The City and the World joins with Pope Francis as he celebrates the tenth anniversary of his papacy. 

Much has been said on Catholic media and social media about these last ten years. Many websites tend to focus on the controversies surrounding Francis’s pontificate, which have been amplified by those very same sites. Some other commentators say that Pope Francis doesn’t teach about Jesus or spirituality, talking only about worldly and political issues.

So, today we would like to invite the reader to consider some of Francis’s less well-known interventions, which nevertheless cast light on his spirituality and pontificate.

In the spirit of Lent, we randomly selected some quotes from Pope Francis’s daily morning meditations from 2013 to 2020. The links to the originals can be found in each quote, so the reader may meditate on them in full.

  1. Make an examination of conscience

Every evening, make an “examination of conscience”, like a prayer, to determine if it was “the Spirit of God or the spirit of the world” that prompted us throughout the day.

  1. Meet Jesus with your defences down

When we go out to meet the Lord, the Pontiff added, we in some sense are “masters of the moment”. However, “when we allow ourselves to be encountered by him, he enters into us” and renews us from within. “This is what it means for Christ to come: to renew all things, to renew hearts, souls, lives, hope and the journey”.

Advent is a time truly to open our minds and hearts to him, “because when he comes to me, he may tell me what he wants me to do, which is not always what I want him to tell me”. It is important, therefore, that we never forget that “he is the Lord and he will tell me what he intends for me”. “The Lord,” he said, “does not look upon us all at once, as a mass of people: no, no! He looks at us one by one, in the face, in the eyes, for true love is not something abstract but rather something very concrete. Person to person. The Lord, who is a Person, looking at me, a person. That is why allowing the Lord to come and meet me also means allowing him to love me”.

  1. Don´t be lazy 

Francis explained that the Lord speaks of “a powerful faith”, one strong enough “to work great wonders”, but on one condition: that this be set “within the framework of service”. It calls for complete service, such as that of the “servant who worked all day” and when he gets home “he must serve the Lord”, prepare dinner for him, “and then relax”.

And, the Pope commented, “so many Christians” are like this: “they are good, they go to Mass”, but go “only so far” with regard to service. Yet, he underscored, “when I say service, I mean everything: service to God in adoration, in prayer, in praise”, service “to our neighbour” and “service to the end”. Jesus “is strong” about this and advises: “So you also, when you have done all that is commanded you, say, ‘We are unworthy servants’”. It is important that service be “freely given, without asking anything” in return.

  1. Do not negotiate Jesus

And Jesus never negotiated his heart as the Son of the Father, but He was open with people, looking for ways to help”. The others, rather, said: “You can’t do this; our discipline, our doctrine says that you can’t do this”. And they asked Him: “Why are your disciples eating grain in the field and walking on the Sabbath? You can’t do this”. In other words, “they were rigid in their discipline” and believed: “The discipline is not to be touched, it’s sacred”.

  1. Go out to give life

In recalling the words from the Gospel of Matthew (18:12-14), the Pope highlighted the impetus that drives the shepherd “who goes out”, who “goes to look for” the lost and missing sheep. Yet, this zealous shepherd “can keep count like a prudent businessman”. He loses one of 99, but his balance sheet still shows plenty of assets. However, Francis indicated, he “has the heart of a shepherd, he goes out to search” and, when he finds that one, “he celebrates, he is joyful”.

“The joy of going out in search of faraway brothers and sisters” is born in the same manner. “This is the joy of the Church”. It is precisely in this way that the Church “becomes mother, becomes fruitful”. On the contrary, the Pontiff admonished, when the Church doesn’t do this, “she stands still inside, she is closed within herself”, even though “she might be well organized”. And in this manner she becomes “a discouraged, anxious, sad Church; a Church who is more spinster than mother; and this Church isn’t useful”, such a Church is no more than a museum.

  1. Ask yourself: Am I alive inside?

Thus, we are all called to ask ourselves: “Am I one of these Christians of appearances? Am I alive inside, do I have a spiritual life? Do I hear the Holy Spirit”. Do I listen to Him? The government should beware of the temptation to say: “if all appears well, I have nothing to be blamed for: I have a good family, people cannot speak ill of me; I have all the necessities, I was married in Church… I’m in God’s grace’, I’m at peace”. Look out, because “Christians of appearance… are dead”. It is necessary, however, “to look for something alive inside and to strengthen it, by remembering and waking, so that it can go forward”. It is necessary “to convert: from appearances to reality. From warmth to zeal”.

