Pope Francis Leads us on Narrow Path
Fr. Jordi Rivero
Pope Francis is leading us on the narrow path of the Gospel which is between two camps. He is thus attacked from both sides.
The first camp seeks to defend tradition and doctrine but is unable to see the work of the Spirit active today as in the early Church, giving us direction, prophecy, deeper understanding of the truth. They see the Christian way as a set of truths that can be learned and applied like laws that are clear and cannot develop. Thus they are suspicious of anyone seeking deeper understanding of the faith. They perceive all change, all quest of deeper understanding as a threat of secularization. The result is a tendency to rigorism, legalism and inflexibility. This was the temptation of the Pharisees who saught security in the law blindly resisting God speaking to them in Jesus.
The blindness of the Pharisees is an ever present danger. They had valid concerns about the increasing threat of paganism but their solutions were wrong. They thought that God had spoken in the past, giving them the law, but did not expect Him to act in the present. They believed they were now to rely on the law and their own human efforts. The only defense they saw was to exert their control by imposing a strict observance of the law. They were scandalized when Jesus extolled a pagan Roman centurion as a model of faith, when He used Samaritans (whose faith was seen as corrupted), as examples of virtue, when He ate with sinners, when He interpreted the laws in a new way. They could not see that His actions were actually revealing the truth in the heart of God, bringing the full meaning of the law which was until then hidden. Jesus is Himself is the fulfillment of the law. But in their blindnes they saw Him as a threat to their system of religion. Though they thought they loved God, they could not recognize Him and killed Him.
One may object saying that there can be no more growth in truth since Jesus already came and He is all truth. But Jesus said: "When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come." (Jn 16:13) The Church confirms that she comes to a fuller understanding of what she received from Jesus through the Holy Spirit teaching her and developing her understanding through the years.
Pope Francis writes about the temptation of closing ourselves to God's work today:
A temptation to hostile inflexibility, that is, wanting to close oneself within the written word, (the letter) and not allowing oneself to be surprised by God, by the God of surprises, (the spirit); within the law, within the certitude of what we know and not of what we still need to learn and to achieve. From the time of Christ, it is the temptation of the zealous, of the scrupulous, of the solicitous and of the so-called – today – “traditionalists” and also of the intellectuals.
On the other camp there is the temptation to "relieve burdens" by altering the truth about man, the failure to see that, without the truth revealed by God, we end up lost and more burdened than ever. Pope Francis addresses this camp also: (Quotes are from Pope Francis' final address to the synod, Oct. 18,2014).
The temptation to a destructive tendency to goodness that in the name of a deceptive mercy binds the wounds without first curing them and treating them; that treats the symptoms and not the causes and the roots. It is the temptation of the 'do-gooders,' of the fearful, and also of the so-called 'progressives and liberals.
There are many zealous Catholics who desire to be in the narrow path and yet, to some degree, are influenced by one of the camps above. Each camp sees itself as the antidote for the errors of the other. The following teachings by Pope Francis addreses these errors and the true way of Christ.
Vilified and Persecuted by Modern Sanhedrins
There are also many hidden martyrs: those men and women who are faithful to the voice of the Spirit and who are searching for new ways and paths to help their brothers better love God.
...they are often viewed with suspicion, vilified and persecuted by so many modern ‘Sanhedrins’ who think they are the possessors of truth.
Courage to Live in the Power of the Holy Spirit in Face of Persecution.
Pope Francis, 4-13-15 on Acts 4:23-31, >>>
The Holy Spirit alone gives us the “strength to proclaim Jesus Christ up to the final testimony”. And the Spirit “comes from whatever place, like the wind”.
The priests found themselves in difficulty: they sent several men to arrest Peter and John, who were perceived as “uneducated, common men”. The two apostles “were in prison that evening”. The following day the priests decided to “forbid speaking in Jesus’ name, preaching this doctrine”. But they continued... Moreover, Peter, “who spoke for both of them”, stated... ‘we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard’”.
