Pope: No to ecclesial elites who privatize the faith: 'But there’s a danger of forgetting that He saved us individually but at the same time as part of his people or community.'

January 29, 2015

Santa Marta

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Pope Francis says ecclesial elites who form cliques and scorn others are privatizing the faith and not following the way of Jesus. His words came during his homily at morning Mass on Thursday (29th January) celebrated in the Santa Marta residence. 

The Pope’s homily was a reflection on the need for Christians to follow Jesus in the way that He wants and not to follow incorrect models such as privatizing our faith. 

“It’s true, Jesus has saved us all, but not in a general fashion. All of us, each one with their name and surname. And this is our personal salvation. I am truly saved, the Lord looked at me, gave his life for me, opened this door, this new life for me and each of us can say ‘For me.’ But there’s a danger of forgetting that He saved us individually but at the same time as part of his people or community. His people. The Lord always saves his people. From the moment he calls Abraham and promises to make them his people. And the Lord saves us as part of this community. That’s why the writer of this Letter (to the Hebrews) tells us: ‘Let us be concerned for each other.’ There is no salvation solely for me. If that’s the way I understand salvation, I’m mistaken and going along the wrong path. The privatization of salvation is the wrong path.”

Pope Francis explained that there are three criteria for not privatizing salvation: ‘faith in Jesus who purifies us,’ hope that ‘stirs us to look at his promises and go forward’ and charity: namely taking care of each other, to encourage us all to practice charity and good works.’

“And when I’m in a parish, in a community—or whatever it is—I am there, I can privatize salvation and be there only on a small social level. But in order not to privatize salvation, I need to ask myself if I speak and communicate the faith, speak and communicate hope, speak, practice and communicate charity. If within a particular community there is no communication between people and no encouragement is given to everybody to practice these three virtues, the members of that community have privatized their faith. Each of them is looking for his or her personal salvation, not the salvation of everybody, the salvation of their people.  And Jesus saved all of us but as part of his people, within a Church.” The Pope pointed out that the author of the Letter to the Hebrews gave some very important practical advice: ‘Do not absent yourself from your own assemblies, as some do.’ He said this happens when we’re at such assemblies, in the parish or community and we judge the others, when there’s this kind of scorn towards the others. This, Pope Francis stressed, is not the new and living way of Jesus.

“They scorn the others, they stay away from the community as a whole, they stay away from the people of God, they have privatized salvation: salvation is for me and my small group, but not for all the people of God. And this is a very serious mistake. It’s what we see and call: ‘the ecclesial elites.’ When these small groups are created within the community of God’s people, these people believe they are being good Christians and also are acting in good faith maybe, but they are small groups who have privatized salvation.”

Reiterating that God saves us as part of a people, not as part of an elite group, Pope Francis concluded his homily by urging us to consider whether we have a tendency to privatize our faith in this way instead of being close to the people of God and practicing the three virtues of faith, hope and charity.  

Readings for January 29, 2015

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Bruce Snowden
2 years 8 months ago
With the greatest respect, readingHoly Father Francis' homily on "ecclesial elites" made me think of the following joke. A newcomer to heaven was being shown around by St Peter. Passing a section beautiful liturgy was in progress and to the new comer St. Peter said, "That's where Episcopalians spend heaven." Another section loud praise with clapping hands were heard and St. Peter said to the new arrival, "That's where Fundamentalists spend their heaven." Walking further St, Peter and guest heard lots of noise and numbers being called. Sheltering the newcomer St. Peter said, "Shhh, quiet, that's where the Catholics play Bingo and they think they are the only ones here!" Well, that's the way it used to be, Right? With this, another model came to mind - Cardinal Raymond Burke. If ever there was an ecclesial elitist His Eminence surely fits the mold. I'm sure he doesn't hold Pope Francis in high regard, aligned more to men like Pope Leo X who famously said, "God has given us the Papacy, let us enjoy it!" In the meantime the Catholic Church was suffering Reformation ravaging, some necessary to destroy pompous elitism of the day, but going far beyond what the well-meaning and even holy Reformers I would suggest, had in mind, I guess it's true, "A s the tree is bent, so it grows." As for myself, I pray to become more aware of the practice of Faith, Hope, Charity within the community of the Church, the spiritual inoculation against the viral infection of ecclesial elitism.

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