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Those who govern are called to humility and service, pope says

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Those who govern or are in positions of authority are called to be humble and serve the good of the people God entrusts to them rather than the interests of their party or themselves, Pope Francis said.

Pope Francis gives the homily as he celebrates Mass Sept. 18 in the chapel of the Domus Sanctae Marthae at the Vatican. (CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano)

Without prayer, a leader risks serving his own selfish desires or political party, closing himself or herself in a “circle from which there is no escape,” the pope said Sept. 18 during morning Mass at Casa Santa Marta.

“Who has more power than a ruler? The people, who have given him the power, and God, from whom power comes through the people,” the pope said. “When he has this awareness of being subordinate, he prays.”

In his homily, the pope reflected on the day’s reading from St. Paul’s First Letter to Timothy in which he asks that “supplications, prayers, petitions and thanksgivings be offered for everyone, for kings and for all in authority.”

The pope also spoke about the day’s Gospel reading from St. Luke, which recounted Jesus’ healing of a slave at the behest of his master, a Roman centurion.

“This man felt the need for prayer” not because it was a last resort but because he knew that “there was someone above him, there is another who is in charge,” the pope said.

Praying for politicians and those who lead, the pope continued, is important “because it is the prayer for the common good of the people who are entrusted to him.”

Leaders also must pray and ask the Lord for wisdom so that they find their true strength in God and in the people and not “in small groups or in myself,” he said.

And leaders who claim they cannot pray because they are agnostic or atheist, he said, at least must examine their consciences and seek counsel from those their people consider wise.

Christians “cannot leave rulers alone, we must accompany them with prayer,” the pope said. And when a leader does “awful things,” he added, they need even more prayers.

“Pray, do penance for those who govern,” the pope said. “The prayer of intercession, it is beautiful what Paul says, is for all leaders, for all those in power. Why? So ‘that we may lead a quiet and tranquil life.’ When a leader is free and can govern in peace, all people benefit from this.”

     

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Viewpoint: No whining in 201, only joy

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Suite 201 in St. Martha’s House — also known as Casa Santa Marta and Domus Sanctae Martae — in Vatican City is Pope Francis’ residence.

After his 2013 election as pope, Francis famously declined to live in the papal apartment in the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace in favor of the guest house facility the Vatican opened in 1996 for visiting cardinals, bishops and clergy. Read more »

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Ideological ‘fanatics of things that aren’t clear,’ divide the church, pope says

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Christians who turn doctrine into ideology commit a grave mistake that upsets souls and divides the church, Pope Francis said.

From the beginning, there have been people in the church who preach “without any mandate” and become “fanatics of things that aren’t clear,” the pope said May 19 in his homily during Mass at the chapel of Casa Santa Marta.

Pope Francis waves as he arrives for his general audience in St. Peter's Square May 17 at the Vatican. (CNS/Reuters)

Pope Francis waves as he arrives for his general audience in St. Peter’s Square May 17 at the Vatican. (CNS/Reuters)

“This is the problem: When the doctrine of the church, the one from the Gospel, the one inspired by the Holy Spirit — because Jesus said, ‘He will teach you and remind you of what I have taught’ — when that doctrine becomes ideology. And this is the greatest mistake of these people,” he said.

The pope reflected on the day’s first reading from the Acts of the Apostles (15:22-31), in which, after much debate, the apostles and presbyters send representatives to allay the concerns of the gentile converts after they were ordered by overzealous believers to follow Jewish practices if they wished to be saved.

However, the apostles ruled that “it is the decision of the Holy Spirit and of us not to place on you any burden beyond” abstaining from meat sacrificed to idols and from strangled animals, blood and unlawful marriages.

The initial debate about how to deal with the gentiles, the pope said, was between “the group of the apostles who wanted to discuss the problem and the others who go and create problems.”

“They divide, they divide the church, they say that what the apostles preach is not what Jesus said, that it isn’t the truth,” he said.

Those who sow discord and “divide the Christian community,” the pope said, do so because their “hearts are closed to the work of the Holy Spirit.”

These individuals, he added, “weren’t believers, they were ideologues.”

Pope Francis said the exhortation sent to the gentiles by Peter and the other apostles encourages all Christians to be unafraid before “the opinions of the ideologues of doctrine.”

