In this morning’s mass in St. Martha’s House, Francis spoke about those who “masquerade as Christians, and sin by being excessively superficial or overly rigid”
Andrea Tornielli of Vatican Insider
True Christians are joyful people who rest their faith on the rock of Christ, but the temptation has always existed to be Christian without Christ, “masquerading as Christians, and sin by being excessively superficial or overly rigid.” As it does every morning, Vatican Radio published the content of Francis’ brief homily for his daily mass in St. Martha’s House. The Pope’s homilies offer striking and eye-opening snapshots of the Church in the world today and show the weakness of certain consolidated mindsets.
The Pope commented on the famous passage in the Gospel of Matthew that talks about “the houses built on sand and rock.” People are either “rigid and sad. Or happy but with no idea of Christian joy.” “In the history of the Church there have been two classes of Christians: Christians of words – those” Lord, Lord, Lord “- and Christians of action, in truth. There has always been the temptation to live our Christianity not on the rock that is Christ,” Francis said.
“The only one who gives us the freedom to say ‘Father’ to God is Christ, our rock. He is the only one who sustains us in difficult times, no? As Jesus said: the rain falls, rivers overflow, winds blow, but the rock is safe, words, the words take flight, they are not needed. But this is the temptation of these Christians of words, of a Christianity without Jesus, a Christianity without Christ. And this has happened and is happening today in the Church: being Christians without Christ. Pope Francis went on to analyze these “Christians of words,” revealing their specific characteristics. There is a first type – which he defined as “gnostic -“who instead of loving the rock, loves beautiful words “and therefore lives floating on the surface of the Christian life,” Vatican Radio reports.
The second type, Pope Francis called “pelagian”. These Christians lead “a staid and starched lifestyle;” they “stare at their feet,” the Pope added ironically. “And this temptation exists today. Superficial Christians who believe, yes, God, yes Christ, but not ‘everywhere’: Jesus Christ is not the one who gives them their foundation. They are the modern gnostics. The temptation of gnosticism.” “A Christianity without Jesus, a Christianity without Christ.”
Then there are those who take Christian life so seriously that they end up confusing solidity and firmness with rigidity. “They are rigid! This think that being Christian means being in perpetual mourning.” The Pope commented on how many of these kinds of Christians there are. “They are not Christians, they disguise themselves as Christians.” “They do not know – he added – what the Lord is, they do not know what the rock is, do not have the freedom of Christians. To put it simply ‘they have no joy.”
“The former have a ‘superficial’ happiness. The others live in perpetual state of mourning, but do not know what Christian joy is,” Pope Francis continued.
“They do not know how to enjoy the life that Jesus gives us, for they know not to talk to Jesus. They do not feel that they rest on Jesus, with that firmness which the presence of Jesus gives. And they not only have no joy, they have no freedom either. They are the slaves of superficiality, of this life widespread, and the slaves of rigidity, they are not free. The Holy Spirit has no place in their lives. It is the Spirit who gives us the freedom! Today, the Lord calls us to build our Christian life on Him, the rock, the One who gives us freedom, the One who sends us the Spirit, that keeps us going with joy, on His journey, following His proposals.”
French philosopher Rémi Brague and former Professor of Arabic Philosophy at the Sorbonne in Paris and the Ludwig-Maximilian University in Munich commented on similar themes about ten years ago. Brague’s work is the key to interpreting the 2013 publication of “Ratzinger Schulerkreis” about “God and secularisation”, Ratzinger’s annual meeting with former students. This year will be the first time he will not be attending.
In an interview Brague gave in 2004 to monthly Italian Catholic magazine 30 Giorni, he explained the meaning of “cristianisti” (Christianists), a neologism he had used for the first time twelve years earlier. This term explained a certain way of conceiving the relationship between Christian faith and western civilisation. According to the French professor, those who believe in God are Christians, while those who exalt and defend Christianity and Christian civilization are “cristianisti”. Brague criticised the latter, recalling that “Christianity is not interested in itself. It is interested in Christ. Neither is Christ interested in himself: He is interested in God, whom he refers to as “Father” and nothing else. And he is interested in humans, to whom he suggests a new way of accessing God.”