The Holy Spirit can help Christians overcome the three temptations that destroy community life, Pope Francis said at his morning Mass today.
The pope noted April 21 that money, vanity and idle chatter have divided believers since the early days of Christianity.
“But the Spirit always comes with his strength to save us from this-worldliness of money, vanity and idle chatter,” he said, “because the Spirit is not the world: he is against the world. He is capable of doing these miracles, these great things.”
Reflecting on the day’s Gospel (John 3:7-15), in which Jesus tells Nicodemus that he “must be born from above,” the pope said we are reborn through the Holy Spirit rather than by our own efforts.
“Our docility opens the door to the Holy Spirit: it is He who makes the change, the transformation, this rebirth from above,” he said. “It is Jesus’ promise to send the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is capable of doing wonders, things that we cannot even think about.”
Speaking from the chapel of his Vatican residence, Casa Santa Marta, the pope turned to the day’s first reading (Acts 4:32-37), which describes the harmony among the first Christians. This description was no fantasy, he said, but rather a model for today’s Church.
“It is true that immediately after this problems will begin,” he observed, “but the Lord shows us how far we can go if we are open to the Holy Spirit if we are docile. In this community there is harmony.”
Pope Francis said that many things divided parishes, dioceses, communities of priests, and men and women religious. He identified three major temptations: money, vanity and idle chatter.
“Money divides the community,” he said. “For this reason, poverty is the mother of the community. Poverty is the wall that guards the community. Money divides … Even in families: how many families ended up divided by an inheritance?”
He continued: “Another thing that divides a community is vanity, that desire to feel better than others. ‘Thank you, Lord, that I am not like the others:’ the Pharisee’s prayer.”
Vanity could be seen at the celebration of sacraments, the pope said, with people vying to wear the best clothes.
“Vanity enters there too. And vanity divides. Because vanity leads you to be a peacock and where there is a peacock, there is division, always,” he said.
“A third thing that divides a community is idle chatter: it’s not the first time I’ve said it, but it’s reality … That thing that the devil puts in us, like a need to talk about others. ‘What a good person that is…’ — ‘Yes, yes, but…’ Immediately the ‘but:’ that’s a stone to disqualify the other.”
Yet with the Holy Spirit, we are able to resist all three temptations, he said, concluding: “Let us ask the Lord this docility to the Spirit so that He may transform us and transform our communities, our parish, diocesan, religious communities: transform them, so that we may always move forward in the harmony that Jesus wants for the Christian community.”
After Mass, the pope presided at adoration and Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament.
He led those watching via livestream in an act of spiritual communion, praying: “My Jesus, I believe that you are truly present in the Most Holy Sacrament. I love you above all things, and I desire to receive you into my soul. Since I cannot at this moment receive you sacramentally, come at least spiritually into my heart. I embrace you as being already there and unite myself wholly to you. Never permit me to be separated from you.”
Finally, those present sang the Easter Marian antiphon “Regina caeli.”
At the start of Mass, Pope Francis noted that amid the coronavirus lockdown towns and cities had fallen silent.
“In this time there is so much silence,” he said. “One can also feel the silence. May this silence, which is a little new in our habits, teach us to listen, make us grow in our ability to listen. Let us pray for this.”