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Following Jesus Is Not a Career

Pope Francis greets crowd including woman with Apple laptop

CREDIT : L'Osservatore Romano/Pool Photo via AP

Pope Francis - published on 06/03/15

New book puts you in front pew for Pope Francis's homilies at St. Martha's

Editor’s NoteAmong the many novelties introduced under the pontificate of Pope Francis is his taking up residence in St. Martha’s Guesthouse, rather than the papal apartments in the Apostolic Palace. Almost every morning, when he is not away or preoccupied with other matters, Francis has celebrated Mass in the chapel of "Casa Santa Marta," delivering a homily in his inimitable style.

The congregation tends to be varied from day to day: sometimes gardeners, sometimes office workers, sometimes nuns and priests. And, naturally, a growing group of journalists. It is as if, without notes and much like a parish priest, the Pope is addressing the entire world. 

On June 16, Image Books will be publishing Encountering Truth: Meeting God in the Everyday, a collection of highlights from papal homilies at St. Martha’s Chapel from March 2013 to May 2014. They are published along with summaries by Vatican Radio (who recorded and transcribed the homilies) and commentary by Jesuit Father Antonio Spadaro.

Image has granted permission to reprint the following homiy from Pope Francis, which he delivered in May 2013.


The proclamation of Jesus is not a varnish, a coat of paint, but enters the heart and changes us. Following Jesus does not mean having more power, because his way is that of the Cross. Let’s think of the question that Peter addresses to Jesus and that, at bottom, con­cerns the life of every Christian: What will be the reward that we will receive for following you? Jesus responds that those who follow him will have “many good things” but “with persecutions.” The way of the Lord “is a way of ‘abasement,’ a way that ends in the Cross.” This is why “there will always be difficulties, persecutions.” These will always be there, “because he went this way before” us. And “when a Christian does not have difficulties in life—everything’s fine, ev­erything’s wonderful—something is wrong.” One can imagine that he is “a great friend of the spirit of the world, of worldliness.” And this is “the characteristic temptation of a Christian.

“To follow Jesus, yes, but up to a certain point; to follow Jesus as a cultural form: I am Christian, I have this culture . . . But without the demands of really following Jesus, the demands of walking his path. If we follow Jesus as a cultural proposal, we use this as a way to get ahead, to have more power. And the history of the Church is full of this, beginning with some of the emperors and then continu­ing with so many other rulers and people, right? And even some—I don’t want to say many, but some—priests, some bishops, right? Some say there are many . . . but some think that following Jesus is a career.

“In the literature a few centuries ago,” it was customary to say that someone “wanted to have an ecclesiastical career since he was a child.” And that “many Christians, tempted by the spirit of the world, think that following Jesus is good because you can make it a career, you can get ahead.” But this “is not the spirit,” it is instead the attitude of Peter when he talks about a career and Jesus responds to him: “ ‘Yes, I will give you everything with persecutions.’ You cannot remove the Cross from the way of Jesus; it is always there.” And nonetheless this does not mean that the Christian must hurt himself. The Christian “follows Jesus out of love, and when one fol­lows Jesus out of love, the envy of the devil does many things.” The “spirit of the world does not tolerate this, it does not tolerate witness.

“Think about Mother Teresa: What does the spirit of the world say about Mother Teresa? ‘Ah, Blessed Teresa is a wonderful woman, she did so many things for others . . .’ The spirit of the world never says that Blessed Teresa, every day, for so many hours, was in ad­oration . . . Never! It reduces Christian activity to social work. As if Christian existence were a varnish, a gloss of Christianity. The proclamation of Jesus is not a gloss; the proclamation of Jesus goes to the core, to the heart, it gets inside and changes us. And the spirit of the world does not tolerate this, it does not tolerate it, and that is why persecutions come.”

He who leaves home and family to follow Jesus receives a hun­dred times as much “now in this present age.” A hundred times, with persecutions.

“Following Jesus is exactly this: going with him, behind him, out of love: the same journey, the same path. And the spirit of the world will be that which does not tolerate us and makes us suffer, but it is suffering like that of Jesus. Let’s ask for this grace: to follow Jesus on the path that he showed us and taught to us. This is wonderful, because he never leaves us alone. Never! He is always with us.”

May 28, 2013
Sirach 35:1–12
Mark 10:28–31

Excerpted from ENCOUNTERING TRUTH: MEETING GOD IN THE EVERYDAY by Pope Francis Copyright © 2015 by Radio Vaticana, Città del Vaticano, Libreria Editrice Vaticana, Città del Vaticano RCS Libri S.p.A., Milano. To be published by Image Books, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC, on June 16. 

Pope Francis
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