Pope Francis Emphasizes Scripture Passage "Brethren, if someone is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness...." at Catechesis FULL TEXT


Paul VI Audience Hall - Wednesday, 3 November 2021


On the Letter to the Galatians: 14. Walking according to the Spirit

Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!

In the passage from the Letter to the Galatians we have just heard, Saint Paul exhorts Christians to walk according to the Holy Spirit (cf. 5:16, 25), that is a style: to walk according to the Holy Spirit. In effect, to believe in Jesus means to follow him, to go behind him along his way, just as the first disciples did. And at the same time, it means avoiding the opposite way, that of egoism, of seeking one’s own interests, which the Apostle calls the “desire of the flesh” (v. 16). The Spirit is the guide for this journey along the way of Christ, a stupendous but difficult journey that begins in Baptism and lasts our entire lives. We can think of it as a long excursion on the mountain heights: it is breath-taking, the destination is attractive, but it requires a lot of effort and tenaciousness.

This image can be helpful to understand the merit of the Apostle’s words “to walk according to the Spirit”, “allow ourselves to be guided” by Him. They are expressions indicating an action, a movement, a dynamism that prevents us from halting at the first difficulties, but elicit confidence in the “strength that comes from on high” (Shepherd of Hermas, 43, 21). Trodding along this way, the Christian acquires a positive vision of life. This does not mean that the evil present in the world disappears, or that the negative impulses of our egoism and pride diminish. Rather, it means that belief in God is always stronger than our resistance and greater than our sins. And this is important: to believe that God is greater, always. Greater than our resistances, greater than our sins.

As he exhorts the Galatians to follow this path, the Apostle places himself on their level. He abandons the verb in the imperative – “walk” (v. 16) – and uses the indicative “we”: “let us walk according to the Spirit” (v. 25). That is to say: let us walk along the same line and let us allow the Holy Spirit to guide us. It is an exhortation, a way of exhorting. Saint Paul feels this exhortation is necessary for himself as well. Even though he knows that Christ lives in him (cf. 2:20), he is also convinced that he has not yet reached the goal, the top of the mountain (cf. Phil. 3:12). The Apostle does not place himself above his community. He does not say: “I am the leader; you are those others; I have come from high up on the mountain and you are on the way”. He does not say this, but places himself in the midst of the journey everyone is on in order to provide a concrete example of how much it is necessary to obey God, corresponding better and better to the Spirit’s guidance. And how beautiful it is when we find pastors who journey with their people, who do not get tired – “No, I am more important, I am a pastor. You…”, “I am a priest”, “I am a bishop”, with their noses in the air. No: pastors who journey with the people. This is very beautiful. It does the soul good.

This “walking according to the Spirit” is not only an individual task: it also concerns the community as a whole. In fact, it is exciting, but demanding, to build up the community according to the way indicated by the Apostle. The “desires of the flesh”, “the temptations”, we can say, that all of us have – that is, our jealousies, prejudices, hypocrisies and resentments continue to make themselves felt – and having recourse to a rigid set of precepts can be an easy temptation. But doing this means straying from the path of freedom, and instead of climbing to the top, it means returning down below. In the first place, journeying along the way of the Spirit requires giving space to grace and charity. To make space for God’s grace. Not being afraid. After having made his voice heard in a severe way, Paul invites the Galatians to bear each other’s difficulties, and if someone should make a mistake, to use gentleness (cf. 5:22). Let us listen to his words: “Brethren, if someone is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Look to yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ” (6:1-2). Quite different than gossiping, like when we see something and we talk behind the persons back about it, right? To gossip about our neighbour. No, this is not according to the Spirit. What is according to the Spirit is being gentle with a brother or sister when correcting him or her and keeping watch over ourselves so as not to fall into those sins, that is, humility.

In effect, when we are tempted to judge others badly, as often happens, we must rather reflect on our own weakness. How easy it is to cricitise others! But there are people who seem to have a degree in gossip. Each and every day they criticise others. Take a look at yourself! It is good to ask ourselves what drives us to correct a brother or a sister, and if we are not in some way co-responsible for their mistake. In addition to giving us the gift of gentleness, the Holy Spirit invites us to be in solidarity, to bear other’s burdens. How many burdens there are in a person’s life: illness, lack of work, loneliness, pain…! And how many other trials that require the proximity and love of our brothers and sisters! The words of Saint Augustine when he commented on this same passage can also help us: “Therefore, brothers and sisters, whenever someone is caught in some fault, […] correct him in this way, gently, gently. And if you raise your voice, love within. If you encourage, if you present yourself as a father, if you reprove, if you are severe, love” (Discourse 163/B 3). Love always. The supreme rule regarding fraternal correction is love: to want the good of our brothers and sisters. It takes a lot of time to also tolerate others’ problems, others’ defects in the silence of prayer, so as to find the right way to help them to correct themselves. And this is not easy. The easiest path is to gossip. Talking behind someone else’s back as if I am perfect. And this should not be done. Gentleness. Patience. Prayer. Proximity.

Let us walk with joy and patience along this path, allowing ourselves to be guided by the Holy Spirit. Thank you.


