Father Stefan reflects on Pope Francis, ‘Joy of the Gospel’ Temptations Faced by Pastoral Workers

Pope Francis writes, ” No to selfishness and spiritual sloth.Today we are seeing in my pastoral workers, including consecrated men and women, an inordinate concern for their personal freedom and relaxation, which leads them to see their work as a mere appendage to their life, as if it were not part of their very identity. At the same time, the spiritual life comes to be identified with a few religious exercises which can offer a certain comfort but which do not encourage encounter with others, engagement with the world, or a passion for evangelization. As a result, one can observe in many agents of evangelization, even though they pray, a heightened individualism, a crisis of identity, and a cooling of fervor. These are three evils which fuel one another…It has become very difficult today to find trained parish catechists willing to persevere in this work for many years.”

Pope Francis says, “No to selfishness and spiritual sloth.” Emmerich Vogt O.P. in his book, ‘The Freedom to Love’, writes, ” Sloth has to do with giving into hopeless and loss of meaning, which can manifest itself in a lack of concern for the well-being of others. St Thomas emphasizes sloth’s unhappiness with the demands of love. Because he gives into an oppressive sorrow, the slothful person wants to do nothing. he simply indulges this sorrow in a life that neglects the pursuit of goodness. According to St Thomas, the root of despair is to found in sloth, wherein a person fails to believe in God’s loving concern about him. Sloth can so oppress a person that he neglects his duties and fails to seek God’s will in his life. Sloth is one of the ways we can sin against God’s Love because it goes so far to refuse the joy that comes from God and to be repelled by the goodness and even the grace of God.”

When I read this it reminded me of something that I just read in one of Jacques Philippe books. He was talking about being called to life. He gave the example of a woman with 5 children and her husband just left her and the kids one day. God said to the woman, “If you feel sorry for yourself your kids will grow up emotionally stunted.” When God said this to her she realized she now had a responsibility to her children and she stop feeling sorry for herself. She became the emotional rock of the family. If you were this woman how easy it might have been to give into sloth? 

Pope Francis writes, “And so the biggest threat of all gradually takes shape, ‘the gray pragmatism of the daily life of the church, in which all appears to proceed normally, while in reality faith is wearing down and degenerating into small-mindedness. A tomb psychology thus develops and slowly transform Christians into mummies in a museum. Disillusioned with reality, with the church, and with themselves, they experience a constant temptation to cling to a faint melancholy, lacking in hope, which seized the heart like ‘the most precious of the devil’s potions.’ For all of this, I repeat: let us not allow ourselves to be robbed of the joy of evangelization.” 

So many parishes run like a clock. Everything is working perfectly. Everything is covered. But can this also be, ‘the gray pragmatism of the daily life of the church, in which all appears to proceed normally, which in reality faith is wearing down and degenerating into small-mindedness?’

We all need to let God surprise us. Maybe we need to allow God to shake things up in our parishes, if for no other reason than to remind us that we are not masters of the parish. Jesus is the Lord of the parish.

Prayer by Father Stefan

Jesus I give you permission to shake me up. Jesus I give you permission to shake up things in my parish. Holy Spirit helps us to learn once again that it is not my agenda, my plans that are the most important thing. Holy Spirit teach us again that everything that we do in this parish is to glorify Jesus. We don’t want to proceed normally we want You Jesus to Surprise us. Jesus Surprise me Today.

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