On the second anniversary of the beatification of Archbishop Oscar Romero, who was killed in 1980 by military squadrons linked to the Regime in San Salvador as he defended the poor, Pope Francis recalled Romero’s religious fervor and passion for justice while warning the faithful against a ‘lukewarm’ Church.
The Pope was speaking during Mass at the Casa Santa Marta.
Pope Francis exhorted believers to leave comfort to the side and embrace an energetic lifestyle proclaiming Jesus with joy.
He reflected on the liturgical reading of the day which tells the story of Paul and Silas in Philippi where they were followed by a slave girl with an oracular spirit who was shouting “These people are slaves of the Most High God”. This seemed like praise, the Pope said, but Paul became annoyed and cast out the spirit. Paul understood, the Pope explained, that that was not the path to conversion of that city; it was not the Church of Christ. Everyone there accepted the doctrine, there were no conversions.
Similar situations, the Pope continued, have been repeated in the history of salvation: when the people of God are quiet, they do not take risks, but are servants of ‘worldliness’.
Then the Lord, he said, sent the prophets who – like Paul – were persecuted “because they made people uncomfortable.”
“In the Church when someone cries out against the many ways of worldliness, they are given ‘the crooked eye’ as if something were wrong with them, and then they are distanced” he said.
Francis spoke of personal memories from his own homeland recalling many men and women, whom he said, were not supporters of an ideology but “were good consecrated people” who spoke out saying “No, the Church of Jesus is like this….: they were branded as communists and persecuted” he said.
“Think of the Blessed Romero.What happened to him for having told the truth? And so many others in the history of the Church, even here in Europe. Why? Because the evil spirit prefers a tranquil, risk-free Church, a business-like Church, a comfortable and lukewarm Church” he said.
In chapter 16 of the Acts it is also said that the slaves of the slave were angry: they had lost their hope of earning money because the slave could no longer divine.
“The evil one, the Pope warned, always starts from the pocket. When the Church is lukewarm, quiet, organized, when there are no problems, look to where business is to be made” he said.
Pope Francis also focused his homily, on joy. In fact, he told of how Paul and Silas were dragged by the slaves to the magistrates who ordered them to be beaten and then thrown into jail. The jailer threw them into the innermost part of the jail where the two men broke into song. Towards midnight a tremendous earthquake flung all the gates of the prison open. The jailer was about to take his life because he would have been killed if the prisoners had escaped but Paul urged him not to do so because, he said, “we are all here”. Then the jailer asked for explanations and converted. He washed their sores, was baptized, and “was filled with joy”.
This, the Pope said, is the path of our daily conversion: “to move from a worldly, tranquil, safe, Catholic” lukewarm yes, to the true proclamation of Jesus Christ; to the joy of ‘Christ’s announcement. We must move, he said, from a religion that looks too much to earnings, to faith and to the proclamation that ‘Jesus is the Lord’.
This, Francis continued, is the miracle performed by the Holy Spirit, and he invited the faithful to read Chapter 16 of the Acts in order to see how the Lord “together with his martyrs” makes the Church move forward.
The Pope concluded his homily saying that a Church without martyrs breeds distrust; a Church that doesn’t take risks breeds distrust; a Church that is afraid of proclaiming Jesus Christ and of chasing out demons, idols and the lord of money is not Christ’s Church.
“Let us ask the Lord for the grace for renewed vigor in faith and conversion from a lukewarm way of life so we are able to make the joyful proclamation that Jesus is the Lord” he said.