A month or so ago, I noted that Pope Francis and I agree about politics. You should be involved. But I also agree with what he said in his homily today.
The Gospel isn’t an ideology.
More details below.
This was the theme of Pope Francis’ homily during his Thursday morning Mass at the Domus Sanctae Marthae. During his homily, the Pope warned Christians against behaving as though the “key is in [their] pocket, and the door closed.” He reiterated that without prayer, one abandons the faith and descends into ideology and moralism. “Woe to you, scholars of the law! You have taken away the key of knowledge!” (Luke 11: 52)
Pope Francis referred back to this passage from Thursday’s Gospel in his homily, moving from Jesus’ warning. He warned: “When we are on the street and find ourselves in front of a closed Church,” he said, “we feel that something is strange.” Sometimes, he said, “they give us reasons” as to why they are closed: They give “excuses, justifications, but the fact remains that the Church is closed and the people who pass by cannot enter.” And, even worse, the Lord cannot be close to the people. Today, the Pope said, Jesus speaks to us about the “image of the [lock]”; it is “the image of those Christians who have the key in their hand, but take it away, without opening the door.” Worse still, “they keep the door closed” and “don’t allow anyone to enter.” In so doing, they themselves do not enter. The “lack of Christian witness does this,” he said, and “when this Christian is a priest, a bishop or a Pope it is worse.” But, the Pope asks, how does it happen that a “Christian falls into this attitude” of keeping the key to the Church in his pocket, with the door closed?
“The faith passes, so to speak, through a distiller and becomes ideology. And ideology does not beckon [people]. In ideologies there is not Jesus: in his tenderness, his love, his meekness. And ideologies are rigid, always. Of every sign: rigid. And when a Christian becomes a disciple of the ideology, he has lost the faith: he is no longer a disciple of Jesus, he is a disciple of this attitude of thought… For this reason Jesus said to them: ‘You have taken away the key of knowledge.’ The knowledge of Jesus is transformed into an ideological and also moralistic knowledge, because these close the door with many requirements.”The Pope continued, Jesus told us: “You burden the shoulders of people [with] many things; only one is necessary.” This, therefore, is the “spiritual, mental” thought process of one who wants to keep the key in his pocket and the door closed:
“The faith becomes ideology and ideology frightens, ideology chases away the people, distances, distances the people and distances of the Church of the people. But it is a serious illness, this of ideological Christians. It is an illness, but it is not new, eh? Already the Apostle John, in his first Letter, spoke of this. Christians who lose the faith and prefer the ideologies. His attitude is: be rigid, moralistic, ethical, but without kindness. This can be the question, no? But why is it that a Christian can become like this? Just one thing: this Christian does not pray. And if there is no prayer, you always close the door.”
A few days ago, we celebrated the feast of another towering Doctor of the Church, St. Teresa of Avila. Here are a few quotes of hers to consider as we ponder in our hearts what the Holy Father is teaching us about being Christians and about prayer,
“Accustom yourself continually to make many acts of love, for they enkindle and melt the soul.”
“Always think of yourself as everyone’s servant; look for Christ Our Lord in everyone and you will then have respect and reverence for them all.”
“All things must come to the soul from its roots, from where it is planted.”
“Never affirm anything unless you are sure it is true.”
“Never compare one person with another: comparisons are odious.”
“Never exaggerate, but express your feelings with moderation.”
“Reflect upon the providence and wisdom of God in all created things and praise Him in them all.”
“There are more tears shed over answered prayers than over unanswered prayers.”
“The feeling remains that God is on the journey, too.”
There’s more where those came from, over at the Order of Carmelites website.
I have a friend who wrote a book that touches on this subject quite a bit. I haven’t read it yet, but I hear it’s really good.