Rigid Christians


Rigid Christians

Pope Francis    


The Lord speaks to us of our foundation, the foundation of our Christian life”; and he tells us that this foundation is the rock”. We must therefore “build the house”, namely, our life, on the rock that is Christ. When St Paul speaks of the rock in the desert, he is referring to Christ. He is the only rock “that can give us security”, so that “we are all invited to build our life upon this rock of Christ. Not on any other”.

In the Gospel passage, Jesus also mentions to all who believe they can build their life on words alone: “Not everyone who says “Lord, Lord” will enter the kingdom of heaven. But Jesus straight away suggests building our house upon the rock”. There are two classes of Christians in the history of the Church: the first, of whom to beware, are the “
Christians of words”, that is, those who limit themselves to repeating: 'Lord, Lord, Lord'. The second, the genuine Christians are “Christians of action and of truth”. There is always a temptation to live our Christianity away from the rock that is Christ; the only One who gives us the freedom to say “Father” to God; the only one who supports us in difficult moments”. Jesus himself says so with vivid examples: “the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew”, but where “the rock is, there is safety”. On the contrary, when there are only “words, words fly, they are of no use”. One ends in fact facing the “temptation of these 'Christians of words': a Christianity without Jesus, a Christianity without Christ. And unfortunately “this happened and is still happening in the church today”.

This temptation, present in the Church's history in many different ways, has given life to various categories of “Christians without Christ”. The “light Christian”, who, “instead of loving the rock, loves beautiful words, beautiful words” and turns towards a “god of spray”, a “personal god”, with attitudes of superficiality and flimsiness”. This temptation still exists today: “superficial Christians who indeed believe in God”, but not in Jesus Christ, “the One who gives you a foundation”. Those who give into the temptation of a fluid Christianity are “the modern Gnostics”..

Those who believe that Christian life” must be taken so seriously” that they end by “confusing solidity and firmness with rigidity”. These “
rigid Christians”, “think that to be a Christian it is necessary to wear mourning”, and always “ take everything seriously”, paying attention to formalities, just as the scribes and Pharisees did. These are Christians for whom “everything is serious. They are today's Pelagians who believe in the firmness of faith and are convinced that “salvation is the way I do things”. “I must do them seriously” without any joy. They are very numerous. They are not Christians. They disguise themselves as Christians”.

In short, these two categories of believers – Gnostics and Pelagians – “do not know Jesus, they do not know who the Lord is, they do not know what the rock is, they have none of the freedom of Christians” Consequently, “they have no joy”.... And in addition to having no joy, they “have no freedom” either. “In their life there is no room for the Holy Spirit”.

Build our Christian life on the rock that gives us freedom” and “enables us to continue on Christ's path, following what he proposes”. Thus a grace to ask of the Lord is the ability “to go ahead in life as Christians, standing firm on the rock that is Jesus Christ and with the freedom that the Holy Spirit gives us.” A grace to ask “in a special way of Our Lady. She knows what it means to be founded on the rock.



Pope Francis       16.10.18   Holy Mass  Santa Marta           Luke 11: 37-41
https://sites.google.com/site/francishomilies/rigid-christians/16.10.18.jpg

They were truly an example of formality. But they lacked life. They were, so to speak, “starched.” They were rigid. And Jesus knew their soul. This scandalizes us, because they were scandalized by the things Jesus did when He forgave sins, when He healed on the Sabbath. They rent their garments: “Oh! What a scandal! This is not from God, because He should have done this” [instead]. The people didn’t matter to them: the Law mattered to them, the prescriptions, the rubrics.

Jesus, though, accepts the invitation of the Pharisee – because He is free – and He goes to him. The Pharisee was scandalized by His behaviour which went beyond the rules. But Jesus says to him, “You Pharisees cleanse the outside of the cup and the dish, [but] inside you are filled with plunder and evil.”

They are not beautiful words, eh? Jesus spoke clearly, He was not a hypocrite. He spoke clearly. And he said to them, “But why do you look at what is external? Look at what is within.” Another time He said to them, “You are whitened sepulchres.” Nice compliment, eh? Beautiful on the outside, all perfect… all perfect… but within, full of rottenness, therefore of greed, of wickedness, He says. Jesus distinguishes between appearances and internal reality. These lords are “doctors of appearances”: always perfect, always. But within, what is there?

Jesus condemned such people, as He did in the parable of the Good Samaritan, or when He denounced their ostentatious manner of fasting and almsgiving. This is because they were interested only in appearances. “Jesus describes these people with one word: ‘
hypocrites’.” They are people with greedy souls, capable of killing: “capable of paying to kill or calumniate, as happens every day. It happens today: they are paid to give bad news, news that smears others.

In a word, the Pharisees and doctors of the Law were rigid people, not disposed to change. But always, under or behind rigidity, there are problems, grave problems. We intend to have the appearance of being a good Christian; we intend to appear a certain way, we put make-up on our souls. However, behind these appearances, there are problems. Jesus is not there. The spirit of the world is there.

