VATICAN CITY — At his daily Mass in St. Martha’s residence May 29, Pope Francis warned about the dangers of a Church that is too concerned with “organization and success” by recalling a “dark moment” of his spiritual life.
“A Church that only thinks about triumphs (and) successes, does not know that rule of Jesus: the rule of triumph through failure, human failure, the failure of the cross."
“And this is a temptation that we all have,” the Pope told employees of the Vatican city state governorate.
For Pope Francis, the Gospel reading from St. Mark reminded him of when “I was in a dark moment in my spiritual life, and I asked a favor from the Lord.”
“Then, I went to preach the annual spiritual retreat to nuns, and, on the last day, they made their confession.
“One elderly nun, over 80 years of age, but with clear, bright eyes, came to confession: She was a woman of God. In the end, I saw that she really was a woman of God, so I said, ‘Sister, as penance, pray for me, because I need a grace, okay? If you ask the Lord for this grace on my behalf, I am sure to receive it.’
“She stopped for a moment, as if in prayer, and said, ‘Of course the Lord will grant you this grace, but do not be deceived: in his own Divine manner,’” the Pope recalled.
“This did me a lot of good to hear that the Lord always gives us what we ask for, but in his own Divine way. The Divine way involves the cross, not out of masochism: no, no! Out of love. For love to the very end,” he said.
Pope Francis told the story to drive home his point that there is a risk of becoming “halfway Christians,” that is, believers who shun suffering and only look for what they perceive to be success.
In the Gospel reading, James and John ask Jesus — just after he has described how he will suffer, die and rise — if they can sit on his right and left when he enters into his glory.
Pope Francis said the disciples want to do things differently; they plan to go only half way, so they discuss among themselves how to arrange the Church and arrange salvation.
This is the same temptation that Jesus faced in the desert, the Pope said, when the devil proposed another path to him: “Do everything with speed; perform a miracle, something that everyone can see. Let’s go to the temple and skydive without a parachute, so everyone will see the miracle and redemption will come to pass.”
St. Peter was also confronted with the temptation when he did not accept the passion of Jesus, the Pope said.
“It is the temptation of a Christianity without the cross, a halfway Christianity” that is more concerned with apparent victory than with the Father’s plan.
It “is the temptation of triumphalism. We want the triumph now, without going to the cross, a worldly triumph, a reasonable triumph,” Pope Francis said.
“Triumphalism in the Church impedes the Church. Triumphalism among Christians impedes Christians. A triumphalist, halfway Church, that is a Church that is content with what it is or has. It is well sorted and well organized, with all its offices and everything in order,” he said.
The Pope warned, “This kind of Church might be efficient, but it is one that denies its martyrs, because it does not know that martyrs are needed for the Church’s journey towards the cross.”