More than 50,000 people gathered in St Peter’s Square uder unseasonably warm blue skies yesterday to pray the Angelus with Pope Francis. Before the prayers, the Holy Father reflected on the day’s Gospel reading in which Jesus addresses the question of His relationship to the Law of Moses.
“Jesus does not want to erase the commandments that the Lord gave through Moses,” explained Pope Francis. “Rather, He desires to bring them to their fulfilment and He immediately adds that this ‘fulfillment’ of the Law requires a higher justice, a more authentic observance."
The Holy Father went on to note the words of Jesus to His disciples: “Unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”
The Pope explained that Jesus does not give importance to rote observance and outward conduct. “He goes to the root of the law, focusing above all on the intention and therefore on the human heart,” which is the source of our actions for good and for evil. Pope Francis said that profound motivations, the expression of a hidden wisdom, of God’s wisdom, are needed in order for us to act well – not merely good rules and legal norms. “The Wisdom of God,” he said, “can be received through the Holy Spirit: and we, through faith in Christ, open ourselves to the action of the Spirit, which enables us to live God’s love.”
The Holy Father concluded: “In light of this teaching of Christ, every precept reveals its full meaning as a requirement of love, and all come together in the greatest commandment: love God with all your heart and love your neighbour as yourself.”
The word “rote” implies a mechanical or habitual repetition. I have no way to know if that is the definition the Holy Father is using; however, there are a great many Catholics who do practice a “rote” observation of their faith, in that they attend daily Mass and say daily rosaries as a matter of habit and routine.
I have always found that carving out a disciplined faith life is a very good thing to do–and in most cases that includes what might be considered “rote observation.”
These are the times when I wish we could have some further explanations coming from the Holy father, because I cannot fathom how developing a holy ritual/habit of attending Mass and saying daily prayers, is a bad thing.
I understood the Pope’s message as being a reminder not to go through the motions, but to fully participate putting our heart and soul into our prayers as best as we can. It reminds me of the story of the Pharisee who prays loudly (really saying hey look at me, I am so holy) and the repentant man quietly offering heartfelt prayers. We can be in a Church pew during mass but are we there to be seen or to try to participate in the mass? The same with prayers. I read the Pope’s message as one that is encouraging us to develop “a holy ritual/habit of attending Mass and saying daily prayers”
Maybe you have not experienced a mass when the priest is interrupted by people jumping ahead and rattling off prayers, as I do every Sunday. It seems to me at times that some people struggle with the concept of community prayers (and that is not for want of our priest asking people to listen).
This is just how I read the message.
Sorry, am confused, the post I was replying to vanished which is why I am going on about avoiding being a robot.
I’m sure that some will get all worked up over what he said and take it as another opportunity to either bash the Holy Father or the Mass in OF, but I am confident that Mr Casey will deal with those members’ posts to make sure comments are not against forum rules. Of course, disparaging comments about the Holy Father or the Mass in Ordinary Form are**** against the rules of CAF…makes me sick at heart that some people can’t abide by those rules and are constantly causing division.
It seems Catholics must work to have trust in the Lord…sometimes trust is hard to hold onto, yet we are called to trust. The Lord paints with an eternal brush, while we humans paint with a limited temporal brush–it is oftentimes quite difficult for us to see that eternal picture that the Lord is working us toward.
This is very interesting. So what about the people who have certain desires, wants, etc, but restrain themselves out of respect and obedience to God’s law and the Church. Does that count for naught considering you didn’t have “good intentions?” The whole point of moral law is to serve as a counterpoint to natural human tendencies and desires. (Namely, I WILL go to Mass this Sunday even though I don’t feel like getting up on this cold, rainy morning. I WILL NOT look at this pornography even though I am tempted and, deep down, want to do so. I WILL NOT flip the driver who cut me off the bird even though I want to and that is what I am thinking.)
I believe that there is certainly room for doing things “because you are supposed to”. That is the boat I am in now. But the problem is we need “must” move beyond that- to live our lives in a holy way as a direct growth of our relationship with Christ Himself.
Simply following rules is what children do and can be part of a relationship based on fear- and that is not what God wants of us.
Faith, of course, is a launch point; however, I am not sure that fear and obedience (just for the sake of fear and obedience) is a bad thing. Consider the fact that God tells us that “…fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom…,” and consider the following passages that show us obedience is critical:
“And through your descendants all the nations of the earth will be blessed—all because you have obeyed me.”
Now if you will obey me and keep my covenant, you will be my own special treasure from among all the peoples on earth; for all the earth belongs to me.
