May 15, 2015
Communities that are fearful and without joy are sick, they are not Christian communities. That was the message of Pope Francis at his morning Mass at the Casa Santa Marta.
“Fear” and “joy” – those are the two words of the liturgy of the day. Fear, the Pope said, “is an attitude that harms us. It weakens us, it diminishes us. It even paralyzes us.” A person who is afraid “does nothing, doesn’t know what to do.” He is focused on himself, so that nothing bad will happen.” Fear “brings you to a self-centred selfishness and paralyzes you.” He continued, “A fearful Christian is a person who has not understood the message of Jesus”:
“This is why Jesus says to Paul: ‘Do not be afraid. Continue to speak.’ Fear is not a Christian attitude. It is an attitude, we could say, of a caged animal, without freedom, who does not have the freedom to look ahead, to create something, to do good… no, always: ‘No, but this is dangerous, there is something else, something else…’ And this is a vice. It is the fear of doing evil.”
“Do not be afraid, and ask for the grace of courage, the courage of the Holy Spirit that He sends us”:
“There are fearful communities, that always go on the safe side: ‘No, no, we aren’t doing this… No, no, this can’t be done, this can’t be done.’ It seems they have written on the gateway: ‘Forbidden.’ Everything is forbidden because of fear. And you enter into this community and the air is stale, because it is a sick community. Fear makes a community sick. The lack of courage makes a community sick.”
Fear, the Pope explained, must be distinguished from the “fear of the Lord,” which is holy. The fear or awe of adoration before the Lord, the fear of God is a virtue. But the fear of God does not diminish, does not weaken, does paralyze: it carries us forward, to the mission the Lord gives us.
The other word of the liturgy is “joy.” “No one can take away your joy” Jesus tells us. And, the Pope said, “in the saddest moments, in moments of sorrow” joy “brings peace.” Instead “a happy event, in a moment of sorrow becomes obscure, becomes dark. A Christian without joy is not Christian. A Christian who continually lives in sadness is not Christian. And a Christian who, in the moment of trial, of illness, of so many difficulties, loses peace – something is lacking in him.”
“Christian joy is not simply enjoyment, is not a fleeting cheerfulness. Christian joy is a gift, it is a gift of the Holy Spirit. And having a heart that is always joyful because the Lord has triumphed, the Lord reigns, the Lord is at the right hand of the Father, the Lord has looked upon me and called me and has given me His grace, and has made me a Son of the Father… That is Christian joy. A Christian lives in joy.”
And, too, a “community without joy” is a community that is sick. Perhaps it would be a “fun-loving community” but “it has grown sick with worldliness, because it does not have the joy of Jesus Christ. And thus, “when the Church is fearful and when the Church does not receive the joy of the Holy Spirit, the Church is sick, the communities are sick, the faithful are sick.” Pope Francis concluded with this prayer: “Lift us up, O Lord, to Christ seated at the right hand of the Father… raise our spirit. Take away our every fear, and grant us joy and peace.”