VATICAN CITY — In his daily Mass homily May 19, Pope Francis reflected on the various challenges St. Paul faced in his ministry, explaining that it was only possible for him to go forward because his heart was fixed on God.
“What kind of heart do we have? Is it a fickle heart which, like a dancer, like a butterfly flits from one to another?” Or “is it a heart fixed on the Holy Spirit?” the Pope asked during his homily.
Speaking to those gathered in the Vatican’s St. Martha guesthouse, the Holy Father turned to the first reading from the Acts of the Apostles, noting that this passage display’s Paul’s “firm heart in continuous motion,” as well as his commitment to evangelization.
Recalling how Paul does not complain when the gentiles of Iconium attempt to stone him, the Pope recounted how Paul then traveled to Lycaonia, where he healed a paralytic in the name of the Lord, for which the pagans referred to him and Barnabas as gods and sought to offer sacrifices to them.
Paul “struggled to convince them that they were men,” the Holy Father observed, noting that these “are the human trials Paul experienced” and that “all of us” face as well.
“We are surrounded by many events that move us from one place to another. But we asked for the grace to have a fixed heart, like Paul,” he continued, noting that, “so as not to complain about the persecution, he went in search of another city.”
Recounting again how the apostle then traveled to another town where he preached, healed the paralytic because of his faith and then tried to stop the people from making a sacrifice to him by proclaiming that there is only one God, the Holy Father observed that it was “one thing after another.”
“And this can only come from a steady heart,” he stated. “Where was Paul’s heart that he was able to make so many changes in such a short time and meet these situations in an appropriate way?”
Gifts of the Holy Spirit
Turning to the Gospel, the Pope drew attention to how Jesus tells us that the Holy Spirit, sent by the Father, “will teach us all things” and will “remind us of everything.”
In addition to doing these two things, Pope Francis noted that the Holy Spirit also “gives us strength, gives us this steadiness to be able to move forward in life in the midst of many events.”
And this is exactly what happened with St. Paul, when he taught the people and reminded them of Jesus’ message of salvation, the Pope continued, observing that it is the Holy Spirit who gave him this firmness of heart.
“With this example,” he went on, “we can ask ourselves today: What kind of heart do we have? ... Is it a heart that is scared by the vicissitudes of life and is hiding and afraid to give witness to Jesus Christ?”
“Is it a brave heart or a heart that has so much fear and is always trying to hide? What does our heart care for? What treasure does our heart [give] custody to? Is my heart fixed upon creatures, the problems that we all have? Is my heart fixed upon everyday gods? Or is it a heart fixed on the Holy Spirit?”
Concluding his homily, the Pope Francis said that it would do us all well to ask ourselves “Where is the firmness of our heart?” and to keep in mind “the many everyday events that we have: at home, at work, with our children, with people who live with us, with work colleagues, with everyone.”
“Do I let myself get carried away by these things or face these events with a fixed heart that knows where it is?”
Noting that “the only one that gives firmness to our hearts is the Holy Spirit,” the Holy Father also encouraged attendees to think about the gift of “the Spirit of fortitude, of counsel, who helps us to move forward in the midst, surrounded by everyday trials.”
“We should do this exercise today; ask how our heart is: firm or not? And if it is firm, where does it dwell? In things or in the Holy Spirit? It would do us good” to consider these questions, the Pope said.