Brilliant spiritual direction of Pope Francis

samuel saul

Nota bene: in my [[comments]] below, what I have in mind is the spiritual dilemma all go through. One is to move away from a Promethean and ever so Pelagian modus operandi which is self-referential, self-congratulatory, rebellious against Jesus and which makes an idol of oneself, to the point that in appraising oneself one thinks one is divining the will of God, holding oneself to be the perfection of revelation. One is to move away from this by cooperating with the grace of the Holy Spirit, who will instead take control of one’s spiritual life (with our assent in the love He provides to us) so as to form us more into the image of Jesus, Divine Son of the Immaculate Conception. The Holy Spirit brings us where we do not know, for it is above the quagmire in which we have immersed ourselves. We hate to get unstuck from the quagmire, thinking it is our only security, but it is instead our undoing.

Pope Francis: obstinate Christians are rebels and idolaters. 2016-01-18 Vatican Radio

david harpChristians who stop at “it’s always been done that way” have hearts closed to the surprises of the Holy Spirit. They are idolaters and rebels will never arrive at the fullness of the truth. That was the message of Pope Francis at Mass on Monday morning at the chapel in the Casa Santa Marta. [[Decades of offering spiritual direction has borne this out. So very many, with entrenched passion, real anger, think that they themselves by themselves regardless of any grace of God will make progress in the spiritual life if only they become ever more ascetic, with a more determined prayer (I will force God to love me with my many words with which everyone else is impressed, because I’ve always done it this way), with a more extravagant fasting (I will force God to love me with my great show of sacrifice with which everyone else is impressed, because I’ve always done it this way), with a more flamboyant almsgiving (I will force God to love me with my self-congratulatory almsgiving with which everyone else is impressed, because I’ve always done it this way). And they can cite a thousand sainted spiritual writers to back them up. It’s just that it has never once occurred to them that they are to begin and end all these things in humble friendship with Jesus, finding out more accurately just how weak and self-referential we are in all these things so as to call out to Jesus with all the more humility, in His grace, and all the more thankful and joyful friendship, in His grace, with all the more simplicity of a child, in His grace. Despite doing all the right things, they had it all wrong, worshiping only themselves in a terribly cold sterility that is found before an idol, before oneself.]]

pope francis aspergesIn the first reading, Saul was rejected by God as King of Israel because he disobeyed, preferring to listen to the people rather than the will of God. The people, after a victory in battle, wanted to offer a sacrifice of the best animals to God, because, he said, “it’s always been done that way.” But God, this time, did not want that. [[It could be at any given time, for instance, that God wants us to kneel before the Blessed Sacrament, listening to Jesus, rather than us going a million miles an hour in our prayers because it’s always been done that way, or being proud before Him because of our fasting because it’s always been done that way, or madly rushing about giving things to people that they might not want in the first place because its always been done that way.]] The prophet Samuel rebuked Saul: “Does the Lord so delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as in obedience to the command of the Lord?” [[Jesus was obedient unto death. Imagine if He complained by saying that He can speak all languages and cure people and raise people from the dead and teach them all things, and should continue in this way, because it’s always been done that way. No. Instead: “Not my will, but thine be done.]] Jesus teaches us the same thing in the Gospel, the Pope explained. When the doctors of the law criticized Him because His disciples did not fast “as had always been done,” Jesus responded with these examples from daily life: “No one sews a piece of unshrunken cloth on an old cloak. If he does, its fullness pulls away, the new from the old, and the tear gets worse. [[The baptismal garment, the “first robe” of Adam (sanctifying grace before the fall), isn’t to be a mere patch of the old ways.]] Likewise, no one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the skins are ruined. Rather, new wine is poured into fresh wineskins.” [[With this being rejected, the new wine, His own blood, burst forth in His passion and death. We look forward to the resurrection, with a new heavens and a new earth, and eyes which can behold the Most Holy Trinity.]]

Pope Francis soup kitchen“What does this mean? That He changes the law? No! That the law is at the service of man, who is at the service of God – and so man ought to have an open heart. ‘It’s always been done this way’ is a closed heart, and Jesus tells us, ‘I will send you the Holy Spirit and He will lead you into the fullness of truth.’ [[Imagine the complaint: How dare you, Jesus, say that what we have with you is not enough, that we can’t take what you have given us and run with it, that we need Someone else, some Holy Spirit in order to know the fullness of truth; what you say, Jesus, is blasphemy! What is this “fullness of truth” anyway? I don’t here talk of that anywhere. It’s never been done that way! Stop confusing me! Let me throw a tantrum!]] If you have a heart closed to the newness of the Spirit, you will never reach the full truth. And your Christian life will be a half-and-half life, a patched life, mended with new things, but on a structure that is not open to the voice of the Lord—a closed heart [[Yes, with two people doing the same things with prayer, fasting and almsgiving, one could well be a saint and the other could well be an arrogant monster]], so that you are not able to change others.” [[Anyone who has worked for a minute in a soup kitchen who is not full of himself will immediately take note of the reaction given to those who dole out whatever with arrogant largess as compared to those who are there to serve with humble friendliness. The first has become an occasion of anger, while the second occasions peace and joy.]]

