Francis says we have to be on guard against those who preach the Gospel in their own way and then take it too far and reduce all the Gospel to a “movement.”
“With the truth of the Gospel, one cannot negotiate,” says Pope Francis. “Faith in Jesus is not a bargaining chip: it is salvation, it is encounter, it is redemption. It cannot be sold off cheaply.”
The Pope said this as he took up again the Wednesday morning audiences open to the public, after a break in July.
The Holy Father has just started a series of reflections on St. Paul’s Letter to the Galatians.
At today’s audience, he noted how Paul — and “it is Paul’s love, Paul’s interest, Paul’s profession, to proclaim” — is so disheartened when the Galatians are threatened by “another gospel.”
Everything in him is dedicated to this proclamation, and he has no interest other than the Gospel.
The proclamation of 4 verbs
“The pivot around which everything revolves is the Gospel,” Pope Francis said, noting that Paul does not think of the “four Gospels,” as is natural for us, since when he is sending this letter to the Galatians, none of the four Gospels had yet been written.
For him the Gospel is what he preaches, what is called the kerygma, that is, the proclamation.
And this proclamation is “a Gospel that is expressed in four verbs,” the Pope said: Christ died, he was buried, raised on the third day, and appeared to Cephas, then the Twelve.
This is Paul’s proclamation, the proclamation that gives life to all. This Gospel is the fulfilment of the promises and the salvation offered to all men. Whoever accepts it is reconciled to God, is welcomed as a true son, and receives the inheritance of eternal life.
“The Apostle, cannot risk compromises on such decisive ground. The Gospel is only one and that is what he proclaimed; there can be no other,” the Pope said.
This Gospel that Paul has proclaimed is not the true Gospel because it was “he who announced it, no! He does not say this. This would be presumptuous, it would be boastful. Rather, he affirms that ‘his’ Gospel — the same one that the other Apostles were proclaiming elsewhere — is the only authentic one, because it is that of Jesus Christ.”
Thus the new “gospel” being taken up by the Galatians threatens the foundations of the community and “on this point the Apostle leaves no room for negotiation: one cannot negotiate. With the truth of the Gospel, one cannot negotiate. Either you receive the Gospel as it is, as it was announced, or you receive any other thing. But you cannot negotiate with the Gospel. One cannot compromise.”
A message for us
Pope Francis said that it’s possible to fall into the same trap as the Galatians through a lack of discernment.
This situation described at the beginning of the Letter seems paradoxical, because all those involved seem to be animated by good feelings. The Galatians who listen to the new missionaries think that by circumcision they will be even more devoted to the will of God and thus be even more pleasing to Paul.
But Paul, said the Pope, is “moved by total enthusiasm for the novelty of the Gospel, which is a radical novelty, not a fleeting novelty: there are no ‘fashionable’ gospels, the Gospel is always new, it is newness.”
So, the Pope said, it’s necessary to sort through things. “[I]n this labyrinth of good intentions it is necessary to disentangle oneself in order to grasp the supreme truth that is most consistent with the Person and preaching of Jesus and His revelation of the Father’s love.”
In other words, we must know how to discern.
Very often we have seen throughout history, and we even see this today, some movements that preach the Gospel in their own way, sometimes with real and genuine charisms; but then they take it too far and reduce all the Gospel to a “movement.” And this is not Christ’s Gospel: this is the Gospel of the founder and yes, it may help at the beginning, but in the end it does not bear fruit with deep roots.
For this reason, Paul’s clear and decisive word was salutary for the Galatians and is salutary for us too. The Gospel is Christ’s gift to us, He Himself revealed it to us. It is what gives us life.