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VATICAN CITY — Christians are called to guard their hearts from “passions” and “worldly noise,” in order to be open and receptive to the grace of God at every moment, Pope Francis said on Monday during his homily at Holy Mass in the Chapel of Santa Marta.
There is an “acceptable time” to welcome God's gracious gift and that moment is “now,” the Pope said. Christians need to be aware of this and so prepare their hearts to welcome God’s gift. They need hearts that are free “from worldly noise,” which he said, is the “noise of the devil.”
Understanding God’s timing
In his homily, Pope Francis drew on both readings from the Mass. In the first, St. Paul exhorts Christians “not to receive the grace of God in vain,” and he adds that “now is the acceptable time.” This means that “the Lord gives us grace all the time,” and his gift is “gratuitous,” the Pope said. Let us welcome it, he added, by paying attention to the rest of what St. Paul says: “Let us not give reason for scandal to anyone.”
“It is a scandal for a Christian to call himself Christian, and even to go to Church, to go to Mass on Sunday, and live like a worldling or a pagan. And when a person acts like this, it causes scandal. How many times have we heard in our local areas, in shops: ‘Look at him or her, at Mass every Sunday and then he or she does this, this, this, or this.’ And people are scandalized. This is what St. Paul means when he says: “Let us not receive it in vain.’ And how should we receive it? First, of all, we must understand that now is an ‘acceptable moment.’ We need to be attentive to understand God’s timing, when God passes by our heart.”
A heart free from passions
A Christian reaches the threshold of this attentiveness, Pope Francis explained, if he “guards his heart, distancing it from all the noise that doesn’t come from the Lord,” and by removing it from “the things that rob its peace.” A Christian is able to welcome God’s grace if his heart is freed from the “passions,” those which Jesus summarizes in the Gospel reading as “an eye for an eye” and replaces with “turning the other cheek” and going two miles with whoever forces you to go one.
“To be free from the passions and to have a humble heart, a meek heart. The heart is guarded by humility, by meekness, never by fighting, by wars. No! This is the noise: worldly noise, pagan noise and the devil’s noise. The heart is meant to be in peace. ‘Do not give reason for scandal to anyone, that our ministry not be blamed,’ St. Paul says. But he is also talking about the ministry of Christian testimony, that it not be blamed.”
Wise and benevolent
Guarding one’s heart to belong solely to God, or as St. Paul lists, “in tribulations, in necessities, in distresses, in stripes, in prisons, in seditions, in labors, in watchings, and in hunger.”
“But all these are bad things and I have to guard my heart to welcome the graciousness and the gift of God? Yes! And how do I do it? Paul continues: ‘In chastity, in wisdom, in kindness, in the spirit of holiness.’ Humility, kindness, patience, that looks only to God and has a heart open to the Lord who is passing by.”