Jesus replied, “But even more blessed are all who hear the word of God and put it into practice.”
But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves. For if you listen to the word and don’t obey, it is like glancing at your face in a mirror. You see yourself, walk away, and forget what you look like. But if you look carefully into the perfect law that sets you free, and if you do what it says and don’t forget what you heard, then God will bless you for doing it.
2 John 6
And this is love, that we walk according to his commandments; this is the commandment, just as you have heard from the beginning, so that you should walk in it.
1 John 2:3–6
And we can be sure that we know him if we obey his commandments. If someone claims, “I know God,” but doesn’t obey God’s commandments, that person is a liar and is not living in the truth. But those who obey God’s word truly show how completely they love him. That is how we know we are living in him. Those who say they live in God should live their lives as Jesus did.
For as by the one man’s [Adam’s] disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s [Christ’s] obedience the many will be made righteous.*
Nowhere in any of those passages (and there are many, many more), does it say that we must obey ONLY if we have a growing relationship with God/Christ.
Think, also, of the obedience of the Blessed Virgin Mary–where would humanity be if she had not obeyed with absolute trust?
Recall, also, that Jesus was obedient to the Father–all the way to death on the cross. Likewise, God tells us to listen to His Son. There are no modifiers, we are supposed to obey.
Finally, let us take a trip back in time about 60 years. Mass attendance, and faith in general was much higher in those days. Catholics obeyed because they knew they were supposed to obey the Church. Today we have around 26% of Catholics attending regular Sunday Mass…back then, attendance was at 74%. Many of those Catholics were reasonably simple people–they loved Jesus and they obeyed–period. Today, people are much more educated, have access to all documents they need, they “know” so much more, and yet Catholics disobey at rates never seen in the early 20th century.
Faith and obedience!**
How would the world look if every Catholic simply held faith in the Lord, and obeyed Him and His Church? (1.3 Billion Catholics living lives of simple uncomplicated faith, and a stout obedience to the Lord and His Church–now, that would transform the world)
My understanding of this gospel reading and the pope’s comments on it is that we must open up ourselves to the love of observing the commandments, rather than live in fear of disobeying them.
"Unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of Heaven."
The scribes and Pharisees were rote observers of the law. They knew every letter of it and enforced it without mercy and without question. The problem with this approach was that it removed the loving aspect of worship and tipped the balance more towards the fearing aspect of worship. Fear of eternal punishment drove them, and continues to drive many people to remain faithful to God. But fearful worship, as opposed to loving worship, contradicts everything Jesus taught us about God, our Father who loves us, forgives us, and grants us free will to walk the path of life He chose for us (or not).
We have to do better than rote observance to be able to enter the kingdom of Heaven. We follow the commandments because we want to, not because we must. We want to follow the commandments because they come from God, who loves us and allows us to do as we wish so long as we never cross the lines set by His commandments.
I strongly disagree–we must obey–and fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. There is NOTHING wrong with having a healthy fear of the Lord, and there is NOTHING wrong with a Catholic desiring obedience to the Lord (and His Church) even if that obedience is driven by fear. The reason is because people who fear the Lord, also believe in the Lord–they have faith in God, and they have faith that God alone saves their souls.
Now, certainly, if we wish to grow closer to the Lord, than stepping beyond fear and obedience will be a natural next step–yet fear and obedience born of faith is more than enough.
We follow the Commandments because God commands us to do so…whether we want to follow them is utterly beside the point. We follow them because God said so–period.
Sometimes I feel too heavy an influence from Protestant thought has been accepted by many Catholics–the entire modern mantra and desire for a “personal relationship with the Lord” is bunko in my view–I do not recall Christ/God ever telling us we have to get to personally know Him to be saved and receive eternal life. Instead, we must have faith in Him, and we must follow Him (and His Church). It all places a burden on people that most cannot ever carry: (1) They must obey; (2) They must follow Him; (3) They must develop a personal relationship with Jesus–and if any of that is missing…no Heaven…that, imo, is NOT Catholic theology and it is not Biblical.
I believe the Pope is trying to encourage us to go deeper, for our own sake of growing closer to God–because growing closer to God is a most wonderful thing. I also think the Pope is trying to tell us that our obedience must happen, but it must happen from a foundation of faith. Yet, if a Catholic works intently to follow Jesus and His Church, and if that person obeys the same–they can and will be saved if they see it to the end of their life (with or without a personal relationship with Jesus). God judges our hearts, and our actions…and if our actions are born of faith, that is a very, very good thing indeed.