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Pope Francis: Without Prayer We Become Closed to God and Can Devolve into Empty Moralism
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This humble man named Francis is a simple pastor at heart. He does what all parish priests do, he preaches on the Gospel of the day to the faithful. He is not selecting the text and then developing some formal instruction. Rather, he is breaking open the readings of the day for all those who are present at daily Mass. And, for all who read his homily through the mediation of the media, we need to remember this context. Keep this in mind when you read some media reports which intimate that Pope Francis gave some "shocking teaching" or "singled out this group or that".
CHESAPEAKE,VA (Catholic online) - As a Deacon of the Church, I have the privilege - and the responsibility - of preaching homilies after proclaiming the Gospel at Mass - as invited by the pastor. As it is with priests and Bishops, I am to pray over the readings of the day and use those readings as the framework for the Homily, breaking them open as bread for the hungry.
That requires my prayerful reflection on the readings.
A homilist is not there to wax on about his own pet interest. He is there to break open the text as presented by the Holy Spirit through the liturgical cycle. It is a fixed and preselected Gospel excerpt.
This task often presents the homilist unique challenges. So it was with some of the Gospel passages of this past week at Mass. For example, on Thursday, we continued the proclamation of the Gospel of Luke at Mass with this text:
The Lord said: "Woe to you who build the memorials of the prophets whom your fathers killed. Consequently, you bear witness and give consent to the deeds of your ancestors, for they killed them and you do the building. Therefore, the wisdom of God said, 'I will send to them prophets and Apostles; some of them they will kill and persecute' in order that this generation might be charged with the blood of all the prophets shed since the foundation of the world, from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah who died between the altar and the temple building. Yes, I tell you, this generation will be charged with their blood!
Woe to you, scholars of the law! You have taken away the key of knowledge. You yourselves did not enter and you stopped those trying to enter." When Jesus left, the scribes and Pharisees began to act with hostility toward him and to interrogate him about many things, for they were plotting to catch him at something he might say. (Luke 11:47-54)
This is the very Gospel passage which Pope Francis prayed over and proclaimed from the Ambo on Thursday to his parish flock. It is the Gospel he preached about in his homily on Thursday at the Chapel of the House of St Martha.
After all, he is a Bishop, called to break open the readings of the day for those who gathered for Thursday Mass. This is important to remember when you read the media spin on the messages of this Pope.
We have a parish priest in the Chair of Peter.
This humble man named Francis is a simple pastor at heart. He does what all parish priests do, he preaches on the Gospel of the day to the faithful. He is not selecting the text and then developing some formal instruction. Rather, he is breaking open the readings of the day for all those who are present at daily Mass.
And, for all who read his homily through the mediation of the media, we need to remember this context. Keep this in mind when you read some media reports which intimate that Pope Francis gave some "shocking teaching" or "singled out this group or that".
Father Francis is simply preaching on the pre-selected Gospel for the Mass of that day as every good homilist is supposed to do.
With that in mind, here are the insightful reflections Francis offered as a homily to those who attended morning Mass on Thursday. This summary is taken from the Vatican News Web Site. http://www.news.va/en/news/pope-francis-prayer-keeps-us-from-losing-faith
If a Christian "becomes a disciple of the ideology, he has lost the faith." This was the theme of Pope Francis' homily during his Thursday morning Mass at the Domus Sanctae Marthae. During his homily, the Pope warned Christians against behaving as though the "key is in [their] pocket, and the door closed."
He reiterated that without prayer, one abandons the faith and descends into ideology and moralism. "Woe to you, scholars of the law! You have taken away the key of knowledge!" (Luke 11: 52)
Pope Francis referred back to this passage from Thursday's Gospel in his homily, moving from Jesus' warning. He warned: "When we are on the street and find ourselves in front of a closed Church," he said, "we feel that something is strange."
Sometimes, he said, "they give us reasons" as to why they are closed: They give "excuses, justifications, but the fact remains that the Church is closed and the people who pass by cannot enter." And, even worse, the Lord cannot be close to the people.
Today, the Pope said, Jesus speaks to us about the "image of the [lock]"; it is "the image of those Christians who have the key in their hand, but take it away, without opening the door." Worse still, "they keep the door closed" and "don't allow anyone to enter."
In so doing, they themselves do not enter. The "lack of Christian witness does this," he said, and "when this Christian is a priest, a bishop or a Pope it is worse." But, the Pope asks, how does it happen that a "Christian falls into this attitude" of keeping the key to the Church in his pocket, with the door closed?
"The faith passes, so to speak, through a distiller and becomes ideology. And ideology does not beckon [people]. In ideologies there is not Jesus: in his tenderness, his love, his meekness. And ideologies are rigid, always. Of every sign: rigid.
And when a Christian becomes a disciple of the ideology, he has lost the faith: he is no longer a disciple of Jesus, he is a disciple of this attitude of thought... For this reason Jesus said to them: 'You have taken away the key of knowledge.'
The knowledge of Jesus is transformed into an ideological and also moralistic knowledge, because these close the door with many requirements."The Pope continued, Jesus told us: "You burden the shoulders of people [with] many things; only one is necessary." This, therefore, is the "spiritual, mental" thought process of one who wants to keep the key in his pocket and the door closed:
"The faith becomes ideology and ideology frightens, ideology chases away the people, distances, distances the people and distances of the Church of the people. But it is a serious illness, this of ideological Christians. It is an illness, but it is not new, eh?
Already the Apostle John, in his first Letter, spoke of this. Christians who lose the faith and prefer the ideologies. His attitude is: be rigid, moralistic, ethical, but without kindness. This can be the question, no? But why is it that a Christian can become like this? Just one thing: this Christian does not pray.
And if there is no prayer, you always close the door.""The key that opens the door to the faith," the Pope added, "is prayer." The Holy Father warned: "When a Christian does not pray, this happens. And his witness is an arrogant witness." He who does not pray is "arrogant, is proud, is sure of himself. He is not humble. He seeks his own advancement."
Instead, he said, "when a Christian prays, he is not far from the faith; he speaks with Jesus." And, the Pope said, "I say to pray, I do not say to say prayers, because these teachers of the law said many prayers" in order to be seen. Jesus, instead, says: "when you pray, go into your room and pray to the Father in secret, heart to heart." The pope continued: "It is one thing to pray, and another thing to say prayers."
"These do not pray, abandoning the faith and transforming it into moralistic, casuistic ideology, without Jesus. And when a prophet or a good Christian reproaches them, they the same that they did with Jesus: 'When Jesus left, the scribes and Pharisees began to act with hostility toward him' - they are ideologically hostile - 'and to interrogate him about many things,' - they are insidious - 'for they were plotting to catch him at something he might say.' They are not transparent.
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Ah, poor things, they are people dishonored by their pride. We ask the Lord for Grace, first: never to stop praying to never lose the faith; to remain humble, and so not to become closed, which closes the way to the Lord
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