...And “when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God with boldness”.
The Pontiff focused on this last word, “boldness”: “today too, the message of the Church is the message of the path of boldness, the path of Christian courage.” In fact, he explained, that word “could be translated as ‘courage’, ‘boldness’, ‘freedom of speech’, ‘not being afraid to say things’”. It is “parrhesia”. The two Apostles “have passed from fear to boldness, speaking freely”.
It is the “courage to proclaim” that “distinguishes us from simple proselytism”. The Pope explained: “We did not advertise” to have “more ‘associates’ in our ‘spiritual company’”. This “is not needed, it is not Christian”. Instead, “what Christians do is to proclaim with courage; and proclaiming Jesus Christ fosters, through the Holy Spirit, that astonishment that makes us go forth”. Therefore, “the real protagonist in all of this is the Holy Spirit”, to the point that — as the Acts of the Apostles read — when the disciples ended their prayer, the place where they were gathered was shaken and they were all filled with the Spirit. It was, Francis stated, “like a new Pentecost”.
Therefore, the Holy Spirit is the protagonist, such that Jesus says to Nicodemus that he can be reborn but that “the wind blows where it wants and you hear its voice, but you do not know where it comes from nor where it goes. Whoever is born by the Holy Spirit is like this”. Hence, the Pontiff explained, “it is precisely the Holy Spirit that changes us, that comes from whatever place, like the wind”. Moreover, “the Holy Spirit alone gives us the strength to change our attitude, to change the history of our life, to change our belonging”. It is the Holy Spirit himself who gave strength to the two Apostles, two “uneducated, common men”, to “proclaim Jesus Christ up to the final testimony: martyrdom.” ...And “if the Spirit isn’t there, we can do many things, a great deal of work, but it is pointless.
Take the Risk of Accepting What the Spirit Asks
Pope Francis, Santa Marta, April 28, 2015
Ask the Lord for “the grace to not be afraid when the Spirit, with confidence, tells me to take a step forward”... "The message is the same: but the Church goes forth with these surprises, with this newness of the Holy Spirit”.
The Pope said he was well aware of the objections that could be raised against this reasoning: “Father, why do you create so many problems?. Let’s do things as we have always done them, that way we are more certain”. He responded that this hypothesis might be “an alternative”, but it would be “a sterile alternative; a ‘dead’ alternative”. What is much better, he concluded, is “with prayer, with humility, to take the risk of accepting what the Spirit asks us to change according to the time in which we live: this is the way”.
LAW - LEGALISM
"Born Under the Law" (Gal 4:4)
Pope Francis, Full text
With this expression (Paul) emphasizes that Christ has taken up the human condition, freeing it from the closed, legalistic mentality. In fact, the law deprived of grace becomes an insupportable yoke, and instead of being good for us it is bad for us. This, then, is the end for which God sent His Son to earth to become man: a finality of liberation; indeed, of regeneration. Of liberation, “to ransom those under the law” (v. 5); and the ransom occurred with the death of Christ on the Cross. But especially of regeneration: “so that we might receive adoption as sons” (v. 5). Incorporated in Him, men and women really become children of God. This amazing transition takes place in us with Baptism, which grafts us into Christ as living members, and inserts us into the Church.
Hardened hearts because of insecurity and fear; New Life in Spirit
Pope Francis, Full Text
Hardened hearts in people can also arise from a problem of insecurity, such as those who barricade themselves behind the laws and rules, as though inside a prison, to feel safer and follow these rules to the letter. When a heart becomes hardened, it’s not free and if it’s not free it’s because that person isn't capable of love... A love that’s perfect banishes fear: in love there’s no fear, because fear is expecting a punishment and a person who's afraid doesn’t have a perfect love. He or she is not free. They are constantly afraid that something painful or sad will occur, that will cause their life to go badly or will endanger their eternal salvation… What an (over-active) imagination, because he or she can’t love. A person who isn't capable of loving is not free. And their heart was hardened because they hadn’t learnt how to love...
