(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis said Mass in the chapel of the Santa Marta residence on Tuesday morning. In remarks following the readings of the day, the Holy Father focused on the simplicity of the Christian life and the Gospel’s call to radical simplicity in life and action.
Christ’s words had a “new” sound to them, as did the authority with which he spoke them – and this was why people followed him in such large numbers. Christ’s words had “the power of salvation” in them. Even so, there were those, who followed him “for the sake of convenience” only, without too much purity of heart, or perhaps with the desire to be “a little better” only. Pope Francis said that little has changed in two thousand years. Even today, many listen to Jesus as did the nine lepers of the Gospel who, “happy” with their newfound health, “forgot” the Lord, who had restored it to them:
“Jesus continued to talk to people and loved the people and He loved the crowd, to the point that He says, ‘these who follow me, that immense crowd, are my mother and my brothers – that’s who they are’. He explains: ‘those who listen to the Word of God, put it into practice’. These are the two conditions in order to follow Jesus: to listen to the word of God, and to put it into practice. This is the Christian life – nothing more. Simple, simple. Maybe we’ve made it a little difficult, with many explanations that no one understands, but the Christian life is thus: listening to the Word of God and practicing it.”
That is why – as described in the passage from the Gospel of Luke (8:19-21) that was read at Mass – Jesus replies to those who reported that her relatives were looking for him by saying, “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and put it into practice.” The point is not to hear casually, but to bend our ears – really to listen to the word of God, which we find in the Gospel – the pages of which need to be heard, and heeded, rather than merely read by rote “Listening to the Word of God,” said the Holy Father, “means reading it and then asking, ‘What does this say to me? How does this speak to my heart? What is God saying to me, with this word?” This, said Pope Francis, is a life-changing line of questioning:
“Every time we do this – each time we open the Gospel and read a passage and ask ourselves: ‘Is God speaking to me with this? Is He saying something to me?’ – and if He is saying something, what is it that He is saying? This is [what it means] to listen to the Word of God: to listen with your ears and hear with your heart. Open your heart to the Word of God. The enemies of Jesus heard the word of Jesus, but were there in order to try to find a mistake, to make Him slip, so that He would lose His authority. They never asked themselves, though: ‘What is God saying to me in this Word?’ God not only speaks to all: yes, he does speak to all of us – but He also speaks to to every one of us – to each of us. The Gospel was written for each of us.”
The Holy Father went on to say that putting into practice what we have heard is “is not easy” and that “it is easier to live a mellow life without worrying about the exigencies of the Word of God.” He went on to remind the gathered faithful that the Commandments and the Beatitudes are sure guides for anyone who would really attempt to understand the requirements the Gopsel places on us and act accordingly – always counting on Jesus’ help. “[The Lord],” Pope Francis concluded, “ “is merciful and forgives all,” and waits for everyone, “because He is patient.”:
“Jesus receives everyone, even those who go to hear the Word of God and then betray Him. Think of Judas. ‘Friend,’ He says, in that moment where Judas betrays him. The Lord is always sowing His word, and asks [us] only [to have] an open heart [with which] to listen and willingness to put it into practice. For this reason, then prayer today, which is that of the Psalm [119:35]: ‘Lead me Lord in the path of thy commandments,’ that is, the path of your Word, that I may learn with your guidance to put it into practice.”