Pope at Santa Marta: Faith, Not Cold Doctrine, Brings Joy: 'The center of the law is love, love for God and neighbor.'

March 26, 2015

Santa Marta

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It is not “cold doctrine” that brings joy, but faith, and the hope of meeting Jesus. He who cannot rejoice is an unhappy believer: that’s what the pope said in his homily at Thursday morning’s Mass in Santa Marta in the Vatican.

Abraham’s joy upon hearing that as God promised, he may become a father inspired Pope Francis’ reflection Thursday. Commenting on the day’s readings, Pope Francis remarked that Abraham is old, as well as his wife Sara, but he believes and opens "his heart to hope" and is "full of consolation." Jesus reminds the doctors of the law that Abraham "rejoiced" to see his day "and was full of joy":

"And that's what these doctors of the law did not understand. They did not understand the joy of promise; they did not understand the joy of hope; they did not understand the joy of the alliance. They did not understand! They did not know how to rejoice, because they had lost the sense of joy that only comes from faith. Our father Abraham was able to rejoice because he had faith; he was justified in the faith. These others had lost faith. They were doctors of the law, but without faith! But what’s more: they had lost the law! Because the center of the law is love, love for God and neighbor. "

The pope then continued:

"It’s only that they had a system of precise doctrines and that they clarified each and every day that no one touch them. Men without faith, without law, attached to doctrines that also become an attitude of casuistry: you can pay the tax to Caesar, can you not? This woman, who has been married seven times: when she goes to Heaven will she be the bride of those seven men? This casuistry… This was their world, an abstract world, a world without love, a world without faith, a world without hope, a world without trust, a world without God. And for this, they could not rejoice!"

Perhaps, the doctors of the law—the pope observes ironically—could also have fun, "but without joy," indeed "with fear." "This is life without faith in God, without trust in God, without hope in God." And "their heart was petrified." It's sad, the pope stressed, to be a believer without joy—and joy is not there when there is no faith, when there is no hope, when there is no law—but only the regulations, cold doctrine":

"The joy of faith, the joy of the Gospel is the touchstone of the faith of a person. Without joy that person is not a true believer. Let's go home, but before that, we celebrate here with these words of Jesus: “Abraham your father rejoiced to see my day; he saw it and was glad.” And ask the Lord for the grace to be rejoicing in hope, for the grace to see the day of Jesus when we will be with Him and for the grace of joy."

Readings for March 26, 2015

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