Pope Francis: Cling to Jesus, not horoscopes or fortunetellers

(iStock photo/Warren-Pender)

VATICAN CITY (CNS)—When passing through the storm of life's difficult moments, Christians must latch on to Christ and not the false sense of security offered by psychics and soothsayers, Pope Francis said.

Speaking to pilgrims before reciting the Angelus Aug. 13, Pope Francis talked about the day's Gospel passage, which recounts the story of Jesus walking on water. Jesus tells St. Peter to come to him, but his lack of faith when walking on the water toward Jesus during a storm leads to him slowly to start sinking in the sea.

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Christians today, Pope Francis said, also can doubt the assurance of Christ's presence when confronting life's "turbulent and hostile waters."

"When we do not cling to the word of the Lord, but consult horoscopes and fortunetellers to have more security, we begin to sink," the pope said.

Although most Romans escape the city during the summer, hundreds of pilgrims still made their way to St. Peter's Square, waving banners and flags while cheering loudly as the pope appeared in the window of the Apostolic Palace.

Pope Francis said the Sunday Gospel reading invites all Christians to reflect on their faith "both as individuals and as an ecclesial community, even the faith of all us here today in the square."

St. Peter's request that Jesus call him, his moment of doubt and his subsequent cry for Jesus to save him, the pope said, "resembles our desire to feel close to the Lord, but also the fear and anguish that accompanies the most difficult moments of our life and of our communities, marked by internal frailty and external difficulty."

"Today's Gospel reminds us that faith in the Lord and in his word doesn't open a path where everything is easy and calm; it doesn't take away life's storms," the pope said. "Faith gives us the security of a presence, Jesus' presence, which pushes us to overcome existential storms, and the assurance of a hand that grabs us to help us face the difficulties, showing us the way even when it is dark."

The image of the boat in troubled waters, he added, also can represent the church, which throughout history has faced storms that "threaten to overwhelm her."

What saves the church is not "courage or the quality of its members," but rather "faith in Christ and his word."

"In short, faith is not an escape from life's problems but sustains it along the journey and gives it meaning," Pope Francis said.

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Tim Donovan
11 months ago

Like St. Peter in the Gospel, as a youngster I called out to God frequently in prayer. Sometimes my prayers were answered, other times not, but as I was taught both by my parents and in school, God as our Creator has a plan for each of us. God knows what us best, so I tried my best not to be disappointed. However, although I attended Mass faithfully and so enjoyed Jesus' presence, when I reached my early teen years I realized I was gay, and primarily desired the presence of men. High school was difficult. I was frequently called a "faggot", by those who correctly guessed my orientation, although I continued to have several good friends and continued to practice the faith ,and did especially well in Theology, Social Studies and English. However, being taunted led to deoression, and like Peter walking on water, I began to doubt that God cared about me and loved me, so I attempted suicide at age 19. Soon after, my best friend told me that his girlfriend was expecting a baby (he was 18, she was 17 and a senior at a Catholic high school). Their difficult circumstances ( being young and unmarried) led me to believe that helping them raise their baby gave my life meaning. My friends were married nine months after their son was born. Still depressed, I did find some joy in frequently babysitting the boy whom I loved as an "uncle." However, I ceased attending Mass for some time, as I had lost much of my faith that the Lord could help me weather the storms of life. My life was admittedly perplexing. I was active in the pro-life movement though I still had occasional feelings of ending my life, though I did have the motivation to attend college and earned a degree in Education. I became a Special Education teacher with severely disabled students, some of whom had behavior disorders. The work was often challenging, but I enjoyed it. I returned to going to Mass faithfully, working hard as a teacher, and babysitting for my friends now two youngsters. Depression still continued, despite medication and therapy, so this was a time when fear accompanied my difficulties in life. I did however overcome my fear enough to disclose that I was gay to my co-workers and my sister whom I was close to in 1994, at age 32 (I'm now 55). But another terrible storm arose when my friend Michele at work ended her life. I learned that she was gay which again made suicide seem like the best choice. After a drug overdose which I survived, I did tell fearfully tell my family about my sexual orientation. While it was some comfort that they accepted and still loved me, I still didn't accept myself. Like most men, I did masturbate at times, but remained celibate. But my faith in God's love left me, and for several years I had promiscuous sex with men. Certainly, I no longer believed that "faith gives us the security of a presence, Jesus' presence...' I desired the
presence of men in the most lustful, carnal ways, not Jesus' presence. Finally, I was able to find a compassionate priest and returned to praying fervently, attending Mass faithfully, and went to the Sacrament of Reconciliation after an absence of many years. I felt much consolation in confessing my sins in detail, not only my sexual sins, I might add. Being a very imperfect Catholic, I have for some months gone to monthly confession, and, as a man who lives in a nursing home/rehabilitation center, although I like all of us try my best to follow God's words and laws, and help my fellow residents and staff as much as I can, I continue to sin, so going to the Sacrament of Reconciliation and then receiving Jesus in the Eucharist makes me feel the "security of a presence, Jesus' presence...showing us the way even when it is dark," as well as experiencing the bright, loving presence of my family, friends, and other residents.

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