VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis on Tuesday cautioned against those who seek to understand the faith only with the intellect, explaining that this attitude closes one to the Holy Spirit and prevents him from acting in our lives.
“You do not believe because you are not part of my sheep,” the Holy Father said during his homily at daily Mass. “You do not believe because you are not of the people of Israel. You have left the people. You are in intellectual aristocracy.”
Speaking to those in attendance at the Vatican’s St. Martha guesthouse, the Pope centered his homily on the day’s readings, taken from the Acts of the Apostles and the Gospel of John.
Beginning, the Pope recalled how the Christians scattered after the martyrdom of St. Stephen, noting that “they were dispersed with the seed of the Gospel, and they carried it everywhere.”
Observing how, at first, they only preached the Good News to the Jews, the Holy Father explained that, “almost naturally, some of them” began to speak to the Greeks in Antioch and that, slowly, “they opened the doors to the Greeks, to the pagans.”
However, the Bishop of Rome recounted how, once news of this interaction with the pagans reached Jerusalem, the apostle Barnabas was sent to “to carry out an inspection,” during which he found that everyone “was happy,” on account of the “large number of people” who were “added to the Lord.”
These people did not say, “Let's go to the Jews first, then the Greeks, then pagans, then everyone,” the Pope said. “No! They allowed themselves to be carried by the Holy Spirit! They were docile to the Holy Spirit.”
By this openness, “one thing leads to another,” and, eventually, “they end up opening the doors to everyone: to the pagans, who were considered unclean in the mentality of the time. … They opened the doors to everyone.”
Noting that there are two different groups represented in the readings, the Pope explained that the first are the people “who are docile to the Holy Spirit.”
Whether he asks us to be bold or whether he leads us gently, “the virtue is in allowing ourselves to be carried by the Holy Spirit, in not resisting the Holy Spirit, in being docile to the Holy Spirit,” the Holy Father continued. “And the Holy Spirit works in the Church today, is acting in our lives today.”
Explaining how there are some who might say they have never seen him, Pope Francis encouraged them to “pay attention to what is happening, to what comes to your mind, to what comes in your heart. Good things? It is the Spirit that invites you to take that path. It takes docility, docility to the Holy Spirit.”
Drawing attention to the second group represented in the readings, the Pope observed that they are the “intellectuals who came to Jesus in The temple: They are the doctors of the Law,” with whom Jesus frequently had problems.
This is “because they never arrived at understanding: They always came back to the same point, because they believed that religion was a thing of the mind, of laws,” he continued, adding that they saw the faith as “fulfilling the commandments and nothing more.”
“These people had no heart; there is no love or beautyl there is no harmony” in their faith, the pontiff went on to say, noting that these people “only want explanations”; but once they are given, they are “not convinced,” and “they return with more questions.”
“This is their way: They spin round and round,” just as they did with Jesus until they were able to kill him, Francis recalled, adding, “These people do not open their hearts to the Holy Spirit.”
Explaining how they “believe that the things of God can be understood only with the head, with ideas, with their own ideas,” the Holy Father emphasized, “they are proud. They think they know everything, and what does not fit into their intelligence is not true [to them]. You can raise a dead man in front of them, but they do not believe.”
“Faith is a gift from God. But faith comes if you are in his people,” he continued, “if you are, right now, in the Church, if you are helped by the sacraments, brothers and sisters, by the assembly; if you believe that this Church is the people of God.”
Pope Francis went on to describe how this second group of people had distanced themselves from God and that “they did not believe in the people of God; they only believed in their own things and thus built a whole system of commandments that chased the people away.”
“They chased people away and would not let them come into the Church. They could not believe. This is the sin of resisting the Holy Spirit.”
Concluding, the Pope recalled the “two groups of people,” noting that there are those who are “gentle, sweet people, humble, open to the Holy Spirit,” whereas the others are “proud, self-sufficient, detached from the people, intellectual aristocrats, who closed their doors and resist the Holy Spirit.”
“This is not just stubbornness,” he said. “It is much more: It is having a hard heart. And this is more dangerous.”
“Let us ask the Lord for the grace of docility to the Holy Spirit to move forward in life, to be creative, to be joyful, because the other people were not joyful,” the Pope prayed, observing that when “there is a lot of seriousness, the Spirit of God is lacking.”
Therefore, we ask “for the grace of obedience and that the Holy Spirit will help us to defend ourselves from this other evil spirit of self-sufficiency, pride, arrogance, closure of the heart to the Holy Spirit.”