(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis said Mass on Tuesday morning in the chapel of the Vatican’s Casa Santa Marta guesthouse. In his remarks following the readings of the day, the Holy Father focused on the need for Christians to be really committed to discipleship, and prepared to take risks for the cause of the Gospel.
Concentrating on the passage proclaimed at the Gospel reading of the day, in which Jesus heals a paralyzed man at the pool of Bethesda on a Sabbath day, Pope Francis addressed both the spiritual malaise of the sick man, whom he healed, and of the Pharisees, who began to persecute and plot against Him because he healed the man on the Sabbath:
“I think of many Christians, of many Catholics: yes, they are Catholics, but without enthusiasm, even embittered. 'Yes, life is what it is, but the Church – I go to Mass every Sunday, but better not get mixed up in things – I have faith for my health, I do not feel the need to give it to another...’. Each in his own house, the quiet life: but, you do something and then they criticize you: ‘No, leave it alone [It. è meglio così], don’t chance it.’ This is the disease of sloth, the acedia of Christians. This attitude that is crippling the apostolic zeal, which makes Christian people stand still and at ease, but not in the good sense of the word: they do not bother to go out to proclaim the Gospel! They are anesthetized.”
Anesthesia, Pope Francis went on to say, “is a negative experience.” It is that “not meddling” that becomes “spiritual sloth,” which, he said, is a very sad thing, indeed. “These Christians are sad,” said Pope Francis, “they are people without light – real downers [It. persone negative], and this is a disease of us Christians.” We go to Mass every Sunday, though we say, “Please do not disturb.” These Christians “without apostolic zeal,” he warned, “are not useful, they do not do the Church well. And how many Christians are like this?” he asked, “selfish, out for themselves.” This, he said, is “the sin of sloth, which is a sin against apostolic zeal, against the desire to give the news of Jesus to others, that newness, which was given to me for free.” The Holy Father went on to say that in the day’s Gospel passage, there is also another sin when we see that Jesus is criticized because he healed the sick on the Sabbath: the sin of formalism. “Christians,” he said, “who do not leave space for the grace of God – and the Christian life, the life of these people, consists in having all the paperwork, all the certificates, in order.”:
“Christian hypocrites, like these, only interested in their formalities. It was a Sabbath? No, you cannot do miracles on the Sabbath, the grace of God cannot work on Sabbath days. They close the door to the grace of God. We have so many in the Church, we have many! It is another sin. The first, those who have the sin of sloth, are not able to go forward with their apostolic zeal, because they have decided to stand firm in themselves, in their sorrows, their resentments, in all of that. Such as these are not capable of bringing salvation because they close the door to salvation.”
“Only the formalities” matter to them, he said. “It is not possible: this is the phrase they have most often to hand.” We meet these people, too, explained the Holy Father, “We ourselves have often been taken by this acedia, or have been many times like the Pharisees: hypocrites.” Pope Francis went on to explain that, because temptations to these sins will inevitably come, “We must learn to defend ourselves.” Faced with these temptations, before, "that field hospital there, which was a symbol of the Church,” in front of “a lot of hurting people,” Jesus approaches them and asks only one thing: “Do you want to be healed?” Then, “He gives the [paralytic man]. Grace accomplishes everything.” And then, when he meets the paralytic again, he tells him, “Sin no more.”:
“The two Christian words: do you want to be healed? Sin no more. First He heals [the paralytic], then [He says], ‘sin no more.’ – words spoken with tenderness, with love – and this is the Christian way, the way of apostolic zeal: to get close to many people who are injured and in this field hospital, often people whose wounds were inflicted by men and women of the Church. It is a word of a brother and of a sister: do you want to be healed? Then, when He goes on, ‘Ah, do not sin any more, it is not good for you.’ Much better: Jesus’ two words are more beautiful than the attitude of sloth or the attitude of hypocrisy.”
Text from Vatican Radio website