Friday, October 18, 2013

Just "saying prayers" or "really praying"? - Pope Francis' homily

Pope Francis’ pastoral heart is nowhere more apparent than in his no-nonsense daily preaching, much of which - after clearly being prayed over - is “off the cuff” rather than read. Those of us who have regularly given a homily of just a few minutes to sustain people at the daily Mass on their way to work, will know what a challenge that is, as well as the commitment it places on the priest the night before, and the sensitivity required to reshape what is being said during the homily itself so that it speaks to the particular cluster of people present, without becoming “waffle.”

Pope Francis  is a master of the craft. Actually, he does what all parish priests are supposed to do:  he “unpacks” the Gospel of the day as it relates to our ordinary lives. For 50 years now, the Church has been emphasising that at the Eucharist, we gather at TWO tables: the table of the Word and the table of the Sacrament. The homily is a vital aspect of nourishing the people at the first of those tables. Pope Francis shows how it’s done.

Yesterday (16th October 2013) Pope Francis developed the theme of Jesus in the Gospel reading. He pointed out the difference between praying and simply “saying prayers”, reminding us that when faith becomes an ideology, it can make Christians hostile and arrogant. 

These excerpts from the homily Pope Francis preached at Mass yesterday morning are from the translation made by Vatican Radio:

“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 faith becomes ideology and ideology frightens. Ideology chases away the people. It creates distances between people and it distances the Church from the people. But it is a serious illness, this ideology in 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.”

“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. Ah, poor things, they are people dishonoured 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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