Jesus calls them “foolish” and advises them to open their souls to love in order for grace to enter. Because grace is a freely-given gift from God. No one saves himself, no one. No one saves himself, even with the practices of these people.

Be careful around those who are rigid. Be careful around Christians – be they laity, priests, bishops – who present themselves as so “perfect,” rigid. Be careful. There’s no Spirit of God there. They lack the spirit of liberty. And let us be careful with ourselves, because this should lead us to consider our own life. Do I seek to look only at appearance, and not change my heart? Do I not open my heart to prayer, to the liberty of prayer, the liberty of almsgiving, the liberty of works of mercy?





Pope Francis  05.05.20  Holy Mass Casa Santa Marta (Domus Sanctae Marthae)   Tuesday of the Fourth Week of Easter     John 10: 22-30

Pope Francis Part of the sheep of Jesus 05.05.20

Let us pray today for the deceased who have died because of the pandemic. They died alone. They died without the caress of their loved ones. So many of them did not even have a funeral. May the Lord receive them in glory.


Jesus was in the temple, the feast of Easter was near (John 10:22-30). Even the Jews, at that time, came around him and said, "How long are you going to keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly" (10: 24). They would make some lose patience, but Jesus meekly answered them, "I told you and you do not believe" (10: 25). They kept saying. "But is it you? Is it you?" and Jesus said "Yes, I told you, but you do not believe" "But you do not believe because you are not among my sheep" (10:26). And this, perhaps, raises a doubt: I believe and I am a part of the sheep of Jesus. But if Jesus said to us: "You cannot believe because you are not a part?".. What is this to be part of Jesus' faith? What is the thing that stops me in front of the door that is Jesus? 

There are pre-confession attitudes, even for us, who are in the flock of Jesus.. that do not let us go forward in the knowledge of the Lord. The first of all is wealth. So many of us, who have entered through the door of the Lord, then stop and do not move forward because we are imprisoned by wealth. The Lord was hard, with wealth: he was very hard, very hard. To the point of saying that it was easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God (cf. Mt 19:24). That's hard. Wealth is an impediment to moving forward. But should we fall into poverty? No. But do not be slaves to wealth, do not live for wealth, because riches are a lord, they are the lord of this world and we cannot serve two lords (cf. Luke 16:13). And wealth stop us.

Another thing that prevents us from moving forward in the knowledge of Jesus, and in belonging to Jesus, is rigidity: the rigidity of the heart. Even the rigidity in the interpretation of the Law. Jesus reproached the Pharisees, the doctors of the Law for this rigidity ( Mt 23: 1-36). That is not fidelity: faithfulness is always a gift of God; rigidity is a security for myself. I remember once when I walked into a parish and a lady – a good lady – came up to me and said, "Father, a piece of advice..." – "Say ..." – "Last week, Saturday, not yesterday, the other Saturday, we went as a family to a wedding: it was with Mass. It was Saturday afternoon, and we thought that with this Mass we had fulfilled the Sunday precept. But then, on my way home, I thought the Readings of that Mass were not the ones of Sunday. And so I realized that I am in mortal sin, because I did not go on Sunday because I went Saturday, but to a Mass that was not right, because the readings were not right." That's rigidity. And that lady belonged to a church movement. Rigidity. This distances us from the wisdom of Jesus, from the beauty of Jesus; it takes away your freedom. And so many pastors make this rigidity grow in the souls of the faithful, and this rigidity does not allow us enter through the door of Jesus (John 1: 7). Is it more important to observe the law as it is written or how I interpret it, rather than the freedom to move forward following Jesus?

Another thing that does not let us go forward in the knowledge of Jesus is the apathy. That tiredness. Let's think of that man at the pool: there 38 years (cf. John 5: 1-9). It's apathy. It takes away the will to go on and everything is "yes, but ... no, now no, no, but ...", it makes you tepid and makes you lukewarm. Apathy, it's another thing that keeps us from moving forward.

Another that is quite ugly is a clerical attitude. Clericalism puts itself in the place of in Jesus. It says: "No, this must be so, so..." – "But, the Master ..." – "Leave the Master aside: this is so, so, so, and if you do not do so, so, so you cannot enter." A clericalism that takes away the freedom of the faith of believers. It is a disease, in the church: the clerical attitude.

Then, another thing that prevents us from moving forward, of coming in to know Jesus and confessing Jesus is the worldly spirit. When the observance of faith, the practice of faith ends in worldliness. And everything is worldly. Let us think of the celebration of some sacraments in some parishes: how much worldliness there is there! And the grace of Jesus' presence is not well understood.

These are the things that stop us from being part of Jesus' sheep. We are "sheep" of all these things: wealth, apathy, rigidity, worldliness, clericalism, ideologies.. Freedom is lacking. And you cannot follow Jesus without freedom. But sometimes freedom goes too far and one slips: yes, it is true. It's true. We can slip on the way of freedom. But it is worse to slip before you go, with these things that prevent you from starting to go towards Jesus.