You can follow a thousand catechism courses, a thousand spirituality courses, a thousand yoga or zen courses and all these things. But none of this will be able to give you the freedom as a child (of God). Only the Holy Spirit can prompt your heart to say ‘Father.’ Only the Holy Spirit is capable of banishing, of breaking that hardness of heart and making it … soft? No, I don’t like that word, … ‘docile’. Docile towards the Lord. Docile when it comes to the freedom to love.”
RIGIDITY is a Sign of Weakness of Heart -Pope Francis
Pope Francis catholicnewsagency
(Re: Pharisees) their mistake was to "detach the commandments from the heart of God". They thought it enough to merely keep the commandments, but these "are not just a cold law", because they are born from a relationship of love and are "indications" that help us avoid mistakes in our journey to meet Jesus. So, the Pharisees who close their hearts and minds "to all things new," do not understand "the path of hope". "This is the drama of the closed heart, the drama of the closed mind and when the heart is closed, this heart closes the mind , and when the heart and mind are closed there is no place for God", but only for what we believe should be done .
Legalist Wants Everything Clear and Safe
Pope Francis americamagazine.org/pope-interview
If the Christian is a restorationist, a legalist, if he wants everything clear and safe, then he will find nothing. Tradition and memory of the past must help us to have the courage to open up new areas to God. Those who today always look for disciplinarian solutions, those who long for an exaggerated doctrinal ‘security,’ those who stubbornly try to recover a past that no longer exists—they have a static and inward-directed view of things. In this way, faith becomes an ideology among other ideologies. I have a dogmatic certainty: God is in every person’s life. God is in everyone’s life. Even if the life of a person has been a disaster, even if it is destroyed by vices, drugs or anything else—God is in this person’s life. You can, you must try to seek God in every human life. Although the life of a person is a land full of thorns and weeds, there is always a space in which the good seed can grow. You have to trust God.
Church’s Teaching Is not a Monolith. It Develops
-Pope Francis americamagazine.org/pope-interview
Quoting the Office of Readings for Friday of the 27th Week in Ordinary Time from St. Vincent of Lerins: "Even the dogma of the Christian religion must follow these laws, consolidating over the years, developing over time, deepening with age." The pope comments: "St. Vincent of Lerins makes a comparison between the biological development of man and the transmission from one era to another of the deposit of faith, which grows and is strengthened with time. Here, human self-understanding changes with time and so also human consciousness deepens. Let us think of when slavery was accepted or the death penalty was allowed without any problem. So we grow in the understanding of the truth. Exegetes and theologians help the church to mature in her own judgment. Even the other sciences and their development help the church in its growth in understanding. There are ecclesiastical rules and precepts that were once effective, but now they have lost value or meaning. The view of the church’s teaching as a monolith to defend without nuance or different understandings is wrong.
"After all, in every age of history, humans try to understand and express themselves better. So human beings in time change the way they perceive themselves. It’s one thing for a man who expresses himself by carving the ‘Winged Victory of Samothrace,’ yet another for Caravaggio, Chagall and yet another still for Dalí. Even the forms for expressing truth can be multiform, and this is indeed necessary for the transmission of the Gospel in its timeless meaning.
"Humans are in search of themselves, and, of course, in this search they can also make mistakes. The church has experienced times of brilliance, like that of Thomas Aquinas. But the church has lived also times of decline in its ability to think. For example, we must not confuse the genius of Thomas Aquinas with the age of decadent Thomist commentaries. Unfortunately, I studied philosophy from textbooks that came from decadent or largely bankrupt Thomism. In thinking of the human being, therefore, the church should strive for genius and not for decadence.
