Saturday, 7 September 2013

The sickness of the Pharisees

Abstract joy

Pope Francis’ homilies yesterday and today are a pair of true gems and since they have filled me with joy, I’d like to share their highlights here with you.

This morning Francis starts out by warning against various flavors of Christianity that don’t have the person of Jesus at their center - in other words, that are not honest! - and that get bogged down in paraphernalia. Their first type is what I’d call headless Christians:
“The Pharisees of today’s Gospel (Luke 6:1-5) make so many commandments the centre of their religiosity. [… T]hose who have the sickness of the Pharisees and are Christians that put their faith, their religiosity in so many commandments, so many. ‘Ah, I have to do this, I have to do this, I have to do this. Christians of this attitude … ‘But why do you do this?’ – ‘No, it must be done!’ – ‘But why?’ – ‘Ah, I don’t know, but it must be done.’ And Jesus – where is He? A commandment is valid if it comes from Jesus: I do this because the Lord wants me to do this. But if I am a Christian without Christ, I do this and I don’t know why I have to do it.”
Then Francis warns against what I’d say are procedural Christians:
“There are other Christians without Christ: those who only seek devotions … But Jesus is not there. If your devotions bring you to Christ, that works. But if you remain there [in those devotions], something’s wrong.”
Finally, there are the Christians 2.0 who seek novelty for its own sake:
“[Then there are t]hose who seek things that are a little uncommon, a little special, that go back to private revelations, while Revelation concluded with the New Testament. Such a spectacle of revelation, to hear new things [is misguided. Instead,] take the Gospel!”
With the wrong approaches ridiculed, Francis turns to how to tell whether one is on the right track:
“‘But Father, what is the rule for being a Christian with Christ, and not becoming a Christian without Christ. What is the sign of a person that is a Christian with Christ?’ The rule is simple: only that which brings you to Jesus is valid, and only that is valid that comes from Jesus. Jesus is the centre.”
A consequence then of such a centeredness on Jesus is joy:
“The Christian is fundamentally joyful. [… To be sure], there are truly moments of crucifixion, moments of pain – but there is ever that profound peace of joy, because Christian life is lived as a celebration, like the nuptial union of Christ with the Church.”
Getting rid of the clutter that has accumulated around following Jesus and seeking to imitate Him honestly and consciously will not annihilate difficulties, but will lead to profound peace and joy. I wish this for myself as much as I wish its consequences for everyone - especially those who endure the most difficult circumstances in war-torn parts of the world.