“The church has its own magisterium, the magisterium of the pope (and) the bishops,” and it must follow along the path “that comes from Jesus’ preaching and the teaching and assistance of the Holy Spirit,” the pope said.

Doctrine, he said, unites the Christian community because it is “always open, always free” while “ideology divides.”

 

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Pope: Spirit helps church see wrongs in death penalty, slavery

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Faith is a journey guided by the Holy Spirit, who helps the church grow in understanding the sinful nature of once-accepted practices like slavery and the death penalty, Pope Francis said.

While people once even used religious reasons to justify practices such as slavery, the death penalty and “wars of religion,” over time the Holy Spirit has deepened the church’s understanding of the Gospel, the pope said May 11 in his homily during morning Mass at Casa Santa Marta.

Pope Francis celebrates his morning Mass in the chapel of the Casa Santa Marta at the Vatican. (CNS photo/L'Osservatore Romano)

Pope Francis celebrates his morning Mass in the chapel of the Casa Santa Marta at the Vatican. (CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano)

Slavery “is a mortal sin; today we say this. Back then, some would say that this could be done because these people did not have a soul,” he said. The number of people enslaved today is “even more, but at least we know that it is a mortal sin. The same goes for the death penalty; for a time, it was normal. Today, we say that the death penalty is inadmissible.”

Reflecting on the day’s first reading in which St. Paul recounts God’s works throughout history, Pope Francis said the Lord “guides his people in good times and in bad times, through freedom and slavery.”

Like the people of Israel, he said, God also guides the church along the path toward the fullness of time “with many saints and many sinners; between grace and sin.”

It is those saints, some well-known and others who are “hidden,” who “clarify faith and clarify morals,” the pope said.

However, Christians who choose to stop along the path “become a prisoner in a stable, like a donkey,” and end up not deepening their faith and understanding God’s love in their own lives, he said.

Individually, he said, each person also is moving toward the fullness of their own time, the point when they die and come face to face with the Lord.

When Catholics go to confession, he said, they should consider not only the shame they feel for their sins, but they should recognize that confession as another step they need to make in preparation for meeting the Lord.

“Asking God’s forgiveness is not automatic,” he said.

By understanding their sins and asking God for forgiveness, Christians will discover that they are part of “a people on the way and that one day, perhaps today, tomorrow or in 30 years, I will find myself face to face with that Lord who never leaves us alone, who accompanies us on the way.”

“This is the great work of God’s mercy,” he said.

 

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To evangelize, don’t ‘go and proselytize,’ ‘go and listen,’ pope says

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — The best formula for Catholic evangelization is “go and listen,” not “go and proselytize,” Pope Francis said.

“All men and women have a restlessness, whether good or bad, in their hearts. Listen to that restlessness,” the pope said May 4 during his early morning Mass. Read more »

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‘In God, justice is mercy and mercy is justice,’ pope says

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Jesus was motivated by truth and mercy, not blanket judgments that lead to deceit and hypocritical ways of skirting around God’s law, Pope Francis said.

Pope Francis delivers his homily during Mass  in the chapel of the Casa Santa Marta last year at the Vatican. In his Feb. 23 at the chapel, the pope said Jesus was motivated by truth and mercy, not blanket judgments. (CNS photo/L'Osservatore Romano handout via EPA) See POPE-HOMILY-DESOLATION Sept. 27, 2017.

Pope Francis delivers his homily during Mass in the chapel of the Casa Santa Marta last year at the Vatican. In his Feb. 23 at the chapel, the pope said Jesus was motivated by truth and mercy, not blanket judgments. (CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano/EPA) 

Christians are called to be “just in mercy” rather than following the letter of the law but not the heart of the law, the pope said Feb. 23 during morning Mass at Casa Santa Marta.

“To those who wanted to put him to the test, to those who thought with this logic of ‘you can do this,’ he regards them, not here but in another passage of the Gospel, as hypocrites,” the pope said.

The day’s Gospel reading told of the Pharisees attempting to trap Jesus by asking his thoughts on Moses granting permission for men to divorce their wives.

