Father Stefan reflects on Pope Francis ‘Joy of the Gospel’ No to spiritual worldliness

Pope Francis writes, “Spiritual worldliness, which hides behind the appearance pf piety and even love for the Church, consist in seeking not the Lord’s Glory but human glory and personal well-being. It is what the Lord reprimanded the Pharisees for: ‘How can you believe, who receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that come from the only God.'(Jn 5:44) It takes on many forms, depending on the kind of persons and groups into which it seep. Since it is always based on a carefully cultivated appearances, it is not always linked to outward sin; from without, everything appears as it should be. But is were to seep into the Church, ‘it would be infinitely more disastrous than any other worldliness which is simply mortal.” 

I remember reading a book and the author said, “Do not think that the pharisees just lived 2000 years ago. There are still pharisees in the church today. Than the author asked a question to the reader, ‘Are You a pharisees?’ Of all the groups that opposed Jesus it was the pharisees that opposed Jesus the most. Jesus says them, “You are white wash tombs, beautiful to look at but full of dead man bones.” It is true that some pharisees followed Jesus, even helped him. 

The pharisees were the protectors of the law and orthodoxy, but they became like the Elder Brother who shunned going into the party when the Father embraced the younger son.

Pope Francis writes, “This worldliness can be fueled in two deeply interrelated ways. One is the attraction of gnosticism, a purely subjective faith whose only interest is certain experience or a set of ideas and bits of information which are meant to console and enlighten, but which ultimately keep one imprisoned in his or own thoughts and feeling.” This worldliness can mask itself in this statement, Jesus yes Church no. If our faith is not rooted in the Church than it is so easy to live by our own inner lights. If we live by our own inner lights than we will find ourselves far from Christ. Jesus is found in the Church. The Church is the body of Christ. 

We read in Ephesians (5:25-32), “Christ loved the Church and gave himself up for her, in order to make her holy by cleansing her with the washing of water by the word, so as to present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or anything of the kind-yes so that she may be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as they do their own bodies, He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hates his own body, but he nourishes and tenderly care for it, just as Christ does for the Church, because we are members of his body. ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’ This is a great mystery, and I am applying it to Christ and the Church.” 

Pope Francis writes, “The other is the self-absorbed promethean neopelagianism of those who ultimately trust only in their own powers and feel superior to others because they observe certain rules or remain intransigently faithful to a particular Catholic style from the past. A supposed soundness of doctrine or discipline leads to a narcissistic and authoritarian elitism, whereby instead of opening the door to grace, one exhausts his energies in inspecting and verifying….It is impossible to think that a genuine evangelizing thrust could emerge from these adulterated forms of Christianity.” 

When Pope Benedict allowed the extraordinary form, he said the Church did not end in 1960 nor did it begin in 1960. Not everything can be found in Cannon Law. It is not uncommon for priests to endlessly debate the finer points of liturgy. Pope Francis said in a recent interview, “A good leader is one who is comfortable with not having all the answers. I fear the leader who has all the answers.” 

May we make this prayer of Pope Francis are own, “God save us from a worldly Church with superficial spiritual and pastoral trapping. This stifling worldliness can only be healed by breathing in the pure air of the Holy Spirit who frees us from self-centeredness cloaked in an outward religiosity bereft of God. Let us not allow ourselves to be robbed of the Gospel.”



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