From his homily this morning:
Even today there are “pagan Christians” who “behave like enemies of the Cross of Christ”, said Pope Francis at morning Mass Friday at Casa Santa Marta, warning that we must guard against the temptations of a worldly society that lead us to ruin.
Pope Francis was inspired by the words of St. Paul to the Philippians to dwell on two groups of Christians, still present today as they were in the time of the Apostle of the Gentiles. Christians who go forward in faith and Christians who “live like enemies of the Cross of Christ”.
“Both groups – he said – were in the Church together, they went to Mass on Sunday, they praised the Lord, they called themselves Christians”. So what was the difference? The second group “act like enemies of the Cross of Christ! Christians enemies of the Cross of Christ”.
The Pope said these were “worldly Christians, Christians in name, with two or three Christian things, but nothing more. Pagan Christian”. “A Christian name, but a pagan life.” Or to put it another way: “Pagans with two strokes of Christian paint, so as to appear like Christians, but pagans nonetheless”.
“Even today there are many! We must be careful not to slip toward the path of being pagan Christians, Christians in appearance. The temptation to get used to mediocrity, the mediocrity of Christians, these Christians, it is their undoing because their hearts cool, they become lukewarm. And the Lord had strong words for these lukewarm [Christians]: ‘because you are lukewarm, I will spit you out of my mouth’. These are very strong words! They are enemies of the Cross of Christ. They take the name, but do not follow the requirements of Christian life”.
Paul, he said, speaks of the “citizenship” of Christians. “Our citizenship,” he noted, “is in heaven. Theirs is on earth. They are citizens of the world, not of heaven”. “Citizens of the world. And their surname is worldly! Beware of these” warned Pope Francis adding that everyone, himself including, must ask: “Do I have something of these? Do I have some worldliness within me? Some paganism?”.
“Do I like to brag? Do I like the money? Do I like pride, arrogance? Where are my roots, that is, where am I a citizen of? Heaven or earth? In the world or the worldly spirit? Our citizenship is in heaven, and we await heaven and Our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. And theirs? Their ultimate fate will be destruction! These painted Christians will end badly … But look at the end: where will that citizenship that you have in your heart lead you? The worldly one to ruin, that of the Cross of Christ to an encounter with Him“.
The Pope then outlined a few signs “of the heart” that show us whether we “are sliding towards worldliness”. “If you love and if you are attached to money, vanity and pride – he warned – you are heading towards the bad road”. If, instead, “you try to love God, serve others, if you are gentle, if you are humble, if you are the servant of the other, you are on the right road. Your citizen’s card is good: it belongs to heaven”. The other, by contrast, “is a citizenship that will bring you only bad”. The Pope pointed out that Jesus asked the Father to save his disciples “from the spirit of the world, this worldliness, which leads to destruction”.
The Pope then turned his attention to the parable of the steward who cheated his master, told in the Gospel of the day:
“How did this steward in the Gospel arrive at this point of cheating, of stealing from his master? How did he get there, from one day to the next? No! Little by little. One day a tip here, the next day a bribe there, and this is how little by little you arrive at corruption. The path of worldliness of these enemies of the Cross of Christ is like this, it leads you to corruption! And then you end up like this man, right? Openly stealing … “
Pope Francis returned to the words of Paul, who asks us to remain “firm in the Lord” without allowing our heart to weaken and end up in “nothing, in corruption”. “This is a good grace to seek – he said – remaining firm in the Lord. It is all of salvation, there lies transfiguration in glory”. “Firm in the Lord and following the example of the Cross of Christ: humility, poverty, meekness, service to others, worship, prayer.”