“Jesus doesn’t answer saying whether it is lawful or not lawful; he does not enter into their case-based reasoning. Because they thought about faith only in terms of you can or you cant” do this or that, he said.

However, the pope noted, Jesus uses the truth to trap them, calling them out on their “hard-hearted” nature, which is precisely what they used to justify their actions.

Instead of being “deceitful” and “hypocritical” like the Pharisees, he continued, Jesus focuses on truth and mercy. Although Jesus confirms that leaving one spouse for another is adultery, he doesn’t reject those who are considered adulterous.

Several times in the Gospels, Jesus speaks to adulterers and says, “‘I do not condemn you. Go and sin no more.’ How is this possible?” the pope asked.

“The path of Jesus, it is clearly seen, is the path from case-based reasoning to truth and mercy,” he said.

Christians need the grace of God in order to pass from a hypocritical mentality of case-based reasoning that views justice and mercy as two separate entities, he said.

“They are not two: it is only one, one thing,” Pope Francis said. “In God, justice is mercy and mercy is justice. May the Lord help us to understand this path, which isn’t easy but it will make us happy and it will make many people happy.”

 

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Loss of hope and memory of graces shrinks souls, pope says

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Christians who do not remember the graces they received by God in the past can lose hope, turning into cowards who buckle in difficult times, Pope Francis said.

A Christian who doesn’t remember the past and hope for the future is a person who “walks down the street and when an

Pope Francis (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

unexpected rain falls is wearing clothes of bad quality that shrink,” the pope said Jan. 27 during his Mass at the Casa Santa Marta where he lives.

“Shrunken souls: This is cowardice. This is the sin against memory, courage, patience and hope,” he said.

The pope reflected on the day’s reading from the Letter to the Hebrews (10: 32-39), which called on Christians to “remember the days past when, after you had been enlightened, you endured a great contest of suffering.”

Christian life and even one’s daily spiritual life, the pope said, can’t be understood without “the memory of God’s salvation in my life, the memory of woes in my life.”

“Memory is a grace, a grace to ask for,” he said. “‘Lord, may I not forget your steps in my life, may I not forget the good times, even the bad times, the joys and the crosses.’ The Christian is a person of memory.”

Looking to the future “with the hope of an encounter with the Lord” is also necessary for living a Christian life, he said.

The day’s reading, he said, also reminds Christians to live in the present with “courage and patience,” especially in times of suffering and sin.

“We are all sinners,” he said. “But let us not remain there, stopped, because this does not help us to grow.”

Pope Francis warned that not having memory of the past, hope for the future and patience for the present is the “cowardly” sin of those who “always walk backward, who care for themselves too much, who are afraid of everything.”

“May the Lord help us grow in memory, may he make us grow in hope, may he give us courage and patience every day and may he free us from those things that are cowardly,” the pope prayed.

 

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Pope: Jesus’ service to others gave him authority

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Jesus astonished people with the way he taught and interacted with others because he wasn’t aloof, domineering or hypocritical, Pope Francis said in a homily.

“Jesus wasn’t allergic to people. Touching lepers, the sick did not disgust him,” whereas the Pharisees, who strolled around in fine clothes, looked down on the people and considered them ignorant, he said at the Mass Jan. 10 in the chapel of his residence.

Pope Francis (CNS photo/Alberto Pizzoli, pool)

Pope Francis (CNS photo/Alberto Pizzoli, pool)

“They were removed from the people, they weren’t close,” the pope said of the Pharisees. “Jesus was very close to the people and this gave him authority.”

The pope’s homily centered on the day’s Gospel reading (Mark 1:21-28) in which people gathered at the synagogue in Capernaum “were astonished” at Jesus’ teaching because he displayed an authority that differed so greatly from that of the scribes.

The people would listen to and be respectful toward the doctors of the law and the scribes, but the people didn’t take what they said “to heart,” he said.

These teachers felt themselves superior, as if to say: “We are the teachers, the princes and we teach you. No service. We command, you obey,” the pope said. But Jesus “never passed himself off as a prince. He was always the servant of everyone and this is what gave him authority.”

The traditional teachers were hypocrites, declaring the truth, but not doing what they preached, Pope Francis said.

Jesus “lived what he preached,” he said, representing the harmonious union of “what he thought, felt and did.”

