Pope Francis says "This is the frame of mind of the Christians who await the final coming of the Lord" - "Keeping watch to safeguard our heart and to understand..."
POPE FRANCIS at the GENERAL AUDIENCE
Paul VI Audience Hall
Wednesday, 14 December 2022
Catechesis on Discernment. 12. The Vigilance
Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!
We are now entering the final phase of this journey of catechesis on discernment. We started out from the example of Saint Ignatius of Loyola; we then considered the elements of discernment, namely, prayer, self-knowledge, desire and the “book of life”; we focused on desolation and consolation, which form its “matter”; and then we reached the confirmation of the choice made.
I consider it necessary to include at this point a reminder of an attitude essential if all the work done to discern for the best and take the good decision is not to be lost, and this would be the attitude of vigilance. We have done discernment, consolation and desolation; we have chosen something … everything is going well, but now, vigilance: the attitude of vigilance. Because in effect there is a risk, and it is that the “spoilsport”, that is, the Evil One, can ruin everything, making us go back to the beginning, indeed, in an even worse condition. And this happens, so we must be attentive and vigilant. This is why it is indispensable to be vigilant. Therefore, today it seemed appropriate to emphasize this attitude, which we all need for the discernment process to be successful and stay that way.
Indeed, in his preaching Jesus insists a great deal on the fact that the good disciple is vigilant, does not slumber, does not let himself become too self-assured when things go well, but remains alert and ready to do his duty.
For example, in the Gospel of Luke, Jesus says: “Let your loins be girded and your lamps burning, and be like men who are waiting for their master to come home from the marriage feast, so that they may open to him at once when he comes and knocks. Blessed are those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes” (12:35-37).
Keeping watch to safeguard our heart and to understand what is happening inside it.
This is the frame of mind of the Christians who await the final coming of the Lord; but it can be understood also as the normal attitude to have in the conduct of life, so that our good choices, taken at times after challenging discernment, may proceed in a persevering and consistent manner, and bear fruit.
If vigilance is lacking, there is, as we were saying, a very high risk that all will be lost. It is a danger not of a psychological order, no, but of a spiritual order, a real snare of the evil spirit. Indeed, he awaits precisely the moment in which we are too sure of ourselves, and this is the danger: “But I am sure of myself, I have won, now I am fine…” – this is the moment he is waiting for, when everything is going well, when things are going “swimmingly” and we “have the wind in ours sails”. Indeed, in the short Gospel parable we heard, it is said that the unclean spirit, when it returns to the house from where it left, “finds it empty, swept, and put in order” (Mt 12:44), he finds it nicely prepared, doesn’t he? Everything is in its place, everything is in order, but where is the master of the house? He is not there. There is no-one keeping watch over it and guarding it. This is the problem. The master of the house is not home, he left, he was distracted, I don’t know; or he is at home but has fallen asleep, and therefore it is as though he were not there. He is not vigilant, he is not alert, because he is too sure of himself and has lost the humility to safeguard his own heart. We must always safeguard our home, our heart and not be distracted and go away… because the problem is here, like the Parable said.
So, the evil spirit can take advantage of this and return to that house. The Gospel says, however, that he does not return alone, but along with “seven other spirits more evil than himself” (v. 45). A company of evil-doers, a gang of delinquents. But how is it possible, we wonder, for them to enter undisturbed? How come the master does not notice? Was he not so good at discerning and banishing them? Did he not receive compliments from his friends and neighbours for that house, so beautiful and elegant, so tidy and clean? The house of the heart, isn’t it? Yes, but perhaps precisely because of this he had fallen too much in love with the house, that is, with himself, and had stopped waiting for the Lord, waiting for the coming of the Bridegroom; perhaps for fear of ruining that order he no longer welcomed anyone, he did not invite the poor, the homeless, those who disturbed... One thing is certain: here bad pride is involved, the presumption of being right, of being good, of being in order. Very often we hear someone say: “Yes, I was bad before, I converted and now, now my house is in order thanks to God, you can rest assured…”. When we trust too much in ourselves and not in God’s grace, then the Evil One finds the door open. So, he organizes the expedition and takes possession of that house. And Jesus concludes: “The last state of that man becomes worse than the first” (v. 45).
