VATICAN CITY — It is the saints — not the hypocrites — who carry the Church forward, Pope Francis said Thursday, cautioning that there is no middle ground on the path to heaven.
“Jesus says: ‘Whoever is not with me is against me.’ And there is no compromising. You are either on the path of love or on the path of hypocrisy,” the Pope told attendees of his March 12 daily Mass, held in the Vatican’s St. Martha guesthouse.
Reiterating a theme from the earliest addresses of his papacy, the Holy Father told participants that the only options for a Christian are to either let oneself be loved by God’s mercy or to “do as you please, according to your own heart that hardens, day by day, along this path.”
“Whoever is not with me is against me; There is no third choice to be made. Either you are a saint or you take the other route,” the Pope reiterated, saying that the person who chooses his own way will not only “lose out,” but does something worse: “He wastes and wrecks. He is corrupt, and he corrupts.”
Pope Francis centered his reflections on the day’s readings, first in the Book of Jeremiah, which spoke of a disobedient people who embraced evil even after God gave them everything, and then how Jesus in the Gospel of Luke was accused of casting out demons with demons when he freed a possessed man.
When we look at the history of God, it is as if “God was weeping,” Francis said, and he pointed out that Jesus himself wept when he looked at Jerusalem before his passion and death.
Jesus wept, he said, because in his heart he held this history “where faithfulness had disappeared.”
If we follow our own will, “our heart hardens and becomes of stone. And the word of the Lord cannot penetrate. Thus the people get more and more distant,” the Pope said, noting that each person runs this risk.
Francis then turned to the Gospel reading, saying that the accusation of Jesus as someone who drives out demons with the power of other demons is a prime example of this hardened heart that is closed to the voice of God.
He said the scene is one typical of the “lawmakers,” who think that life is reduced to the following of laws they themselves create.
“This has also happened in the history of the Church!” Francis observed, and he drew attention to the example of “poor Joan of Arc,” who, although she was eventually canonized a saint, was accused of being a heretic and was burned at the stake.
Throughout history, God always sent prophets to tell his people that he loved them, while in the Church today the Lord sends us the saints, he said, explaining that they are the ones who sustain the Church, rather than the powerful or the hypocrites.
Saints, he said, “are those who are not afraid to let themselves be caressed by the mercy of God. That’s why the saints are men and women who understand pain, suffering and human misery, and they accompany the people of God. They do not despise the people.”
Francis encouraged attendees, especially during Lent, to ask themselves an essential question: “Do I listen to the voice of the Lord or do I do what I please?”