Pope Francis celebrated Mass in the chapel of the Casa Santa Marta on Tuesday – the Feast of St. Ignatius of Antioch, Bishop and Martyr. Following the Readings of the Day, the Holy Father reflected on the “foolishness” of those, who are unable to hear the Word of God, preferring appearances, idols, or ideologies – like the people of Jerusalem, whose faithlessness caused Our Lord to weep nostalgic tears.
The folly of those who hear not the Word
Francis’ reflection took the word “fools”, which appears twice in the Readings, as his starting point: Jesus says it to the Pharisees (Lk 11: 37-41), while St. Paul refers to the Pagans (Rm 1: 16-25). St. Paul had also deployed the term to refer to the Christians of Galatia, whom he called “fools” because they let themselves be duped by “new ideas”. This word, “more than a condemnation,” explained Pope Francis, “is a signal,” for it shows the way of foolishness leading to corruption. “These three groups of fools are corrupt,” Pope Francis said.
Jesus told the Doctors of the Law that they resembled whitewashed sepulchres: they became corrupt because they worried only about the “outside of things” being beautiful, but not what is inside, where corruption exists. They were, therefore, “corrupted by vanity, by appearance, by external beauty, by outward justice.” The Pagans, on the other hand, have the corruption of idolatry: they became corrupt because they exchanged the glory of God – which they could have known through reason – for idols.
The folly of Christians today
There are also idolatries today, such as consumerism – the Pope noted – or such as practiced by those, who look for a comfortable god. Finally, those Christians who sell themselves to ideologies, and have ceased to be Christians, often having rather become, “ideologues of Christianity.” All three of these groups, because of their foolishness, “end up in corruption.” Francis then explains what this foolishness consists of:
“Folly is a form of ‘not listening’, one might literally say a nescio, ‘I do not know’, I do not listen. The inability to hearken to the Word: when the Word does not enter, I do not let it in because I do not listen. The fool does not listen. He believes he is listening, but he does not listen. He does his own thing, always – and for this reason the Word of God cannot enter into his heart, and there is no place for love. And if it enters, it enters distilled, transformed by my own conception of reality. The fools do not know how to listen, and this deafness leads to this corruption. The Word of God does not enter, there is no place for love and in the end there is no place for freedom.”
Thus, they become slaves, because they exchange “the truth of God with lies,” and worship creatures instead of the Creator:
“They are not free and do not listen: this deafness leaves room neither for love, nor for freedom; it always leads us to slavery. Do I listen to the Word of God? Do I let it in? This Word, of which we have heard in the singing of the Alleluia – the Word of God is alive, effective, revealing the feelings and thoughts of the heart. It cuts, it gets inside. Do I let this Word in, or am I deaf to it? Do I transform it into appearance, transform it into idolatry, into idolatrous habits, or into ideology? Thus, it does not enter: this is the folly of Christians.”
Concluding exhortation: do not be foolish
Pope Francis concludes with an exhortation: to look at the “icons of today’s fools,” adding, “there are foolish Christians and even foolish shepherds,” in this day. “Saint Augustine,” he recalled, “takes the stick to them, with gusto,” because “the folly of the shepherds hurts the flock.”
“Let us look at the icon of foolish Christians,” urged Pope Francis, “and beside this folly let us look on the Lord who is always at the door,” he knocks and waits. His concluding invitation is therefore that we should consider the Lord’s nostalgia for us: “of the love He had for us first”:
“And if we fall into this stupidity, we move away from Him and He feels this nostalgia – nostalgia for us – and Jesus wept with this longing cry, weeping over Jerusalem: it was nostalgia for a people He had chosen, a people He loved, but who had gone away for foolishness, who preferred appearances, idols, or ideologies.”