The pope’s daily homily from Santa Marta
VATICAN CITY — If you leave the door of your heart ajar, “God will find a way in” to console you, and enable you to console others, Pope Francis said on Monday.
The contrast between the “narcissism of self-centeredness” and the Christian “otherness” that is expressed in “gift and service” was the subject of the pope’s homily at morning Mass, in the chapel of his residence at Santa Marta.
Pope Francis pointed to the “Doctors of the Law” as an example of those who are “filled with self-sufficiency.” He also offered the example of the rich man portrayed in St. Luke’s Gospel, who lived his days from one feast to another, believing himself thus to be “consoled.” Finally, he offered the figure par excellence of the Pharisee who prayed, “Thank you, Lord, for not making me like those others.”
“That man looked at himself in the mirror,” said Pope Francis. “He gazed on his one likeness embellished with ideologies, and thanked the Lord.” The pope said Jesus shows us such persons because they represent a real possibility – it is possible to live in such manner that “one shall never arrive at fullness, but only achieve a state of being bloated,” that is, of being puffed up with vainglory.
Consolation is gift and service
In order to be true, consolation therefore needs an “other.” Consolation is first received, because “it is God who consoles,” who gives this “gift.” Then true consolation also matures and is given to another “other,” when one who has been consoled, consoles in turn. “Consolation is a state of transition from the gift received to the service given.” The pope explained:
“True consolation has this twofold ‘otherness’: it is both gift and service. And so it is, if I let the consolation of the Lord enter as a gift it is because I need to be consoled. I am in need: in order to be consoled, one must recognize oneself as being in need of consolation. Only then does the Lord come, console us, and give us the mission to console others. it is not easy to have one’s heart open to receive the gift and to serve, the two ‘alterities’ that make consolation possible.”
The teaching of the Beatitudes
An open heart stands in need, then, and in order to be open a heart must be happy – and the Gospel Reading of the day tells us precisely “who are the happy, the ‘blessed’.”:
“The poor: the heart is opened with an attitude of poverty, of poverty of spirit; those who know how to cry, the meek ones, the meekness of heart; those hungry for justice who fight for justice; those who are merciful, who have mercy on others; the pure of heart; peace-makers and those who are persecuted for justice, for love of righteousness. Thus is the heart opened and [then] the Lord comes with the gift of consolation and the mission of consoling others.”
By contrast, those with “closed” hearts feel “rich in spirit” – that is, “sufficient,” Pope Francis said.
They include “those who do not need to cry because they feel they are in the right”; the violent who do not know what meekness is; the unjust who commit injustice; those who are without mercy, who never need to forgive because they do not feel the need to be forgiven; “the ones whose hearts are dirty”; the “makers of war” and not of peace; and those who are never criticized or persecuted because the injustice done to others is of no concern to them. “These,” Pope Francis said, “have a closed heart.”
They are not happy because the gift of consolation cannot enter their closed hearts, and so they cannot give it in turn to those who need it.
Open your heart
In conclusion, Pope Francis asked the faithful to consider their own hearts, and whether they are open and able to ask for the gift of consolation and give it to others as a gift from the Lord. We need to reflect throughout the day on this, he said, and to thank the Lord, who “always seeks to console us,” and “asks us to open the doors of our hearts even only just a little bit.” If we “leave it ajar,” Pope Francis, “God will find a way in.”