POPE’S MESSAGE | Faith says ‘no’ to Satan, ‘yes’ to God

Stefano Rellandini | Reuters

VATICAN CITY — Baptism requires rejecting Satan and professing one's full faith in God, Pope Francis said.

Only by saying "no" to the devil, his works and empty promises "am I able to say 'yes' to God, who calls me to conform myself to Him in thoughts and deeds," he said.

"It is not possible to follow Christ (while) imposing preconditions," he said May 2 during his weekly general audience in St. Peter's Square.

Continuing his series of talks on the sacrament of baptism, the pope looked at the importance of the heart being ready to receive the gift of new life from God through the baptismal water and the Holy Spirit. When a child is presented for baptism, its parents and godparents renew the vows of their own baptism in rejecting sin and professing faith in Jesus.

"Either you are with God or with the devil," the pope said, explaining that is why the renunciation of sin and the profession of faith are "two acts tightly connected to each other."

One must break with the past and its sinful attachments, "leaving them behind in order to embark on the new way, which is Christ" and to be able to "truly embrace others," he said.

"The devil divides and God always unites the community, the people" in one body, he said.

During the baptismal rite, he said, the individual is asked to respond in the first person, to reject evil and profess his or her faith as a sign of choosing to be personally responsible in this daily commitment of trusting in God and walking with him.

The profession of faith reflects a commitment — aided by baptism — to be strong and persevere throughout all of life's trials and temptations, he added.

"Rejecting sin, the temptations of evil, Satan — the source and cause of every sin — and faith in what the Church believes" aren't temporary or provisional commitments asked only at baptism, Pope Francis said.

They are required throughout life, he said, and "the presence of the Holy Spirit will give you the strength to fight well" against evil and temptation.

Whenever people bless themselves with holy water, he said, they should recall with joy and gratitude the gift they received on the day of their baptism and they ask for the grace to persevere and live "immersed" in God's love. 

Heaven is an encounter with Jesus, not a boring waiting room

VATICAN CITY — Heaven is not an eternally dull existence but rather the completion of a journey toward a promised encounter with the Lord, Pope Francis said.

Although Christians may know full well that their goal is to go to heaven, "we begin to slip" when asked, "What is heaven," the pope said in his homily April 27 during Mass at Domus Sanctae Marthae.

"Many times, we think of an abstract heaven, a faraway heaven, a heaven that we say 'yes, its fine.' But some may think: 'Isn't it a little boring being there for all eternity?' No, that is not heaven," he said.

Pope Francis' homily focused on the day's first reading from the Acts of the Apostle, in which St. Paul proclaims "that what God promised our fathers He has brought to fulfillment" through Jesus' resurrection.

Trusting God to fulfill His promises, he said, puts Christians on a path "toward an encounter, the definitive encounter with Jesus. Heaven is the encounter with Jesus."

Pope Francis said that during this journey, Jesus "isn't sitting there waiting for me but, as the Gospel says, He works for us. He Himself said, 'Have faith in me' and 'I will prepare a place for you.'"

Jesus prays for all who embark on this path toward heaven. However, the pope said, Christians must continue to remind themselves that "He is faithful" and that He will fulfill His promise.

"Heaven will be that encounter, an encounter with the Lord who has gone there to prepare the place, the encounter with each one of us. And this gives us confidence; it makes trust grow," he said.

"May the Lord give us this awareness of being on a journey with this promise. May the Lord give us this grace: to look up and think: 'The Lord is praying for me,'" Pope Francis said.

— Junno Arocho Esteves, Catholic News Service 

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