Among the themes covered in his early morning homilies this week, Pope Francis preached about the importance of praying courageously, of doing good to all, and how to guard against losing the spiritual salt of one’s faith.
On Monday, he underlined the importance of praying with courage, faith and from the heart. Miracles occur even today, he said, but in order to obtain them, they require “strong prayer” that “wrestles with God” and does not end with a one-time “courtesy” supplication.
He was reflecting on the day’s Gospel reading in which Jesus heals a boy with an evil spirit, and tells the disciples that strong prayer is necessary (interestingly, Pope Francis had appeared to do the same the day before, when he prayed over a seemingly possessed boy in St. Peter’s Square).
He recalled an episode in his native Argentina when a father prayed to the Madonna all night to save his daughter from a life-threatening illness; the next day, the daughter’s fever had gone. Such prayer must “gush from the heart – a courageous prayer that fights for a miracle – not the courtesy prayers, “Oh I’ll pray for you an Our Father, a Hail Mary and then I forget,”” he said. Everyone has a “bit of disbelief” he observed, so we need to pray: “Lord, I believe, help my unbelief.”
For a Christian, true progress lies in humbling himself as Jesus did, Pope Francis said in his Tuesday homily. He also reiterated a common theme: that true power is in service and there is no room for power struggles within the Church.
Reflecting on the day’s Gospel in which the disciples argue who is the greatest among them, the Pope pointed out that power struggles have always existed in the Church, but Jesus taught “by his example [the] power of service.” He came not to be served but to serve, humbling Himself unto death “on a cross for us, to serve us, to save us.”
The world sees someone who has been given a superior job as “promotion”. But Jesus, he said, was promoted to the Cross, to humiliation. “That is true promotion [advancement],” he said, “that which makes us more like Jesus!”
On Wednesday, Pope Francis reminded the faithful present that “doing good to all” is a principle that unites humanity no matter what the differences are, and helps create a friendly encounter which is the basis of peace. The Gospel that day was about the disciples who impeded an outsider and believed he could not do any good outside of their group. Jesus, however, tells them not to stop him but allow him to do good as well.
The disciples are a little intolerant, the Pope said, thinking they alone possessed the truth, and all those who did not could not do any good. But he said this was wrong, and Jesus widens the horizons. The roots of doing good are in all of us, he explained, adding that a closed mind is a wall that leads to war and killing in the name of God. He said the Lord redeemed everyone, including atheists, and that by doing good, atheists and Christians can promote peace and meet together in harmony (he meant on earth and not in heaven as some reports claimed).
On Thursday, the Holy Father called on the faithful to spread the spiritual salt of faith, hope and charity given by the Lord. He warned not to let that salt lose its flavour, and must be given away in order to “spice things up.”
He noted that when salt is used well, one doesn’t notice its taste, but rather an improved flavour of the food. In the Christian life, he said, spiritual salt requires two elements to preserve it: preaching and worship. When preaching the faith with this salt, he said, each person receives it differently, bringing “Christian originality”, in accordance with their own personality and culture, which is not uniformity. But the salt of Christians also needs prayer and adoration if it is to keep its flavour.
“If we do not do this, however – these two things, these two transcendences to give the salt – the salt will remain in the bottle, and we will become ‘museum-piece Christians’,” Francis said.
On Friday, the Pope called on the faithful to pray for two graces: “to endure with patience, and to overcome with love.” Regarding the former, he said the Christian has the strength to suffer and not give up. It’s not easy, he said, but it is “a grace to suffer”, and in times of hardship, “we must ask for [this grace].”
Concerning the latter, he said it is also not easy to overcome with love, when enemies cause us suffering, which is why it is important to believe in Jesus who taught us to love our enemies and pray for those who cause us suffering.
“Defeated Christians,” he said, are those who “don’t forgive their enemies or pray for them”, and so don’t have the grace of “enduring with patience and overcoming with love.” But the many who do “have a patient heart, a heart filled with love” which shows in their “beautiful countenance” and “serene happiness.”
In his homily on Saturday, the Pope said those who draw near to the Church should find the doors open, and not find those who want to control the faith. The day’s Gospel was about Jesus rebuking the disciples who try to remove children being brought to him by others to bless. Francis praised the simple faith of the People of God, saying if you want to know who Mary is, go to a theologian, but to know how to love Mary, go to the People of God “who teach it better.”
He warned against being “controllers of faith”, but instead of becoming “facilitators of the faith of the people.” And to give a hypothetical example, he spoke about a single mother who asks to have her child baptized but is refused because she is not married.
“A closed door! This is not zeal! It is far from the Lord! It does not open doors!,” the Pope said. “Jesus is indignant when he sees these things”, the Pope continued, because those who suffer are “his faithful people, the people that he loves so much.”
So many Christians of goodwill are wrong in this regard, he said, and instead of opening a door, close it of goodwill. “So we ask the Lord that all those who come to the Church find the doors open,” the Pope concluded, “open to meet this love of Jesus. We ask this grace. “