In conclusion, these are the three calls to conversion made “by Jesus himself”: “to the lukewarm, the comfortable”, and to those who are Christians in “appearance, those who believe they are rich but are poor”, indeed, “they have nothing, they are dead” and last, to those “beyond death”: the corrupt. Before them, “the Word of God can change everything. But the truth is we do not always have the courage to believe in the Word of God”, to receive that “Word which heals us inside” and by which “the Lord knocks at the door of our heart”.

This, Pope Francis concluded, is conversion, which “the Church wants us to think very seriously about in these final weeks of the liturgical year” in order that “we may go forward on the path of our Christian life”. For this we must “remember the Word of God”, we must “safeguard it”, “obey it” and “awake”, in order to begin a “new, converted life”.

  1. Learn to live in moments of crisis

This helps us, all of us, to live through moments of crisis. In my land there is a saying: “When you’re riding a horse and you have to cross a river, please, don’t change horses in the middle of the river”. In moments of crisis you need to be very steadfast in your convictions of faith. Those who left, changed horses, they sought another teacher who was not so “hard”, as they said to Him. Moments of crisis demand perseverance, silence; staying where we are, steadfast. It is not the moment to make changes. It is the moment of fidelity, of faithfulness to God, of faithfulness to the things [decisions] we had made before. It is also the moment of conversion, because this faithfulness will inspire some kind of change for the better, not to distance us from good.

Moments of peace and moments of crisis. We Christians must learn to manage both. Both of them. A spiritual father said that going through a moment of crisis is like passing through fire so as to become strong.

  1. Be vigilant against worldliness

First and foremost, rediscover the word ‘vigilance’. Do not fear; as Isaiah said to Ahaz, ‘take heed and be quiet’”. In other words, employ “vigilance and calm”. The Pontiff explained that “to hold vigil is to understand what enters my heart; it means to stop and examine my life”. In this regard, the Pope suggested the need for a personal examination of conscience: “am I a Christian? Am I raising my children well? Is my life Christian or is it worldly? How might I understand this?”.

To respond to such questions we should look to “Paul’s recipe: look to the crucified Christ”. Indeed, it “only before the Lord’s Cross” that worldliness can be found and destroyed. This is precisely “the aim of the Crucifix before us: it is not an ornament” but “is precisely what saves us from these bewitchments, from these seductions that lead to worldliness”.

  1. Do not be afraid to grow

Jonah saw faith as based on conditions. He was like those Christians who say “I am Christian but on the condition that things are done this way”. This, Pope Francis stressed, is heresy: “Christians who place conditions on God, the faith and God’s actions”, leading them down a path that goes from faith to ideology. “There are many people like this today”, he continued. “Christians who are afraid to grow, of life’s challenges, of the Lord’s challenges, of history’s challenges”. They prefer ideology to faith; “they are afraid of putting themselves in God’s hands and they prefer to judge everything, but from the smallness of their hearts”.

  1. Take heed, and beware of all covetousness 

Covetousness, however, is also at the root of wars: “yes, there is an ideal, but behind it is money: the money of arms dealers, the money of those who profit from war”. Again, Jesus is clear: “Take heed, and beware of all covetousness: it is dangerous”. Covetousness, in fact, “gives us this security that is not true and it leads, yes, to prayer — you can pray, go to Church — but also to having an attached heart, and in the end it winds up damaged”.

Returning to the Gospel example, the Pontiff traced the profile of the man spoken of: “You see he was good, he was a successful entrepreneur. His company was given a plentiful harvest, he always had many possessions”. But rather than thinking of sharing with his workers and their families, he contemplated how to store them. He sought “always more”. Thus, “the thirst of attachment to possessions never ends. If your heart is attached to possessions — when you have many — you want more. And this is the god of a person attached to possessions”. For this reason, Francis explained, Jesus says to take heed and beware of all covetousness. And, by no coincidence, when “he explains the way to salvation, the Beatitudes, the first is poverty of spirit, that is, ‘don’t be attached to possessions’: blessed are the poor in spirit”, those who “are not attached” to riches. “Perhaps they have them” — the Pope observed — but so as to serve others, to share, to enable many people to move forward”.

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