If Jesus did not enter your life, it did not change, warns the Pope, saying that we can be Christian only from the outside.
Just one verse each day.
Pope Francis is warning against being a merely “elegant Catholic” instead of a “holy Catholic”; this happens when we focus on being “a good person,” who doesn’t “commit major sins,” instead of allowing Jesus to truly transform our lives.
The Holy Father continued his general audience series on apostolic zeal, considering St. Paul’s great change from persecutor to Apostle. What made the difference was his encounter with Christ.
“Every one of us, think,” the Pope urged:
“I am a religious” –
“I pray” –
“I try to obey the commandments” –
“But where is Jesus in your life?” –
“Ah, no, I do the things the Church commands …”
“But Jesus, where is he? Have you encountered Jesus, have you spoken with Jesus? If you pick up the Gospel or talk with Jesus, do you remember who Jesus is? And this is something that we very often lack; a Christianity, I would say, not without Jesus, but with an abstract Jesus… No!
“When Jesus enters, everything changes,” the Pope said, as it did with St. Paul.
Has your Christian life changed?
“No, more or less, yes…”
If Jesus did not enter your life, it did not change. You can be Christian only from the outside. But no, Jesus must enter and this changes you, and this happened to Paul. It is finding Jesus, and this is why Paul said that Christ’s love drives us, it is what takes you forward. The same thing happened, this change, to all the saints, who went forward when they found Jesus.
What’s more, the Pope continued, while Paul was persecuting Christians, he felt righteous before God.
He feels “authorized to persecute, to arrest, even to kill, as in the case of Stephen; but when, enlightened by the Risen Lord, he discovers he was a ‘blasphemer and persecutor’ (cf. 1 Tim 1:13).”
On fire, and capable of loving
In the same way, Pope Francis proposed, we need that conversion to make us truly capable of loving.
If one of us says, “Ah, thank you Lord, because I am a good person, I do good things, I do not commit major sins …” this is not a good path, this is the path of self-sufficiency, it is a path that does not justify you, it makes you turn up your nose… [This is the path of] an elegant Catholic, but an elegant Catholic is not a holy Catholic, he is elegant.
The true Catholic, the true Christian is one who receives Jesus within, which changes your heart.
This is the question I ask you all today: What does Jesus mean for me? Did I let him enter my heart, or do I keep him within reach but so that he does not really enter within? Have I let myself be changed by him? Or is Jesus just an idea, a theology that goes ahead…
Zeal, the desire to evangelize, to share Christ, the Pope said, comes from this finding Jesus and allowing him to enter us. “When one finds Jesus and feels the fire, like Paul, [he] must preach Jesus, must talk about Jesus, must help people, must do good things. When one finds the idea of Jesus, he or she remains an ideologue of Christianity, and this does not justify; only Jesus justifies us. May the Lord help us find Jesus, encounter Jesus, and may this Jesus change our life from within and help us to help others.”