Special Greetings

Je salue cordialment les fidèles de langue française, en particulier les jeunes confirmés du Diocèse de Séez, et all les pèlerins venus de France. Nous nous souvenons ces jours-ci de nos chers défunts. Que l'Esprit Saint nous aide à marcher vigilants dans la prière et fidèles à la parole de Jésus, en attendant de les retrouver un jour dans la joie du ciel. Que Dieu vous bénisse!

I cordially greet the French-speaking faithful, in particular the young confirmed from the Diocese of Séez and all the pilgrims who have come from France. These days we remember our deceased loved ones. May the Holy Spirit help us to walk vigilant in prayer and faithful to the word of Jesus, waiting to find them again one day in the joy of heaven. God bless you! ]

I greet the English-speaking visitors taking part in today's Audience, especially those from England and the United States of America, as well as the group of American military chaplains meeting in Rome in these days. Upon all of you, and your families, I invoke the joy and peace of the Lord. God bless you!

I greet the English-speaking pilgrims present at today's Audience, especially those from England and the United States of America, together with the group of US military chaplains who have gathered in Rome in these days. Upon all of you and your families I invoke the joy and peace of the Lord. God bless you! ]

Herzlich grüße ich die Gläubigen deutscher Sprache. Erinnern wir uns daran, dass die Gemeinschaft der Kirche nicht nur die Brüder und Schwestern auf dieser Welt umspannt, sondern auch unsere lieben Verstorbenen. Wenn wir im Geist wandeln, sollen wir auch das geistliche Werk der Barmherzigkeit vollbringen, für sie zu beten, auf dass sie bald zum Ziel der ewigen Gottesschau gelangen.

I cordially greet the German-speaking faithful. Let us remember that the communion of the Church includes not only brothers and sisters in this world, but also our deceased loved ones. Walking in the Spirit, let us therefore do the work of spiritual mercy of praying for them so that they may soon reach the goal of God's eternal vision. ]

I cordially greet los peregrinos de lengua española. The invitation to dejarse interpelar por las palabras de san Pablo: ¿Caminamos según el Espíritu or nos quedamos encerrados en deseos mundanos? Si nos dejamos guiar por el Espíritu, también estamos llamados a acompañar a los que más sufren, a rezar por ellos, a ayudarlos de una manera concrete. Los animo a Seguir en este camino con paciencia y alegría. Que Dios los bendiga. Muchas gracias. 

Queridos irmãos e irmãs de língua portuguesa: ontem recordamos todos os nossos entes queridos já falecidos. Não esqueçamos que para chegar à meta, ao final da estrada de nossa vida, necessitamos deixar-nos guiar pelo Espírito. Sobre todos vós and sobre as pessoas que vos são caras, I invoke a bênção de Deus.

Dear Portuguese-speaking brothers and sisters: yesterday we remembered all our dear departed. Let us not forget that in order to reach the goal, at the end of the path of this earthly life, we need to let ourselves be guided by the Spirit. Upon all of you and your loved ones I invoke God's blessing. ]

أُحيّي المؤمنِين الناطقين باللغة العربيّة. الأسمى في الإصلاح الأخوي هي المحبّة ، أي أن نريد الخير لإخوتنا وأخواتنا. بارككم الرّبّ جميعًا وحماكم دائمًا من كلّ شرّ!

I greet the Arabic-speaking faithful. The Holy Spirit, in addition to giving us the gift of meekness, invites us to solidarity, to bear the burdens of others, and urges us to correct them. From this we understand that the supreme rule of fraternal correction is love: to want the good of our brothers and sisters. The Lord bless you all and always protect you from all evil! ]

Pozdrawiam serdecznie wszystkich Polaków. Wczoraj, obchodząc Wspomnienie Wszystkich Wiernych Zmarłych, polecaliśmy Bożemu Miłosierdziu drogie nam osoby, a szczególnie tych, którzy oczekują naszej modlitewnej pomocy, wijzciśćo do radius.
Modlitwa za zmarłych, wzmocniona nadzieją daną przez Chrystusa Zmartwychwstałego, nie jest celebrowaniem kultu śmierci, lecz jest aktem miłości wobec naszych embers i sióstr oraz noszeniem brzemion jedni drugich. Z serca Wam błogosławię!

I cordially greet all Poles. Yesterday, celebrating the commemoration of all the faithful departed, we entrusted our loved ones to Divine Mercy and, in particular, those who await our prayerful help to enter into the joy of eternal life.
Prayer for the Dead, sustained by the hope given to us by the Risen Christ, is not the celebration of the cult of death, but it is an act of charity towards our brothers and sisters and a bearing of one another's burdens. I heartily bless you! 

* * *

I extend a cordial greeting to the Italian-speaking pilgrims, in particular to the Amici dello Sport group of Falconara Marittima and to the faithful of the parish of Bellagio (Como). I urge you to bear witness in every environment to the infinite love with which God surrounds every man.

Finally, my thoughts go, as usual, to the elderly, the sick, the young and the newlyweds. The solemnity of All Saints and the commemoration of the Faithful Dead, which we recently celebrated, offer us the opportunity to reflect, once again, on the meaning of earthly existence and its value for eternity. May these days of reflection and prayer be an invitation for everyone to imitate the Saints, who have remained faithful to the divine plan throughout their lives.

My blessing to each of you.