Edward Pentin began reporting on the Pope and the Vatican with Vatican Radio before moving on to become the Rome correspondent for the National Catholic Register. He has also reported on the Holy See and the Catholic Church for a number of other publications including Newsweek, Newsmax, Zenit, The Catholic Herald, and The Holy Land Review, a Franciscan publication specializing in the Church and the Middle East. Edward is the author of “The Rigging of a Vatican Synod? An Investigation into Alleged Manipulation at the Extraordinary Synod on the Family”, published by Ignatius Press. Follow him on Twitter @edwardpentin
In his early morning homilies in the Domus Sanctae Marthae residence this past week, Pope Francis warned of riches that can distance us from Christ, stressed the importance of having joyful hearts filled with the Holy Spirit, and cautioned against a triumphalist Church.
On Monday, the Holy Father said in order to follow Jesus, we must rid ourselves of a culture based on economic wellbeing and of our attraction to the provisional.
He invited the faithful to examine their consciences and take stock of riches that prevent us from drawing near to Jesus. He said a culture of economic wellbeing acts like “an anaesthetic”, making one lack courage, and become lazy and selfish. Meanwhile, he warned against a fascination with the temporary rather than accepting God’s time which is “definitive.”
Both can prevent a person from following Jesus more closely, and yet he stressed that Jesus gives us the courage to go forward.
On Tuesday, the Pope said proclamation of Jesus is not a ‘gloss’ or ‘veneer’, but it goes into the heart and changes us. He reiterated that following Jesus “does not mean more power”, because his way is that of the Cross. He stressed that Jesus says following him will bring “many good things”, but also “persecution,” and warned that "when a Christian has no difficulty in life - everything is fine, everything is beautiful - something is wrong.”
Following Christ cannot be without the Cross, he said, adding that the devil and “spirit of the world will not tolerate [a follower of Jesus], will not tolerate the testimony.” He pointed out that the world will praise Mother Teresa for her good works but “never says that the Blessed Teresa spent every day, many hours, in adoration – never!” Those who leave their home, their family to follow Jesus out of love, he said, receive a hundred times as much, together with persecution.
On Wednesday the Pope said that triumphalism brings the Church and Christians to a halt. A triumphalist Church, he explained, is a half-way Church that is happy, well-organised and efficient but denies martyrdom and does not know that martyrs are necessary for the way of the Cross.
The Pope said “it is the temptation of Christianity without the Cross, a half-way Church without Jesus,” and that a Church that thinks only of triumphs and successes does not follow the rules of Christ, which is about triumphing through failure, human failure, the failure of the Cross. This, he said, is something which we all have.
The Holy Father gave no early morning Mass on Thursday, the Solemnity of Corpus Christi, but celebrated a public Mass and led the traditional Eucharistic Procession in the evening.
On Friday, Pope Francis urged Christians to have joyful hearts and not put on long faces such as at funerals. Sad, disheartened or discouraged followers of Christ cannot proclaim the Gospel, he said.
Reflecting on the Visitation celebrated May 31st, he said it “all speaks of joy, the joy that is celebration” and yet "we Christians are not so accustomed to speak of joy, of happiness. I think often we prefer to complain". The Holy Spirit, the author and creator of joy, gives us joy he said, and without it, we Christians cannot become free, we become slaves to our sorrows. Often, he noted, Christians behave as if they were going to a funeral procession rather than to praise God.
He asked those present whether they praise God, or simply petitioned and thanked Him. Some complain of the Mass being too long, but the Pope said if we don’t come out to praise God we will never experience the bliss of praising God.
On Saturday, the Pope said the Church “is not a cultural organization.” He said Christians should not be ashamed to live with the scandal of the Cross, and urged them not to be "trapped by the spirit of the world." He pointed out that we can do "all the social work we want” and people will say, ‘How nice, the Church, what good social work the Church does’.
But if we say that we do this because those people [we help] are the flesh of Christ, there is scandal in the eyes of the world. "And that is the truth, that is the revelation of Jesus: that presence of Jesus incarnate.”
And “this is the point,” Pope Francis said. “Always there will be the [temptation] to do good things without the scandal of the Incarnate Word, without the scandal of the Cross.” Instead, we must “be true to this scandal, to this reality that scandalises.”
He said Christians should ask the Lord “not to be ashamed to live with this scandal of the Cross” and ask Him for wisdom not to be trapped by the spirit of the world. That spirit “always make to us polite suggestions, civil proposals, good proposals – but behind those there is precisely the negation of the fact that the Word came in the flesh, of the Incarnation of the Word. That, in the end, is what scandalises those who persecute Jesus.”
Fuller summaries of the homilies can be found on the Vatican Radio website: http://en.radiovaticana.va/index.asp