POPE’S MESSAGE | God is no warlord claiming victory with enemies’ blood

Alessandro Bianchi | Reuters

VATICAN CITY — If it seems hard to find God in this world, it's because He chooses to be with the defeated and dejected and in places where most people are loath to go, Pope Francis said.

"God does not like to be loved the way a warlord would like, dragging His people to victory, debasing them in the blood of His enemies," the pope said May 24 at his weekly general audience in St. Peter's Square.

The audience began just after Pope Francis had met U.S. President Donald Trump.

"Our God is a dim flame that burns on a cold and windy day, and, for as fragile as His presence seems in this world, He has chosen the place everyone disdains," Pope Francis told the crowd in the square.

Continuing his series of talks on Christian hope, the pope looked at the Gospel of Luke's account of the two disciples traveling on the road to Emmaus after Jesus had been crucified and buried.

In the story, the pope said, the disciples, are struggling to understand how such a fate could have befallen the man they had faith in: the son of God.

Their hope was merely human, he said, and it easily shattered after such an unforeseen defeat of God, who appeared "defenseless at the hands of the violent, incapable of offering resistance to evil."

"How much unhappiness, how many defeats, how many failures there are in the life of every person. In essence, we are all like those two disciples," he said. Just when life seems to be going well, "we find ourselves struck down, disappointed."

But just as Jesus was on the road with the disciples, the pope said, He is also walking with everyone on their journey through life.

"Jesus walks with all those who are discouraged, who walk with their head down," so He can offer them renewed hope, he said.

But He does so discreetly, the pope said. "Our God is not an intrusive God."

Even though He knows what is bothering the disciples, He asks them a question and listens patiently, letting them tap into the depths of their bitterness and sadness.

Whoever reads the Bible will not find stories of "easy heroism, blazing campaigns of conquest. True hope never comes cheap — it always comes through defeat."

In fact, he added, the hope felt by those who have never suffered may not even be hope at all.

The disciples initially didn't recognize God on the road because their hope had been in a victorious, conquering leader, the pope said. They only recognize Him when He takes the bread, blesses it, breaks it and gives it to them — exactly like He did with His own life.

The Church should be this way, too, Pope Francis said, by letting Jesus "take us, bless us, 'break' our lives — because there is no love without sacrifice — and offer it to others, offer it to everyone."

The Church needs to be just like Jesus, not staying in a "fortified fortress," but out where everything is alive and happening — on the road.

"It is there (the Church) meets people, with their hopes and disappointments," listens patiently to what emerges from their "treasure chest of personal conscience" and offers the life-giving Word and witness to God's love, he said. 

Pope: Devil prefers comfy, business-savvy Church that overlooks truth

VATICAN CITY — The devil would like to see a Church that never takes any risks, never speaks out with the truth and just settles on being wishy-washy, comfortable and business-savvy, Pope Francis said.

God's prophets always were persecuted because they created a disturbance, much like those today who denounce worldliness in the Church and get ostracized, the pope said May 23 during a morning Mass in the chapel of the Domus Sanctae Marthae.

However, "a Church without martyrs gives rise to distrust; a Church that takes no risks gives rise to distrust; a Church that is afraid to proclaim Jesus Christ and cast out demons, idols and the other lord that is money is not the Church of Jesus," he said.

The pope's homily looked at how Paul and Silas ended up in prison in Philippi after Paul cast a spirit out of a slave girl, and he and Silas were accused of disturbing the city and promoting unlawful customs.

The history of salvation is filled with similar stories, he said. Whenever the people of God were undisturbed, didn't take risks or started serving, "I won't say idols, but worldliness," then God would send a prophet to shake things up.

The pope said he could recall "many, many men and women, good consecrated (religious), not ideological," in Argentina who spoke out about what the Church of Jesus was meant to be, but who would be accused of being communist and sent away and persecuted.

There are many men and women like this in the history of the Church, the pope said, "because the evil spirit prefers a peaceful Church, without risks, a business Church, an easy Church, in the comfort of warmth, lukewarm."

"When the Church is lukewarm, tranquil, everything organized, there are no problems, look where the deals are," he said, because the devil always comes in "through the pocket."

— Carol Glatz, Catholic News Service 

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