“Jesus, who is humble, who is at the service (of others), who is near, who doesn’t despise people and who is consistent, has authority,” the pope said. “This is the authority that the people of God sense.”

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Pope: The kingdom of God grows through meekness, not rigidity

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — God’s kingdom is not a well-organized structure where only strict adherents of the law can enter but a path that is walked upon every day with meekness and docility, Pope Francis said.

Pope Francis delivers his homily during Mass last month in the chapel of the Casa Santa Marta at the Vatican. (CNS photo/L'Osservatore Romano handout via EPA)

Pope Francis delivers his homily during Mass last month in the chapel of the Casa Santa Marta at the Vatican. (CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano handout via EPA)

Christians are called to walk that path of the kingdom and not fall victim to “a behavior of rigidity” that prevents the Holy Spirit from growing, the pope said in his homily Oct. 25 during his morning Mass in the Casa Santa Marta.

“The kingdom does not grow in this way and neither do we grow. It is docility to the Holy Spirit that makes us grow and be transformed,” he said.

The pope reflected on the day’s Gospel from St. Luke, in which Jesus compares the kingdom of God to a mustard seed that grows into a large bush and like yeast that is mixed with flour “until the whole batch of dough is leavened.”

Jesus’ comparison of the kingdom to a mustard seed and the yeast, the pope said, is a reminder that in order for the Holy Spirit to grow, it must first “die” and transform into something great in one’s life.

However, it can only grow “through docility to the strength of the Holy Spirit,” he said.

“The flour ceases to be flour and becomes bread because it is docile to the strength of the yeast, and the yeast allows itself to be mixed in with the flour” and becomes bread for everyone, the pope said.

Men and women who are docile to the action of the spirit, he continued, also become like the mustard that, “although it loses its identity as a seed, becomes something else, something bigger, it transforms.”

Christians who do not walk this path of transformation, he warned, will instead become rigid and orphaned.

“A rigid person only has masters and no father. The kingdom of God is like a mother that grows and is fertile; she gives of herself so that her children have food and lodging, according to the example of the Lord,” Pope Francis said.

“It is docility to the Holy Spirit that makes us grow and be transformed like the yeast and the seed. May the Lord give us all the grace of this docility,” he said.

 

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Each Christian is a chosen child of God, pope says

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Christians are not only chosen by God individually but are also unconditionally loved and forgiven by him, no matter how often they have strayed, Pope Francis said.

One who is “fully Christian” can never consider him- or herself abandoned and “unforgiven,” the pope said Oct. 13 in his homily during Mass at Casa Santa Marta.

Pope Francis greets a man in a wheelchair during his general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican Oct. 12. The pope called for an immediate cease-fire in Syria so that civilians can be rescued. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis greets a man in a wheelchair during his general audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican Oct. 12. The pope called for an immediate cease-fire in Syria so that civilians can be rescued. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

“The Father wanted you, not a group of people, no; you, you and you. Each one of us,” he said. “It is the foundation, it is the basis of our relationship with God. We speak to a father who loves us, who has chosen us, who has given us a name.”

Preaching on the reading from Ephesians in which St. Paul praises God for the blessings bestowed on those he has chosen and redeemed, the pope said a Christian is one who is blessed and thought of fondly by God.

“We, each one of us, has been dreamed of by (God) like a father and a mother dream of the child they are expecting. And this gives us great reassurance,” he said.

As one who “is chosen and dreamed of by God,” true Christians never feels abandoned but live their lives with a sense of belonging, no matter what sins or wrongs they have committed in the past, the pope said.

“We have all been forgiven with the price of the blood of Christ. But what have I been forgiven of? Just jog your memory and remember some of the bad things you have done, not those done by your friend, your neighbor: you,” Pope Francis said. “”What bad things have you done in your life? The Lord has forgiven these things.”

Christian identity lies not only in being chosen and forgiven by God, he continued, but also in the willingness to embark on a path “toward the encounter with Christ who has redeemed us.”

Unlike the man in Jesus’ parable who buried his talent out of fear and “spends his life going nowhere,” a Christian “is a man on a journey, a woman on a journey, who always does good, who tries to do good, to go forward,” the pope said.

 

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