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Wednesday, April 17, 2019

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Pope Francis challenges us to be true disciples of Christ

Pope Francis challenges us to be true disciples of Christ

In his May 28 morning Mass, Pope Francis asked Christians to examine their consciences to see what kind of Christian they proclaimed to be.

The Pope then went on to describe three different kinds of Christians: 1) those who are so closed inside themselves, they are not aware of others in need; 2) those who hear the “clamor” of suffering but choose to do nothing about it; and 3) those who do hear and help bring people healing.

The first group are Christians who are indifferent and “do not hear. They believe life is there in their little group. They’re content in their small world. They’re deaf to the clamor of so many people who need salvation, who need Jesus’ help, who need the church.”

Such Christians are “self-centered, living for themselves. They are unable to hear the voice of Jesus speaking to them in life.” They enjoy a “Jesus and me spirituality” that is not messy or involves taking responsibility for life and the situations in which we find ourselves.

The second category of Christians includes those who hear people crying for help, “but want them to be quiet.” This is like Gospel passage when the crowds rebuked Bartimaeus, the blind man, who cried out for Jesus and was told to be quiet.

Another example happened when the disciples shooed away the children so they would not disturb their master. Jesus “was for them, he was not for everyone,” and so the disciples distanced people from Jesus – people who needed faith and salvation, the pope said.

People who exploit the church or religion for their own benefit or purposes also fit into this category, he said.

“They are Christians in name only, armchair Christians, but their inner life is not Christian; it is worldly.”

We could add to this category “cultural Christians.” Every religion has them but I will use “Cultural Catholics” as an example. Someone might say, “I was baptized a Catholic, I received my first communion, I was confirmed, married in the church and will die a Catholic.”

A Culture Catholic or Christian may have gone through all the rites of the church but never turned their lives over to God. For them religion is a question of jumping through various hoops rather than having a intimate relationship with a loving God.

The third category of Christians, Pope Francis said, is made up of “those who help people get closer to Jesus. This group of Christians are consistent with what they believe and how they live.”

They help those who are crying out for salvation, grace and spiritual healing. The pope asked people to reflect on what kind of Christian they are and whether they bring others closer to Jesus or distance them from him.

The Pope ultimately wants us to discover our True Self, who we are in the mind and heart of God, the face we had before we were born. It is who we were before we did anything right or wrong. It is our absolute identity, which we can neither gain nor lose by any technique, group affiliation, morality, or formula whatever. The surrendering of our false self, our mask that we are hiding behind, is the necessary pain we need to go through to find “the pearl of great price” that is always hidden inside this lovely but passing shell.

I think the main purpose of religion is to lead us to an experience of our True Self in God. Every sacrament, every Bible, every church service, every song, every ceremony is to help us experience our True Self, who we are in God and who God is in us. Great religions help us realign, mend, reconnect and reposition ourselves in God, with others and with God’s creation.