But doesn't the master notice? No, because these are polite demons: they come in without you noticing, they knock on the door, they are polite. “No okay, go, go, come in...” and then eventually they take command of your soul. Beware of these little devils, these demons... the devil is polite, when he pretends to be a great gentleman, isn’t he? For he enters with ours to come out with his. Safeguard the house from this deception, that of polite demons. And spiritual worldliness takes this route, always.
Dear brothers and sisters, it seems impossible but it is so. Many times we lose, many times we are defeated in battles, because of this lack of vigilance. Very often, perhaps, the Lord has given so many graces, many graces, and in the end, we are unable to persevere in this grace and we lose everything, because we lack vigilance: we have not guarded the doors. And then we have been deceived by someone who comes along, polite, he goes in and, hello… The devil has these things. Anyone can also verify this by thinking back to their own personal history. It is not enough to carry out good discernment and to make a good choice. No, it is not enough: we must remain vigilant, safeguard this grace that God has given us, but keep watch, because you can say to me: “But when I see some disorder, I realize straight away that it is the devil, that it is temptation…”. Yes, but this time he comes disguised as an angel: the devil knows how to dress up as an angel, he enters with courteous words, and he convinces you, and in the end, it is worse than at the beginning… We need to stay vigilant, keep watch over the heart. If I were to ask each one of you today, and also myself, “What is happening in your heart?”, perhaps we would not know how to say everything; we would say one or two things, but not everything. Keep watch over the heart, because vigilance is a sign of wisdom, it is above all a sign of humility, because we are afraid to fall, and humility is the high road of Christian life. Thank you.
I extend a cordial welcome to Italian-speaking pilgrims. In particular, I greet you young volunteers who have gathered here on National Civil Service Day and I encourage them to be witnesses of goodness, tenderness and gratuitous love with everyone, especially with the most fragile people. And I want to say one thing: I have found three very beautiful things in Italian society, in the Italian Church. One of these is volunteering. You have a strong, strong voluntary service! Go ahead with this spirituality of volunteering which makes us help many, one with the other and also unites us. I am pleased to welcome the Choir of Oristano with their Archbishop, the National Association of Sailors and the Association "Our angels in Paradise" of Favara.
As usual, my thoughts go to the young, the sick, the elderly and the newlyweds - there are so many! To all of you I point out the figure of St John of the Cross, priest and Doctor of the Church, whose liturgical memory we are celebrating today. Following the example of this great spiritual teacher, bear witness in your daily existence to your adherence to God's will. And let us renew our closeness to the martyred Ukrainian people, persevering in fervent prayer for these brothers and sisters of ours who are suffering so much.
Brothers and sisters, I tell you: there is so much suffering in Ukraine, so much! And I would like to draw attention a little to next Christmas, including the holidays. It's nice to celebrate Christmas, have a party… but let's lower the level of Christmas expenses a little – that's what they're called. Let's have a humbler Christmas, with humbler gifts. We send what we save to the Ukrainian people, who are in need, who suffer so much; they go hungry, feel the cold and many die because there are no doctors or nurses close at hand. Let's not forget: a Christmas, yes; at peace with the Lord, yes, but with the Ukrainians in the heart. And we make that concrete gesture for them.
Inviting you all to intensify your spiritual preparation for Christmas which is now imminent, I cordially bless you and now let us all pray the Our Father together.
I greet the English-speaking pilgrims taking part in today’s Audience, especially those from the United States of America and from the Australian Catholic University. I pray that each of you, and your families, may experience a blessed Advent in preparation for the coming, at Christmas, of the newborn Jesus, Son of God and Saviour of the world. God bless you!
Je salue cordially les personnes de langue française. Le temps de l'Avent nous rappelle cette fundamental attitude du chrétien : la vigilance. Nous attendons la venue du Seigneur, et nous le faisons en demeurant attentiveifs à nos frères les plus fragiles et qui frappent à la porte de nos cœurs. Nous bâtissons de cette manière avec discernement nos vies, en cohérence avec l'Evangile. Demandons au Seigneur de nous garder éveillés dans l'humilité et la disponibilité. Que Dieu vous benisse.
