Pope Francis: Choose faith in Christ over formalities

Hannah Brockhaus   By Hannah Brockhaus for CNA

Pope Francis’ general audience in the Paul VI Hall at the Vatican, Sept. 1, 2021. / Vatican Media.

Vatican City, Sep 1, 2021 / 06:00 am (CNA).

At the general audience on Wednesday, Pope Francis asked Catholics to reflect on how they live the faith, and to strive to put Christ at the center of their actions to avoid falling into mere formalities.

“Does the love of Christ crucified and risen again remain at the center of our daily life as the wellspring of salvation, or are we content with a few religious formalities to salve our consciences?” the pope asked in his weekly message Sept. 1.

Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.
Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.

Speaking in the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall, he continued: “Are we attached to the precious treasure, to the beauty of the newness of Christ, or do we prefer something that attracts us momentarily but then leaves us empty inside?”

“The ephemeral often knocks on the door of our days, but it is a sad illusion, which makes us fall into superficiality and prevents us from discerning what is really worth living for,” he added.

Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.
Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.

Pope Francis’ weekly catechesis centered on a passage from St. Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians, in which the Apostle says: “O stupid Galatians! Who has bewitched you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified? I want to learn only this from you: did you receive the Spirit from works of the law, or from faith in what you heard?”

The pope began his message by underlining that the Scripture passage and its message comes from St. Paul, not from him.

Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.
Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.

“This is not something new, this explanation, not something of mine: what we are studying is what St. Paul says in a very serious conflict with the Galatians,” he emphasized.

“This is simply a catechesis on the Word of God expressed in the Letter of St. Paul to the Galatians; nothing else.”

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

He noted that St. Paul is “not courteous” with the language he uses to address the Galatians. In other letters, Paul calls them “brothers” or “dear friends,” but here is angry, the pope explained, pointing out that he calls them “foolish,” which is also sometimes translated as “stupid.”

Paul “does so not because they are not intelligent, but because, almost without realizing it, they risk losing the faith in Christ that they have received with so much enthusiasm,” Pope Francis said. “They are foolish because they are unaware that the danger is that of losing the valuable treasure, the beauty, of the newness of Christ” and they may miss “the possibility of attaining a new, hitherto unhoped-for freedom.”

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

St. Paul is “shaking up their consciences: this is why it is so forceful,” he stated. “He takes them back to the starting point of the Christian vocation.”

According to Francis, “Paul’s intention is to compel Christians to realize what is at stake, so they do not allow themselves to be enchanted by the voice of the sirens who want to lead them to a religiosity based solely on the scrupulous observance of precepts.”

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

Even when we are tempted to turn to superficiality, however, God still bestows his gifts on us, he said.

“Even today, people come and harangue us, saying, ‘No, holiness is in these precepts, in these things, you must do this and that,’ and propose an inflexible religiosity, the inflexibility that takes away from us that freedom in the Spirit that Christ’s redemption gives us,” the pope continued.

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

He warned Catholics to “beware of the rigidity they propose to you: be careful.” Inflexibility, he said, does not come from the Spirit of God.

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

Francis pointed to St. Paul’s letter as a good source to help people to not listen to “these somewhat fundamentalist proposals that set us back in our spiritual life.”

“Despite all the difficulties we may pose to His action, God does not abandon us but rather abides with us in His merciful love,” the pope concluded.

“He is like that father who went up onto the terrace every day to see if his son was returning: the love of the Father never tires of us. Let us ask for the wisdom always to be aware of this reality, and to turn away the fundamentalists who propose to us a life of artificial asceticism, far removed from the resurrection of Christ. Asceticism is necessary, but wise asceticism, not artificial.”


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2 Comments

  1. Pope Francis continues to make his case alluding to the Apostle in Romans and Galatians. Paul, whose focus on faith in Christ rather than dependence on the Law sought to distinguish Pharisaical external observance, remaining corrupt within from Christ’s call to worship the Father in spirit and in truth. “Even today, people come and harangue us, saying, ‘No, holiness is in these precepts, in these things, you must do this and that,’ and propose an inflexible religiosity, the inflexibility that takes away from us that freedom in the Spirit that Christ’s redemption gives us” (His Holiness). Lord! How plainly stated is the doctrine of mercy sans repentance. Drawn right out of the newest of testaments Amoris. He’s on a mission of late moreso than usual. Portent of further radicalism? His campaign combined with the series of glowing photos might soon have us tottering on the brink. Brink for this writer is hyperbolic expressions of outrage. But I’ll contain myself banking on grace and the virtue of temperance, and worry more about the battered faithful seeking the truth of the matter. Pope Francis will not now, will not ever replace Christ! There. Somewhat hyperbolic but contained. If I lose my salt as priest, as sentinel I’m worse than worthless to be trodden underfoot. I become condemnable, liable to be salted with fire, perhaps eternal. This said seriously, first for my brother priests. Presbyter and bishop. What we call upon is the fiery witness ignited by the Spirit of truth.

    • I’ll believe Francis makes the distinction between form and substance the first time he provides an indication that he is capable of it. His recent trivialization of the Ten Commandments doesn’t indicate a confused mind, it indicates a blasphemous mind, and I will accept the consequences of this public position of mine at my final judgment.
      The apostle Paul always distinguished between inviolable moral law and ritual practice that can be placed on pause but not frivolously or capriciously. A pope deliberately interrupting the Mass of a Cardinal to tell him to stop investigating another prelate for possible sexual abuse because the possible abuser supports that pope’s political agenda would not qualify.
      There are those who have reminded me that Francis has spoken out against abortion, but I remind them of his validating support for the agenda of population planners by granting them credibility at numerous Vatican events. I am quite willing to believe that Francis has never even read the documents authored for him, to which he signs his name, but I can’t believe he is unaware of the blatant relativist sophistry that has been argued in the wake of AI; its relativism Francis has said, is the “correct interpretation,” as if his stonewalling of the Dubia were not enough of an indication.
      What Francis provides us is a reminder of what natural law teaches. Right is right not matter WHO or how many are wrong, and wrong is wrong no matter who or how few are right.

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