September 26, 2021
At the Angelus address on Sunday, Pope Francis reflects on Jesus’ exhortation to put aside judgements by pruning our inflexibility toward others.
By Devin Watkins
Pope Francis prayed the Angelus on Sunday with pilgrims in St. Peter’s Square, and reflected on the day’s Gospel (Mk 9:38-41), in which Jesus admonishes His disciples for seeking to hinder those who are doing good.
In the Gospel, the Apostle John speaks for the other disciples who had seen a man cast out a demon in Jesus’ name, even though he was not formally one of Jesus’ followers.
In response, Jesus tells the disciples not to restrict those who are doing good in His name.
Jesus, said the Pope, admonishes His disciples for “dividing people into good and bad”, and urges them to keep a close guard over their own hearts so as not to give in to evil.
Pope Francis said Jesus warns against a temptation while at the same time offering an exhortation.
The temptation, said the Pope, is to “closedness” and a group-think mentality.
The disciples “think they have the ‘exclusive right over Jesus’, and that they are the only ones authorized to work for the Kingdom of God.”
This attitude results in them considering themselves “privileged and others as outsiders, to the extent of becoming hostile towards them.”
Pope Francis added that every type of closure separates us from those around us “who do not think like we do.”
“This – we know – is the root of many great evils in history: of the absolutism that has often generated dictatorships and so much violence towards those who are different,” he said.
Division and the devil
The Pope urged Catholics to be vigilant about a similar closed-minded attitude in the Church, as well.
The devil, he said, is the “divider” who seeks to arouse suspicions in order to divide and exclude others. “He tempts with cunning, and it can happen as with those disciples, who go so far as to exclude even those who had cast out the devil himself!”
Rather than being humble, open communities, said Pope Francis, we can fall into the trap of thinking ourselves better than others and pushing them away.
“Instead of trying to walk with everyone, we display our ‘believer’s license’ so as to judge and exclude,” he lamented.
Judgement leads to separation, not communion
Pope Francis then encouraged Christians to ask for God’s grace so as to overcome a “nest” mentality and the temptation to judge and categorize.
These attitudes, he said, can turn Christian communities into places of “separation and not of communion.”
“The Holy Spirit does not want closedness,” said the Pope. “He wants openness, and welcoming communities where there is a place for everyone.”
The Pope went on to say that Jesus also offers an exhortation in the day’s Gospel: “instead of judging everything and everyone, let us beware of ourselves!”
Jesus, he said, uses striking images of cutting off body parts, which symbolize the radical nature of His call to root out sin.
“Jesus is radical, demanding, but for our own good, like a good doctor,” he said. “Every cut, every pruning, is so we can grow better and bear fruit in love.”
Rooting out evil
Finally, Pope Francis concluded the Angelus address with an invitation to better our lives.
“Let us ask, then: what is it in me that is contrary to the Gospel? What, in concrete terms, does Jesus want me to cut out of my life?”