This, the Pope emphasized, was the sin of Saul, for which he was rejected. “It is the sin of so many Christians who cling to what has always been done and who do not allow others to change. [[Exactly. This is a right-by-might mentality. It is consistent with the Pelagian ways to become Promethean, but with arrogant bullying. It is predatory. Do it my way and only my way or it’s the highway for you. This is the manner of a coward who can’t even face himself.]] And they end up with half a life, [a life that is] patched, mended, meaningless.” [[…because it’s just oneself.]] The sin, he said, “is a closed heart,” that “does not hear the voice of the Lord, that is not open to the newness of the Lord, to the Spirit that always surprises us.” This rebellion, says Samuel, is “the sin of divination,” and obstinacy is the sin of idolatry [[This is brilliant spiritual commentary.]]:

“Christians who obstinately maintain ‘it’s always been done this way,’ this is the path, this is the street—they sin: the sin of divination. It’s as if they went about by guessing: ‘What has been said and what doesn’t change is what’s important; what I hear—from myself and my closed heart—more than the Word of the Lord.’ Obstinacy is also the sin of idolatry: the Christian who is obstinate sins! The sin of idolatry. ‘And what is the way, Father?’ Open the heart to the Holy Spirit, discern what is the will of God.” [[A son of Saint Ignatius with such discernment. This homily is surely a retreat conference to his Jesuit novices back in day back in Argentina.]]

pope francis young

The studious young Bergoglio.

Pope Francis noted that in Jesus’ time, good Israelites were in the habit of fasting. “But there is another reality,” he said. “There is the Holy Spirit who leads us into the full truth. And for this reason he needs an open heart, a heart that will not stubbornly remain in the sin of idolatry of oneself,” imagining that my own opinion is more important than the surprise of the Holy Spirit. [[Right! I love Pope Francis. Who could possibly have predicted this by staring at his belly button? “We’re always fasted,” they say. “No!” says Jesus, “not when you have the Bridegroom.” The Messiah has arrived. Would we have been prepared? Would we have been as agile of soul and pure of heart as John the Baptist? Do we congratulate ourselves and condemn the Holy Father for calling us to humility?]]

“This is the message the Church gives us today. This is what Jesus says so forcefully: ‘New wine in new wineskins.’ Habits must be renewed in the newness of the Spirit, in the surprises of God. May the Lord grant us the grace of an open heart, of a heart open to the voice of the Spirit, which knows how to discern what should not change, because it is fundamental [[Get that? He goes out of his way to call in those he knows will take his words the wrong way just to do it. This is very kind. But they condemn him anyway. And that is very sad indeed.]], from what should change in order to be able to receive the newness of the Spirit.” [[Thank you, Holy Father!]]


Filed under Jesus, Pope Francis, Prayer

3 responses to “Brilliant spiritual direction of Pope Francis

  1. Angela

    Thanks Father, this was really helpful. I’d ‘got’ something of what the Pope was saying but you have opened up some more things to ponder on. God bless you.

  2. pelerin

    I am so pleased you have addressed this particular homily by Pope Francis.

    However I am still very confused as some of his words did seem to suggest that those of us who prefer to worship at the Mass of Ages are wrong. ‘It’s always been done this way’ is so very comforting but he seems to be denigrating Tradition and many of us find this most unsettling. When the Pope says we must allow others to change I have visions of Priests who see nothing wrong in riding a hoverboard or brandishing a Star Wars light sabre at Mass.

    When I am away and attend a NO Mass other than at the parish where I normally go I always find myself wondering what changes there will be from what I am used to. If I am lucky enough to find an EF Mass then I know exactly what to expect – is the Pope really saying this is wrong?

    • Father George David Byers

      @ Pelerin – Well, he didn’t actually say any of those things in this homily, did he? So, that’s the thing. I mean, I would go straight to hell if people were able to accuse me legitimately before God of things I didn’t say or do.

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