not been divided; yet we must sincerely recognize that our communities continue to experience divisions which are a source of scandal and weaken our witness to the Gospel.”
In reproaching the Corinthians for their divisions, Paul reminds them to rejoice in the great spiritual gifts which they have received. His words encourage us to rejoice in the gifts God has given to other Christians, gifts which we can receive from them for our enrichment. To be able to do this calls for humility, discernment and constant conversion.
Pope Francis asked all Christian faithful to pray that, as we reflect on Paul’s teaching during this Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, we may be confirmed, together with all Christ’s followers, in our pursuit of holiness and fidelity to the Lord’s will.
God Always Chooses the Small and Least Powerful
(Vatican Radio) We need to safeguard our smallness in order to have a personal dialogue with God. In his homily Pope Francis reflected on the personal relationship between God and his people - the small and humble - saying God always speaks to us on a personal level, using our names. "It’s never a dialogue between the powerful and the masses."
The Pope noted how when God chooses people, "he always chooses those who are small "and less powerful than the others. We tend to look at the outer appearance or power of people but God has his own different criteria. "He chooses the weak and gentle to confuse the powerful people in our world." One example of this, said Pope Francis, was when God chose David who was the smallest son, who didn’t count for his father and who had been sent out of the house to tend the sheep.
Later David became king but he committed two serious sins. What did he do then? asked the Pope. David humbled himself, he returned to his smallness, confessed his sins to God, asked for pardon and did penance. In this way, said the Pope, "David safeguarded his smallness through his contrition, his prayer and his grief."
The Pope explained how our Christian loyalty is all about "safeguarding our smallness so that we can have a dialogue with God." That’s why, he continued, "humbleness, gentleness and daily habits are so important in the life of a Christian" because it safeguards our smallness and pleases God. The Pope concluded by imploring God to give us the grace to safeguard our smallness before Him.
Be Open to the Gospel and God's Surprises
(Vatican Radio) Christian freedom is to be found in being docile to God’s Word. We must always be ready to welcome the message of the Gospel and the surprises that God has in store for us.
God’s word is alive and full of strength, it discerns the sentiments of the heart, but we must be open to receive it. Speaking to those present for morning Mass in the Vatican, the Pope highlighted the need to really welcome the message of the Gospel with an attitude of docility and openness.
The Gospel – the Pope said – doesn’t just tell us the things we want to hear. It is alive and strong and full of novelty; God’s Word – he continued - is “free” and full of surprises because “our God is the God of surprises, the God of the Revelation”.
And urging us to be malleable and docile, he said we must ask ourselves whether we adapt ourselves to the novelties of the Gospel? Or do we process the message until it becomes something different to what God wants it to be?
And Francis reflected on the first reading of the day in which the prophet Samuel reprimands King Saul for not obeying the voice of the Lord and for attempting to justify his disobedience by masking his greed with generosity. The Pope said it is important is to have a docile and obedient heart, listening to the voice of the Lord and doing what He commands us to do so that in obeying Him, we share in His life and love. And this he – continued – leads us to reflect on the true meaning of Christian “freedom” and of Christian “obedience”, both of which – he said - are to be found in the Word of God and in the courage to really be open to his message.
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Don't Forsade the Gift of Being God's Children
(Vatican Radio) We must not sell out the gift of being God’s children for a distorted sense of normality. These were the words of Pope Francis at Mass on Friday morning in the Vatican’s Casa Santa Marta. As Christians, Pope Francis said, we must actively strive against the normality of our everyday lives to remain faithful to God’s choosing. We must not sell out to the temptation of worldliness, of living as if God didn’t exist.
We often forget the Word of God, Pope Francis continued, we forget what the Lord says, and we listen instead to whatever word is more fashionable, more fun. This temptation, the Pope said, is more dangerous than an outright renouncing of faith, because it is more subtle, and less clear. It is true, he recognised, that Christians must be normal people, but they must also bear in mind the Word of God which says to them ‘You are my people, I have chosen you, I am by your side’.
We must resist the temptation of feeling inferior to normality, Pope Francis explained, because this temptation hardens the heart, and when the heart is hardened, the Word of God cannot enter. This was the temptation of the Jewish people in the Old Testament, he added, referring to the daily reading taken from the First Book of Samuel. Neither must we allow our hearts to be softened by worldliness, the Pope said: our hearts must simply be open to the Word of God, open to receiving it, in order not to move away from being chosen by God.
Let us ask, Pope Francis concluded, for the grace to overcome our own selfishness, our own desire to do as we please: let us listen instead to the Word of God, which will lead us on the path of truth.
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Pope Francis: We are all called to be Witnesses of the Gospel before the world
(Vatican Radio) Through Baptism we are reborn to a new life of grace and we are called to be witnesses of the Gospel before the world. Also we become members of Christ’s mystical body, the Church. “In every generation” – he said – “through baptism, we are reborn to the new life of grace and called to be witnesses of the Gospel before the world. Baptism makes us “missionary disciples” within the communion of the Church.”
The Pope said there is a close bond, then, “between our rebirth in water and the Holy Spirit, our responsibility to live this new life within the Church, in our families and our parishes, and our mission to bring the Gospel to others as channels of God’s grace”.
The Pope invites us to look to the remarkable history of the Church in Japan “where small communities of the faithful survived clandestinely for over two centuries thanks to the grace of baptism … to help us to appreciate more fully the profound mystical, communitarian and missionary dimensions of our baptism.”
