The pope keeps driving home the point of the two temptations of the Church today: Pelagianism and Gnosticism. To be withdrawn into self and concerned only or principally about self – concomitant with orthodox clarity of ideas and a Catholic religious life – is the sign of the presence of both heretical states. It’s a case of being sick. It’s precisely what he said just before being elected pope: “The Church is called to come out of herself and to go to the peripheries, not only geographically, but also the existential peripheries… When the Church does not come out of herself to evangelize, she becomes self-referential and then gets sick.”
Ratzinger remarked: “De Lubac was leading his readers out of a narrowly individualistic and moralistic mode of faith and into the freedom of an essentially social faith, conceived and lived as a ‘we’ – a faith that, preicfsely as such and according to its nature, was also hope, affecting history as a whole, and not only the promise of a private blissfulness to individuals. I then looked around for other works by de Lubac and profited from his book Corpus Mysticum, in which a new understanding of Church and Eucharist opened up to me” (Milestones… p. 98).
Actually, without a profound conversion by the entire Church, this superficiality and sickness will continue to damage the Church because faith is not merely external performance but gift of the whole self.. We consider that we are O.K. if we are actively performing Catholic “things” that give us an appearance of spirituality. What was true of the Scribes and Pharisees can be true of us.
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis warned against false spirituality and worldliness saying many people appear to be spiritual but live in a way that is totally detached from the presence or needs of others. He stressed that works of mercy are at the heart of our faith in God and the visible sign of that faith. The Pope was speaking at his first Mass at the Santa Marta residence since the Christmas break.
The cue for the Pope’s homily came from the first letter of John where the Apostle writes of remaining in the Lord. The Pope explained that a Christian is somebody who remains in God, who has the Holy Spirit and who is guided by Him. Noting that John warned against Antichrists, Pope Francis said not every spirit is to be trusted and it’s necessary to test them to see whether they are from God. He said to do this we need to discern if we follow the spirit of God. And this is the daily rule of life that John teaches us.”
But what does it mean to “test the spirits,” asked the Pope? It is not about “ghosts”, it is about testing, to see “what happens in my heart”, what is at the root “of what I’m feeling now, where does it come from? This is to test if “what I’m hearing comes from God” or comes from the other,” from the Antichrist.
Pope Francis went on to warn against worldliness, saying this is the spirit that distances us from the Spirit of God. He said we need to have a good discernment of what is happing in our soul and the Apostle John gives us that guideline.
“The criterion is the Incarnation. I can feel so many things inside, even good things, good ideas. But if these good ideas, these feelings, do not lead to God who became flesh, do not lead me to my neighbour, my brother, then they are not from God. For this reason, John begins this passage of his letter by saying: ‘This is God’s commandment that we should believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another.’”
We can, the Pope continued, have “many pastoral plans”, imagine new “methods to get closer to the people”, but “if we do not follow the path of God who became flesh, the path of the Son of God who became man to walk with us, we are not on the path of the good spirit: it is the Antichrist, it is worldliness, it is the spirit of the world.”
“How many people seem spiritual: ‘How spiritual that person is!’ but they do not talk about doing works of mercy. Why? Because the works of mercy are the visible sign of our confession that the Son of God became flesh: visiting the sick, feeding the hungry, taking care of those who are abandoned… works of mercy: why? The reason is because each of our brothers, whom we must love, is the flesh of Christ. God became flesh to identify with us. And those who suffer are one and the same as the suffering Christ.”
Pope Francis went on to warn against believing every spirit, saying “you have to test to test the spirits to see whether they are from God.” “Serving our neighbour, our brother, our sister in need”, maybe “in need, also, of good advice, of a listening ear,” “these are the signs that we are following the path of the good spirit, namely the path of the Word of God made flesh.”
“Let us ask the Lord today, he concluded, for the grace to know exactly what happens in our hearts, our desires, if we are more open to the spirit of God, that brings me to the service of others, or to the spirit of the world that revolves around myself, my closed views, my selfishness, so many other things … Let us ask for the grace to discern what happens in our hearts.”