Catholic News Service
VATICAN CITY — Christians must guard against a “spirituality of ease” and putting up appearances, and respond to the constant call of Jesus to conversion, said Pope Francis.
Pope Francis prays during his general audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican Nov.19. (CNS photo/Tony Gentile, Reuters)
The pope described the thinking behind a spirituality of ease: “I do things as I can, but I am at peace as long as no one comes to disturb me with strange things. I lack nothing. I go to Mass on Sundays. I pray sometimes. I feel good. I’m in the grace of God. I’m rich. I don’t need anything. I’m fine.”
But this spiritual state “is a state of sin,” he said in his homily Nov. 18 at morning Mass in the chapel of his residence, the Casa Santa Marta.
Reflecting on the day’s first reading, the pope said Jesus reprimands Christians who have a “lukewarm” spirit, calling them to “dress themselves” because “they are naked.”
Jesus also calls to conversion those Christians who are “putting up appearances.” These Christians believe they are living, but they are not, said the pope.
“The appearances they put up are their shroud; they are dead,” he said, according to Vatican Radio.
The pope urged Christians to examine their faith life: “Am I among these Christians who put up appearances? Am I alive within? Do I have a spiritual life? Do I feel the Holy Spirit? Do I listen to the Holy Spirit?”
Some will answer, “but everything seems fine. I have nothing for which to reproach myself. I have a good family. People do not speak ill of me. I have everything I need. I was married in church. I’m in the grace of God. I’m calm,” he said. But these are “appearances. Christians of appearances, they are (spiritually) dead.”
The pope said Christians must seek to reinvigorate their interior lives and he urged them to convert “from appearances to reality, from tepidness to fervor.”
Reflecting on the day’s Gospel (Lk 19:1-10), the Pope said Zacchaeus, the tax collector, was “like many managers we know, corrupt, those who, instead of serving the people, exploit the people to serve themselves.”
Zacchaeus was neither tepid nor dead, he continued. “He was in a state of putrefaction, truly corrupt” but impelled by curiosity to see Jesus. The Holy Spirit sowed the seed of curiosity into Zacchaeus’ heart and, unrestrained by shame, he did something “a little ridiculous” to see Jesus; he climbed a tree. The pope said the Holy Spirit worked within Zacchaeus, who received the gift of joy upon accepting the Word of God in his heart, and promised to pay back four times the amount he had stolen.
“When conversion hits the pockets, then it is definite,” the pope said. “Christians at heart? Yes, everyone. Christians in spirit? Everyone. But Christians with pockets? Few, eh?” Despite Zacchaeus’ instant conversion, there were others who refused to convert and who criticized Jesus for entering his house, the pope continued.
The pope then offered a reflection on the importance of the Word of God in the life of the Christian. The Word, he said, “is able to change everything,” but “we do not always have the courage to believe in the Word of God, to receive this Word, which heals us interiorly.”
In the final weeks of the liturgical year, he said, the church is urging Christians to think very seriously about conversion and to recall the Word of God and to obey it, in order to move forward in the Christian life.
— By Laura Ieraci