VATICAN CITY – Catholics should listen to the scripture readings at Mass with an open heart, so that the Word of God can take root in their lives and bear good fruit, Pope Francis said Sunday.
“Let’s do an examination of conscience to see how we welcome the Word of God. On Sunday we listen to it in the Mass. If we listen to it in a distracted or superficial way, it will not help us much,” the pope said Sept. 2.
“Instead, we must welcome the Word with open mind and heart, as a good ground, so that it is assimilated and bears fruit in concrete life.”
Speaking before the Angelus, Francis reflected on when Jesus said that the Word of God is like a grain of wheat: “it is a seed that must grow in concrete works. Thus the Word itself purifies our heart and our actions and our relationship with God and with others [and it] is freed from hypocrisy.”
In the day’s Gospel, Jesus addresses authenticity of obedience to the Word of God and hypocrisy, which he said, “is one of the strongest adjectives that Jesus uses in the Gospel.”
The Gospel passage opens with the scribes and Pharisees objecting to Jesus that his disciples do not follow the ritual precepts. But Jesus replies to them, saying, “This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines human precepts.”
With these words, Jesus is trying to “shake” the scribes and Pharisees from the mistake of neglecting God’s commandments in favor of observing human traditions. If his reaction seems severe, it is because something important is at stake, Francis said: “The truth of the relationship between man and God.”
The pope said the Lord invites each person today to “flee the danger of giving more importance to form than to substance.”
“He calls us to recognize, again and again, what is the true center of the experience of faith, that is, the love of God and love of neighbor, purifying it from the hypocrisy of legalism and ritualism,” he said.
By telling Christians to visit orphans and widows, the Lord is saying to practice charity beginning with the neediest, with the most fragile, Francis said.
“‘Do not let yourself be contaminated by this world’ does not mean isolating oneself and closing oneself to reality,” he continued. “No. Here too it should not be an external but interior attitude, of substance: it means to be vigilant so that our way of thinking and acting is not polluted by the worldly mentality, that is, by vanity, greed, pride.”
He concluded by asking for the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary to help people to always honor the Lord with their heart, “bearing witness to our love for him in concrete choices for the good of our brothers and sisters.”
After reciting the Angelus, the pope noted Saturday’s beatification of Blessed Anna Kolesárová, virgin and martyr, who was killed “for resisting those who wanted to violate her dignity and her chastity.”
Comparing her to St. Maria Goretti, he said the courageous girl “helps young Christians to remain steadfast in fidelity to the Gospel, even when it requires going against the current.”
Francis also renewed his prayers for Syria and asked those in leadership in the country to use “diplomacy, dialogue and negotiations,” to safeguard human lives.