Pope Francis The power of the world against the power of God 09.05.20
On the one hand there is the Lord, there is the Holy Spirit that makes the Church grow, and grow more and more, this is true. But on the other hand is the evil spirit that seeks to destroy the Church. It's always like that. Always like this. You go on, but then comes the enemy trying to destroy. The balance is always positive in the long run, but how much effort, how much pain, how much martyrdom!
This happened here, in Antioch, and it happens everywhere in the book of the Acts of the Apostles. Think, for example, of Lystra, when they arrived and healed a crippled man and everyone believed they were gods and wanted to make sacrifices, and all the people were with them (Acts 14: 8-18). Then the others came and convinced them that it was not so. And how did Paul and his companion end up? Stoned ( Acts 14:9). Always this battle. Let us think of the magician Elymas, how he stopped the Gospel from reaching the consul (Acts 13: 6-12). Let us think of the owners of that girl who was a fortune teller: they exploited the girl, because she "read palms" and received the money that went into the pockets of her owners. And when Paul and the apostles showed others this lie that was not going well, immediately there was the revolution against them ( Acts 16: 16-24). Think of the artisans of the goddess Artèmis who lost business because they could not sell those figurines, because people no longer bought them, because they had converted. And so, one after the other. On the one hand, the Word of God that summons, that makes persecution grow, on the other hand persecution, and great persecution because it ends by driving them away, beating them.
And what is the devil's tool for destroying the Gospel proclamation? Envy. The Book of Wisdom says it clearly: "Because of the devils envy sin entered the world (Wisdom 2: 24) – envy, jealousy, here. Always this bitter, bitter feeling. These people saw how the Gospel was preached and they got angry, they were inflamed by anger. And this anger carried them on: it is the anger of the devil, it is the anger that destroys, the anger of that "crucify him! crucify him!"; of that torture of Jesus. It wants to destroy. Always. Always.
Seeing this battle, that very beautiful saying also applies to us: "The Church goes forward between the consolations of God and the persecutions of the world" (cf. St. Augustine, De Civitate Dei, XVIII, 51,2). A Church that has no difficulty lacks something. The devil is too calm. And if the devil is calm, things are not going well. Always difficulty, temptation, struggle. Jealousy that destroys. The Holy Spirit makes the harmony of the Church, and the evil spirit destroys. Even today. Even today. Always this struggle. The instrument of this jealousy, of this envy, is the temporal power. Here it tells us that "the Jews incited the women of prominence who were worshipers"(Acts 13:50). They went to these women and said, "These are revolutionaries, expel them." The women talked to the others and expelled them: they were the women of prominence who were worshipers and also the leading men of the city (v:50). Those who have temporal power; and temporal power can be good: people can be good, but power of itself is always dangerous. The power of the world against the power of God moves all this; and always behind this, behind that power, is money.
What happens in the early Church: the work of the Holy Spirit to build the Church, to harmonize the Church, and the work of the evil spirit to destroy it, and the use of temporal powers to stop the Church, destroy the Church, is nothing more than a development of what happens on the morning of the Resurrection. The soldiers, seeing that triumph, went to the priests, and the priests "bought" the truth. And the truth has been silenced (Mt 28: 11-15). From the first morning of the Resurrection, the triumph of Christ, there is this betrayal, this silencing the word of Christ, silencing the triumph of the Resurrection with temporal power: the high priests and money.
Let us be careful, let us be careful with the preaching of the Gospel: never fall into putting trust in temporal powers and money. The trust of Christians is Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit that he has sent! And it is precisely the Holy Spirit that is the yeast, it is the strength that makes the Church grow! Yes, the Church goes forward, in peace, with resignation, joyful: between the consolations of God and the persecutions of the world.
We recited in the Psalm "Sing a new song to the Lord for he has done wondrous deeds. His right hand and his holy arm have gave him victory. The Lord has made his salvation known. He has revealed his justice to the nations." (Psalm 98: 1-2) This is true. The Lord has done marvellous things but with how much effort. How much effort for Christian communities to carry on these marvellous deeds of Lord. We have heard in the Acts of the Apostles the joy (Acts 13: 44-52): the whole city of Antioch gathered to hear the word of the Lord, because Paul and the apostles preached strongly and the Holy Spirit helped them. But "when they saw the crowds, the Jews were filled with jealousy, and with violent abuse contradicted what Paul said." (: 45).
Today is the commemoration of Saint Luisa de Marillac. Let us pray for the Vincentian sisters who have been running this clinic, this hospital for almost 100 years and have worked here, in Santa Marta, for this hospital. May the Lord bless the sisters.