[I cordially greet the French-speaking people. The period of Advent reminds us of this fundamental attitude of the Christian: vigilance. We await the coming of the Lord and we do so by remaining attentive to our most fragile brothers who knock on the door of our heart. In this way we build our life with discernment, in coherence with the Gospel. We ask the Lord to keep us vigilant in humility and availability. God bless you!]
Ein herzliches Willkommen den Gläubigen deutscher Sprache. Besonders grüße ich die Delegation des Landes Oberösterreich zusammen mit den Pilgern der Diözese Linz in Begleitung ihres Bischofs Manfred Scheuer. Ich danke euch für das Friedenslicht, das wiederum aus Bethlehem nach Rom gebracht wurde. Bitten wir den Herrn um das Geschenk des Friedens, den die Welt so sehr braucht. Allen wünsche ich einen gesegneten Advent.
[A cordial welcome to the German-speaking faithful. In particular, I greet the delegation from the Land of Upper Austria, together with the pilgrims from the Diocese of Linz with their Bishop, Mons. Manfred Scheuer. Thank you for bringing the "Light of Peace" back from Bethlehem to Rome. Let us implore the Lord for the gift of peace, which the world needs so badly. Happy Advent everyone.]
I cordially greet a los peregrinos de lengua española. Pidamos a María, Virgen de la Dulce Espera, who teach us to “velar y orar” to not distract us in following her love, and to discover her saving presence in our daily life experiences. Que Dios los bendiga. Muchas gracias.
I direct a cordial greeting from boas-vindas to Portuguese-speaking pilgrims, especially to the youth group of Vila do Conde! Todos aguardamos com fiança a vinda do Senhor. Devemos perguntar-nos: Eu, permaneço vigilante nessa espera? Que Deus vos abençoe e vos proteja de todo o mal!
[I warmly welcome the Portuguese-speaking pilgrims, especially the youth group of Vila do Conde! We all confidently await the coming of the Lord. We must ask ourselves: Am I staying vigilant in this wait? God bless you and keep you from all harm!]
أُحَيِّي المؤمِنينَ الناطِقينَ باللّغَةِ العربِيَّة. يجبُ أنْ نبقَى ساهِرينَ حتَّى لا يَدخُلَ الرُّوحُ الشِّرّيرُ إلى حياتِنا. ف█ّهرُ هو ع█ حِكمXHI حِكم وهو وهو ق ق قXHIب AND كKIِّ شيءٍ ع█ ا α ا█ّوα ا ا هو ا ا ا اHIّئيسيّPIّئيسيّ ÁQUIي ANDي ANDيATI ا اHIسِيحِيXسِيحِي. باركَكُم الرّبُّ جَميعًا وحَماكُم دائِمًا مِن كُلِّ شَرّ!
[I greet the Arabic-speaking faithful. We must remain vigilant so that the evil spirit does not enter our lives. Vigilance is a sign of wisdom, it is above all a sign of humility, the main road of the Christian life. May the Lord bless you all and protect you always from all evil!]
Pozdrawiam serdecznie wszystkich Polaków. Adwent jest okresem oczekiwania na Boże Narodzenie, to czas dzielenia się z innymi. Wielu z was pamięta o tym poprzez włączanie się w inicjatywę Caritas: „Rodzina Rodzinie”, dzięki której wsparcie otrzymują poszkodowani w wyniku konfliktów zbrojnych i kryzysów humanitarnych na całym świecie. W tym roku pomoc trafi także do rodzin ukraińskich. Zachęcam was, byście nie ustawali w dzieleniu się z potrzebującymi. Z serca wam błogosławię.
[I cordially greet all Poles. Advent is the period of waiting for Christmas, it is a moment of sharing. Many of you remember him by joining the Caritas initiative: "From family to family", thanks to which support is given to people affected by armed conflicts and humanitarian crises all over the world. This year the aid will also go to Ukrainian families. I encourage you to persevere in sharing with those in need. I bless you from my heart.]