In his homily at Mass in the Casa Santa Marta on Thursday, Pope Francis warned against letting our hearts wander unwittingly into apostasy.
Pope Francis reflected on the First Reading (1 Kgs 11:4-13), which tells of the “apostasy of Solomon” as he turns away from the Lord in his old age.
“When Solomon was old his wives had turned his heart to strange gods,” the passage says of King David’s son.
Slow slide into apostasy
Pope Francis said King Solomon began as a “good boy”, who asked the Lord for wisdom and received it. Judges, and even the Queen of Sheba in Africa, came bearing gifts because they had heard of his wisdom.
At that time, said the Pope, it was possible to have more than one wife, even though, he explained, that did not mean it was licit to be “a womanizer”.
But Solomon’s heart became weak not because he married several women, but because they came from other peoples who served other gods. He fell into “a trap” by letting his wives convince him to adore their idols, “entering into paganism”.
“His wasn’t an apostasy from one day to the next,” said Pope Francis. “It was a slow apostasy.” King Solomon did not just sin once but “slid” into sin.
“The women led his heart astray, and the Lord rebuked him: ‘You turned away your heart.’ This happens in our own lives. None of us is a criminal; none of us commits great sins like David did with the wife of Uriah.
“But wherein lies the danger? Letting ourselves slide slowly, because it is an anesthetized fall. You don’t even realize it, but slowly you slip. Things get relativized, and faithfulness to God is lost.
“These women were from other peoples – they had their own gods – and how often do we forget the Lord and begin to deal with other gods: money, vanity, pride. But this is done slowly, and without the grace of God everything is lost.”
Beware of worldliness
Pope Francis then recalled Psalm 106, to underline how “mingling with the nations” and serving their idols means becoming worldly and pagan.
“For us this slippery slide in life is directed toward worldliness. This is the grave sin: ‘Everyone is doing it. Don’t worry about it; obviously it’s not ideal, but…’
“We justify ourselves with these words, at the price of losing our faithfulness to the one and only God. They are modern idols.
Let us consider this sin of worldliness, of losing the authenticity of the Gospel, the authenticity of the Word of God, and the love of God who gave His life for us. There is no way to maintain a good relationship with God and with the devil.”
The love of God will save us
Concluding his homily, Pope Francis invited us to ask the Lord for the grace to stop ourselves when we notice that our heart has begun to slip away from Him.
“Let us ask the Lord for the grace to understand when our heart begins to weaken and to slide, so that we can stop. His grace and love will stop that slide if we ask in prayer.”
(Source: CD/Vatican News)
“Christian life has its best expression in mercy”: Pope prays in General Audience for Syria, coronavirus victims
Meanwhile, in the General Audience Wednesday 12th in the Paul VI Hall in the Vatican, the Pope prayed for “beloved and martyred Syria… bleeding for years”, and for the victims of the “very cruel sickness” of the coronavirus in China.
Full text of the Holy Father’s Catechesis
Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!
We have undertaken the journey in the Beatitudes and today we pause on the second: “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”
In the Greek language, in which the Gospel is written, this Beatitude is expressed with a verb that isn’t the passive — in fact, the Blessed don’t suffer this mourning — but in the active: “they are afflicted.” They mourn but from within. It’s an attitude that became central in Christina spirituality and that the Desert Fathers, the first monks of history, called “penthos,” an interior sorrow that opens to a relationship with the Lord and with one’s neighbor — to a renewed relationship with the Lord and with one’s neighbor.
In the Scriptures, this mourning can have two aspects: the first is for the death or the suffering of someone. The other aspect is the tears for sin — for one’s own sin, when the heart bleeds for having offended God and one’s neighbor. Hence, it’s about loving the other in such a way as to bind oneself to him or her to share his pain.
There are persons that remain distant, take a step back. Instead, it’s important that others break through our hearts.
I have spoken often of the gift of tears, and how precious it is.
Can one love coldly? Can one love out of function, out of duty? Certainly not; there are the afflicted to console, but sometimes there are also the consoled to be afflicted, to awaken the people that are unable to be moved by others’ pain.
Mourning, for instance, is a bitter path, but it can be useful to open the eyes on life and on the sacred and irreplaceable value of every person, and in that moment one realizes how brief time is.
There is a second meaning of this paradoxical Beatitude: to weep for sin. It’s necessary to make a distinction here: there are those that get angry because they were wrong, but this is pride.
Instead, there are those who weep for the harm done, for the good omitted, for the betrayal of the relationship with God. This is the sorrow for not having loved, which flows from having others’ life at heart.
Here one weeps because one doesn’t correspond to the Lord, who loves us so much, and the thought saddens one for the good not done. This is the sense of sin. They say: “I have wounded him that I love,” and this pains one to the point of tears. God be blessed if these tears come!
This is the subject of one’s errors to be faced — difficult but vital. We think of Saint Peter’s tears, which led him to a new and much truer love: it’s a crying that purifies, that renews.
Peter looked at Jesus and wept: his heart was renewed.
As opposed to Judas, who didn’t accept his having erred and, poor thing, committed suicide. It’s a gift of God to understand sin; it’s a work of the Holy Spirit. On our own, we can’t understand sin. It’s a grace for which we must pray. Lord, that I may understand the evil I’ve done or that I can do. This is a very great gift and, after having understood this, the weeping of repentance comes.
One of the early monks, Ephrem the Syrian, says that a face bathed by tears is unspeakably beautiful (Cf. Ascetic Address). The beauty of repentance, the beauty of weeping, the beauty of contrition!
As ever, Christian life has its best expression in mercy.
Wise and blessed is he that accepts the pain linked to love, because he will receive the consolation of the Holy Spirit that is the tenderness of God, who forgives and corrects.
God always forgives: let’s not forget this. God always forgives, even the most awful sins, always.
The problem lies in us, who get tired of asking for pardon. We close ourselves in ourselves and don’t ask for forgiveness. This is the problem, but He is there to forgive. If we always keep present that God ”does not deal with us according to our sins, nor requite us according to our iniquities” (Psalm 103:10), we live in mercy and in compassion, and love appears in us.
May the Lord grant us to love in abundance, to love with a smile, with closeness, with service and also with tears.
Greeting in Italian
A warm welcome goes to the Italian-speaking faithful. In particular, I greet the participants in the pilgrimage of the devotees of the Holy House of Loreto Shrine, with the Archbishop, Monsignor Fabio Dal Cin; and those of the Archdiocese of Trani-Barletta-Bisceglie — these are noisy! They are enthusiastic! — and of the Coldiretti of San Ferdinando of Puglia, accompanied by the Archbishop, Monsignor Leonardo D’Ascenzo.
Moreover, I greet the parish groups and the educational institutions.
Finally, I greet the young people, the elderly, the sick and the newlyweds. May the Lord always support you with His grace, so that you can be constant in hope, entrusting every day to God’s Providence.
The Holy Father’s appeal for Syria and China
I would like us all to pray at this moment for beloved and martyred Syria. So many families, so many elderly, children must flee from the war. Syria has been bleeding for years. Let us pray for Syria.
Let us also pray for our Chinese brothers that are suffering this very cruel sickness. May the way of healing be found as soon as possible.
(Source: ZENIT; translation: Virginia M. Forrester)