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Pope Francis: Let us ask God for Grace
to Love the People like He Does
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis spoke of Jesus, the scribes, Eli the priest, and his two priestly sons, who were priests as well. He said that the Gospel offers an example of Jesus’ own catechetical attitude: the Lord taught as one who had authority – and not as the scribes, who, in their teaching and preaching, tended to bind people with many heavy burdens, and the poor people could not go on:
“It is Jesus himself who says that [the scribes] did not move these things even with a finger, right? And then He will say say to people: ‘Do what they say but not what they do!’ [They are] incoherent people. It always seems – doesn’t it? – that these scribes and Pharisees are always beating on the [regular folks]. ‘You must do this, this and this…’ to the poor people. Jesus told them – told the scribes and Pharisees – that in this way, they closed the door to the Kingdom of Heaven, [as if to say], ‘You don’t let others enter, and so neither will you yourselves gain entrance.’ This is how some people teach, preach and witness the faith…and how many people out there think that the faith really is as they present it.”
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Pope to Diplomats:
Create a Culture of Dialogue and Encounter
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis reiterated that a spirit of fraternity, as the foundation for peace, should be learned first within the family. The message of the Christmas Crib, he said, shows the Holy Family, “not alone and isolated….but surrounded by shepherds and the Magi, that is by an open community in which there is room for everyone, poor and rich alike”.
Sadly he noted there is a rise in broken and troubled families, not just because of a “weakening sense of belonging….but also because of the adverse conditions in which many families are forced to live”. The Pope stressed there is a need for suitable policies aimed at supporting, assisting and strengthening the family. In particular, he said, it’s important to invest in the elderly and the young, favoring a culture of encounter, communion and peacemaking.
Looking at particular areas of crisis in the world, Pope Francis expressed his hope that the conflict in Syria will finally come to an end and that the Geneva conference will mark the beginning of the desired peace process. It is unacceptable, he said, that unarmed civilians, especially children, become targets and he praised efforts of neighboring countries which have welcomed numerous refugees from Syria.
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Pope Francis: A True Priest and his Relation to Christ
(Vatican Radio) Saturday Pope Francis spoke about the priesthood. A true priest, he said, anointed by God for His people, has a close relationship with Jesus. When that relationship is missing, the priest becomes “smarmy,” [unctuous, It: unctuoso] an idolater, a worshiper of the “god Narcissus.”
Pope Francis’ homily was entirely dedicated to the priesthood. Commenting on the passage from first letter of St. John, where the Apostle says that we have eternal life because we believe in the name of Jesus, the Pope asks about the relationship of priests with Jesus, because “the strength of a priest is in this relationship.” When Jesus was growing in popularity, the Pope said, “He went to the Father,” He retreated “to a deserted place to pray.” This is a kind of “touchstone for priests” he said: whether or not we seek to find Jesus. “What is the place of Jesus Christ in my priestly life? Is it a living relationship, from the disciple to the Master, from brother to brother, from the poor man to God, or is it a somewhat artificial relationship... that does not come from the heart?”
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Pope Francis: Christian Love is Concrete
(Vatican Radio) “We are in God and God is in us: this is the Christian life. Not remaining in the spirit of the world, not remaining in superficiality, not remaining in idolatry, not remaining in vanity. No, no, remaining in the Lord. And He reciprocates: He abides in us. But He remains in us first. Many times we push Him out and we cannot remain in Him. It is the Spirit that remains.”
Having clarified the dynamics of the spirit that prompts the love of Christians, Pope Francis goes on to examine the application. “Remaining in the love of God,” he says, is not so much an ecstasy of the heart, a nice thing to feel:
“You see that the love John speaks of is not the love of soap operas! No, it is something else. Christian love has a particular quality: concreteness. Christian love is concrete. Jesus Himself, when He speaks of love, speaks to us about concrete things: feeding the hungry, visiting the sick, and many concrete things. Love is concrete. . . . And when this concreteness is not there, you can live a Christianity of illusions, because you don’t understand where the centre of Jesus' message is. This love does not arrive at concrete being: it is a love of illusions, like the illusions the disciples had when, looking at Jesus, they thought He was a ghost.”
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Pope Francis: Our Baptism Gives Us a New and Glorious Hope
(Vatican Radio) The Second Vatican Council tells us that the Church herself is a “Sacrament,” a grace-filled sign which makes Christ’s saving work present in history, through the power of the Holy Spirit. Speaking of Baptism, the first of the Church’s seven Sacraments, Pope Francis said “it gives us new birth in Christ, makes us sharers in the mystery of his death and resurrection, grants the forgiveness of sin and brings us new freedom as God’s children and members of his Church. ... [W]e have all become new creatures in Christ, temples of the Spirit, adoptive children of the Father, members of the Church, brothers in faith and announcers of the Gospel, capable of forgiving and loving all, even our enemies.”
He urged us not to forget the great gift we have received. “Our baptism has changed us, given us a new and glorious hope, and empowered us to bring God’s redeeming love to all, particularly the poor, in whom we see the face of Christ. Our baptism has also given us a share in the Church’s mission of evangelization; as disciples, we are also missionaries.”
The Pope said “as we celebrate the feast of the Baptism of the Lord this Sunday, let us ask him to renew in us the grace of our Baptism and to make us, with all our brothers and sisters, true children of God and living members of his body, the Church.”
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