Pope Francis warns against those who resist the Holy Spirit with ‘so-called fidelity to the law’

One must be docile to the Holy Spirit, said Pope Francis Thursday at Mass in his residence of Casa Santa Marta, and one must not resist him. Pope Francis warned against those who resist the Spirit with "so-called fidelity to the law" and invites the faithful to pray for the grace of the docility to the Spirit.

Philip evangelized the Ethiopian, a senior official of Queen Candace. Pope Francis was inspired by this fascinating account in the Acts of the Apostles, in the first reading of today, focusing his attention on the docility to the Holy Spirit.


The protagonist of this meeting, Pope Francis noted, is in fact not so much Philip, nor even the Ethiopian, but just the Spirit. "It is him who does things. It is the Spirit who gives birth to and grows the church.”

"In days past, the church has shown us how there can be a drama of resisting the Spirit: closed, hard, foolish hearts resisting the Spirit. We’ve seen things—the healing of the lame man by Peter and John at the Beautiful Gate of the Temple; the words and the great things Stephen was doing … but they were closed off to these signs of the Spirit and resisted the Spirit. They were seeking to justify this resistance with a so-called fidelity to the law, that is, to the letter of the law."

In referring to the reading, Pope Francis said that "the church proposes the opposite: no resistance to the Spirit, but docility to the Spirit, which is precisely the attitude of the Christian.” He continued: “Being docile to the Spirit, this docility is the yes that the Spirit may act and move forward to build up the church.” Here, he added, is Philip, one of the Apostles, “busy as all bishops are, and this day surely he had his plan to work.” But the Spirit tells him to leave what he has planned and go to the Ethiopian—"and he obeyed." Pope Francis then outlined the meeting between Philip and the Ethiopian, in which the Apostle explains the Gospel and its message of salvation. The Spirit, he said, "was working in the heart of the Ethiopian," offered him "the gift of faith and this man felt something new in his heart." And at the end he asks to be baptized, being docile to the Holy Spirit.

"Two men,” the pope said, “one an evangelist and one who knew nothing of Jesus, but the Spirit had sowed a healthy curiosity, not the curiosity of gossip." And in the end the eunuch goes his way with joy, "the joy of the Spirit, in the docility of the Spirit."

"We have heard, these past days, about resistance to the Spirit; and today we have an example of two men who were docile to the voice of the Spirit. And the sign of this is joy. Docility to the Spirit is a source of joy. “But I would like to do something, this … but I feel the Lord ask me to do something else. Joy I will find there, where there is the call of the Spirit!”

A beautiful prayer asking for this docility, the pope revealed, we may find in the First Book of Samuel, the prayer which the priest Eli suggests to the young Samuel, who during the night heard a voice calling to him: "Speak Lord, your servant is listening."

"This is a beautiful prayer that we can always pray: 'Speak, Lord, because I am listening.' The prayer asking for this docility to the Holy Spirit and with this docility to carry forward the church, to be instruments of the Spirit so that the church can move forward. 'Speak, Lord, because your servant is listening'. We should pray this many times a day: when we have a doubt, when we do not know what to do, or when we want simply to pray. And with this prayer we ask for the grace of docility to the Holy Spirit."

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.
Bruce Snowden
2 years 9 months ago
When charismatic prayer was introduced into the Church, I think in the 70s, I didn’t at all like it. All that loud singing, praying and swaying was so contrary to the way I was taught to pray, which was quietly. Only the priest was heard praying “in a foreign tongue to an unknown God,” as a priest once told me. He didn’t like Latin! Nowadays it seems it’s laity who do all the talking, while clergy listen. The better way would be to be inclusive, allowing the whole Church to speak as the Spirit prompts. Pope Francis is on that track urging all to be “docile” to the gentle cooing of the Spirit Dove. One day returning from work, the moment I put the door key into its lock, I could hear our then two little ones jumping around and on entering see them swinging their arms joyfully like charismatics do, because Daddy was home! Then it struck me, “Unless you become like little children …” singing and swaying joyfully in “Abba’s” (Daddy’s) house, “you shall not enter the Kingdom.” And I began to appreciate charismatic prayer. They behaved like children, happy to be with Daddy God, enthusiastically and in song acknowledging His Presence. Utter simplicity and loving. So in docility to the Spirit Dove, I began attending charismatic services, doing whatever they did. Once at an evening Mass the priest told the congregation not to be alarmed if strange things happened and strange things like people swooning in their pews, falling to the floor, “Resting in the Lord” it’s called did happen. Something happened to me too! As I looked upon the Elevated Host at the Consecration something like an electric charge went through me from head to feet, not frightening but very calming. To this day I don’t know what happened, but something robed in such calmness does point to a reality other than earthly. Someday I hope to understand what gift was given. My last encounter with public charismatic prayer came at a Healing Service. The crowded Church was soon lined with people called to participate in the “laying on of hands” and I joined the line. People prayed-over were falling to the floor, peacefully asleep. As my turn came I felt uncomfortable about the possibly of falling on the floor and looking foolish, so as a hand was placed on me and prayer began, I felt myself drifting backwards by the “pull” of the Spirit but I deliberately resisted the invisible pull and I didn’t fall. Back in the pew I chided myself for having resisted the pull of the Spirit, having done so I think through the sin of Human Respect, which prevents one from doing good, or the right thing, because of what people might say, or to save self from looking like a jerk! I made a promise never to do that again and I won’t. God only knows what Grace intended for me was with-held, a deficit still remembered regretfully. Holy Father Francis’ homily on “docility to the Spirit” appeals very much to me and thankfully I have become over the years more attentive to the quiet movements of God and encourage that we all do as Pope Francis has asked. .


The latest from america

I have found that praying 15 minutes every day is an important form of self-care.
Michael R. Lovell January 16, 2019
Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl, Washington's retired archbishop, apologized Jan. 15 for what he called a "lapse of memory," clarifying that he knew of at least one abuse allegation against former U.S. Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, but he had "forgotten" about it.
Pope Francis meets with the leadership of the Chilean bishops' conference at the Vatican on Jan. 14 to talk about the sex abuse crisis affecting the church in Chile. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)
The pope wants the February summit “to be an assembly of pastors, not an academic conference—a meeting characterized by prayer and discernment, a catechetical and working gathering.”
Gerard O’ConnellJanuary 16, 2019
This week on “Inside the Vatican,” we explore the topic of women deacons.
Colleen DulleJanuary 16, 2019