He was speaking during the homily at morning Mass in the Casa Santa Marta.
Taking his cue from the Bible reading of the day that speaks of how the children of Israel complained against God during their journey through the desert and of how they objected to the “wretched food” provided, the Pope pointed out that God offers us salvation in a thousand different ways but too often we are incapable of accepting his “divine ways”.
He said that as narrated in the reading from the Book of Numbers the Lord sent in punishment saraph serpents which bit the people and many of them died.
So Moses prayed for the people and obeying the Lord’s command, mounted a bronze serpent on a pole giving salvation to anyone who looked at it after being bitten.
Only Moses’s intercession, and the symbol of the cross on which Christ will die – the Pope said – provides salvation from the poison of the snakes.
And describing the attitude of many Christians today as “spiritually whimsical”, Francis said that we often commit the same kind of error, “becoming sullen and grumbly”.
“How many of us Christians find ourselves ‘poisoned’ by the dissatisfactions of life. Yes: God is good but… we are Christians but… This kind of Christian ends up not opening his heart to God’s Salvation, but always posing conditions. ‘Yes, I want to be saved but in this way…’ This attitude poisons the heart”.
Pope Francis said that to not accept God’s gift in the way it is offered is a sin. It poisons our soul, deprives it of joy. And Jesus – he said – solved this problem by climbing Mount Calvary.
“Jesus himself takes that poison upon himself. This ‘tepidness’ of ‘half-way’ Christians who show enthusiasm at the start of Jesus’ journey only to become dissatisfied on the way. The only way to heal is to look at the Cross, to look at God who takes upon himself our sins: my sin is there”.
How many Christians – the Pope concluded – today “die in the desert of their sorrow, grumbling and not accepting God’s way”.
“Let’s look at the serpent, at the poison, there, in the body of Christ. The poison of all the sins in the world and let us ask for the grace to accept difficult moments. To accept the divine way of salvation, to accept this ‘wretched food’ that the children of Israel lamented... Let’s accept the paths that the Lord leads us on. May this Holy Week – that begins on Sunday – help us to turn away from the temptation to become “Christians yes, but…”.