May the Lord enlightens us to see within us if there is the freedom to pass through the door that is Jesus and go beyond; to become a flock, to become sheep of his flock.




Pope Francis   15.05.20  Holy Mass Casa Santa Marta (Domus Sanctae Marthae)     Friday of the Fifth Week of Easter     Acts 15: 22-31

Pope Francis Rigid Christians 15.05.20

Today is World Family Day: let us pray for families, so that the Spirit of the Lord, the spirit of love, respect and freedom, may grow in families.

In the Book of the Acts of the Apostles we see that in the early Church, there were times of peace, it says so many times: the Church grew, in peace, and the Spirit of the Lord spread (Acts 9: 31); times of peace. There were also times of persecution, beginning with the persecution of Stephen, then Paul the persecutor, he converted, but then was also persecuted. Times of peace, times of persecution, and there were also times of turmoil. And this is the subject of today's first Reading: a time of turmoil (Acts 15: 22-31). "We have heard that some of us," the apostles wrote to Christians who had converted from paganism, "have heard that some of us, without any mandate from us have upset you with their teachings and have disturbed your peace of mind" (15: 24).

What had happened? These Christians who were pagans had believed in Jesus Christ and had received baptism, and they were happy: they had received the Holy Spirit. From paganism to Christianity, without any intermediate stage. Instead, these people who were called "the Judaizers," argued that this could not be done. If someone was a pagan, they first had to become a Jew, a good Jew, and then become a Christian, to be in line with the election of the people of God. And these Christians did not understand this: "But how are we second-class Christians? Can't we go from paganism directly to Christianity? Isn't it that the resurrection of Christ has dissolved the ancient law and brought it to an even greater fullness?" They were upset and there were so many discussions between them. And those who wanted this were people who with pastoral arguments, theological topics, even some morals, argued that no, that we should take proceed like this! And this called into question the freedom of the Holy Spirit, even the gratuitousness of Christ's resurrection and grace. They were methodical. And also rigid.

Of these, of the teachers, of the doctors of the Law, Jesus had said: "Woe to you who travel to land and sea to make a single convert, and when you have found him , you make him like a son of Gehenna, twice worse than you." More or less Jesus says this in the 23rd chapter of Matthew (see v. 15). These people, who were "ideological", rather than "dogmatic", "ideological", had reduced the Law, the dogma to an ideology: "you must do this, and this, and this...". A religion of prescriptions, and with this they took away the freedom of the Holy Spirit. And the people who followed them were rigid people, people who didn't feel comfortable, didn't know the joy of the Gospel. The perfection of the way to follow Jesus was rigidity: "You must do this, this, this, this...". These people, these doctors "manipulated" the consciences of the faithful and either made them rigid or they left.

For this reason, I repeat myself many times and say that rigidity is not from the good Spirit, because it calls into question the gratuitousness of redemption, the gratuitousness of Christ's resurrection. And this is an old thing: throughout the history of the Church, this has been repeated. Let's think about the Pelagians, those who were famously rigid. And even in our time we saw some apostolic organizations that seemed just well organized, that worked well..., but all rigid, all exactly the same as the other, and then we learned about the corruption that was inside, even in the founders.

Where there is rigidity there is no Spirit of God, because the Spirit of God is freedom. And these people wanted to act by removing the freedom of the Spirit of God and the gratuitousness of redemption: "To be justified, you must do this, this, this, this...". Justification is free. The death and resurrection of Christ is free. You don't pay, you don't buy: it's a gift! And they didn't want to do this.

The way forward is beautiful: the apostles come together in this council and in the end write a letter that says: "It is the decision of the Holy Spirit and of us not to place on you any other burdens beyond these essentials." (Acts 15: 28), and they put these obligations, morals of common sense: not to confuse Christianity with paganism, with abstaining from the meat offered to idols, etc. And in the end, these troubled Christians gathered in the assembly and, "when they read it, they were delighted with the encouragement it gave them"(v. 31). From turmoil to joy. The spirit of rigidity always leads you to turmoil: "But did I do this well? Didn't I do it right?" Scrupulosity. The spirit of evangelical freedom leads you to joy, because that is precisely what Jesus did with his resurrection: he brought joy! The relationship with God, the relationship with Jesus is not a relationship, of "doing things": "I do this and You give me this". A relationship like this, is say – forgive me Lord – commercial, no! It is free, as is Jesus' relationship with the disciples. "You are my friends"(John 15: 14). "I don't call you slaves, I call you friends" (see v. 15). "It was not you who chose me, but I chose you" (v. 16). This is gratuitousness.

Let us ask the Lord to help us discern the fruits of evangelical gratuitousness from the fruits of non-evangelical rigidity, and to free us from any turmoil of those who put faith, the life of faith under detailed prescriptions, prescriptions that make no sense. I am referring to these prescriptions that make no sense, not the Commandments. Let us free ourselves from this spirit of rigidity that takes away your freedom.