"When does a formulation of thought cease to be valid? When it loses sight of the human or even when it is afraid of the human or deluded about itself. The deceived thought can be depicted as Ulysses encountering the song of the Siren, or as Tannhäuser in an orgy surrounded by satyrs and bacchantes, or as Parsifal, in the second act of Wagner’s opera, in the palace of Klingsor. The thinking of the church must recover genius and better understand how human beings understand themselves today, in order to develop and deepen the church’s teaching."
I think the decision of Pope Benedict [his decision of July 7, 2007, to allow a wider use of the [Tridentine Mass] was prudent and motivated by the desire to help people who have this sensitivity. What is worrying, though, is the risk of the ideologization of the Vetus Ordo, its exploitation."
The term "Clericalism", as used by recent popes, refers to the idea that the clerical state in life is superior to all other Christian states. Clerics are viewed as the active agents in the Church. They take all initiatives and make all decisions. The laity’s role is to listen and obey. This view is also held by many of the laity.
Benedict XVI, on August, 2012, proposed co-responsibility as the antidote:
"Co-responsibility demands a change in mindset especially concerning the role of lay people in the Church. They should not be regarded as ‘collaborators’ of the clergy but, rather, as people who are really ‘co-responsible’ for the Church’s being and acting."
Pope Francis prayed that the Church be rid of the spirit of clericalism:
Reflecting on the Gospel, where the Pharisees question Christ’s authority in teaching, the Holy Father said that in doing so, they forgot the promises made by God in the past. Their hearts were fixed on legalism and authority.
"When there is no prophecy in the people of God, the void it leaves becomes occupied by clericalism. And it is this clericalism that Jesus asks: ‘With what authority do you do this? With what authority?’ And the memory of the promise and the hope of going forward becomes reduced to only the present: neither the past, nor a hopeful future. The present is legal. If it is legal it goes forward"
"Let us not tire of moving forward! Let us not be closed in the legality that closes the doors! Lord, free your people from the spirit of clericalism and help them with the spirit of prophecy," -12-16-2013
Church is Mother, not Entrepreneur
Pope Francis, Dec 19, 2014 Full Text
(I) think of our mother Church and of so much sterility within our Mother Church: when because of the weight of the hope in the Commandments, that pelagianism that all of us carry within our bones, she becomes sterile. She believes she is capable of giving birth… no, she can’t! The Church is a mother and only becomes a mother when she opens to the newness of God, to the strength of the Spirit. When she says to herself: "I do everything, but I’ve finished, I can’t go forward!", the Spirit comes."
Let’s pray. That this Christmas our Church may be open to the gift of God, that she may allow herself to be surprised by the Holy Spirit and be a Church that gives birth, a mother Church. Many times I think that in some places the Church is more like an entrepreneur than a mother."
Pope Francis, Regina Coeli, 4-26-2015
"Priests, bishops, popes - are called not to take on the mentality of 'manager,' but that of the servant, in imitation of Jesus who, stripping himself, has saved us with His mercy."
15 sicknesses of the curia -Pope Francis, Dec. 201
The Pope speaks of other temptations:
— To transform the bread into a stone and cast it against the sinners, the weak, and the sick (cf Jn 8:7), that is, to transform it into unbearable burdens (Lk 11:46).
— The temptation to come down off the Cross, to please the people, and not stay there, in order to fulfil the will of the Father; to bow down to a worldly spirit instead of purifying it and bending it to the Spirit of God.
— The temptation to neglect the “depositum fidei” [the deposit of the faith], not thinking of themselves as guardians but as owners or masters [of it]; or, on the other hand, the temptation to neglect reality, making use of meticulous language and a language of smoothing to say so many things and to say nothing! They call them “byzantinisms”
Dear brothers and sisters, the temptations must not frighten or disconcert us, or even discourage us, because no disciple is greater than his master; so if Jesus Himself was tempted – and even called Beelzebul (cf. Mt 12:24) – His disciples should not expect better treatment.
-All quotes are from Pope Francis' final address to the synod, Oct. 18,2014.