Pope Francis: Friday Mass in Santa Marta

2014-02-21 Vatican Radio

“A faith that does not bear fruit in works is not faith.” This was the affirmation with which Pope Francis opened his remarks at Mass on Friday, following the readings of the day. The Holy Father offered the Mass in the chapel of the Casa Santa Marta in the Vatican, for the intention of Cardinal Silvano Piovanelli, emeritus Archbishop of Florence, on his 90th birthday. The Pope thanked Cardinal Piovanelli for “his work, his witness and his goodness.”

The world is full of Christians who often recite the words of the Creed, while very seldom putting them into practice – [and of] erudite [scholars] who reduce theology to a series of neat categories, neatly removed and shielded from having any influence on real life. It is a danger that St. James feared even two thousand years ago, and that Pope Francis made the subject of his remarks to the faithful after the day’s readings on Friday, “[St. James’ statement],” said Pope Francis, commenting on the passage from his Letter, which was read at Mass, “is clear: faith without fruit in life, a faith that does not bear fruit in works, is not faith.”: Listen:

“Also, we often make the mistake of saying: ‘But I have a lot of faith’, [and] ‘I believe everything, everything ...’- and maybe this person who says [something like this] leads a lukewarm life, a weak [life]. His faith is as a theory, though it is not alive in his life. The Apostle James, when he speaks of faith, speaks precisely of doctrine, of that, which is what is the content of the faith. Nevertheless, one might learn all the commandments , all the prophecies , all the truths of faith, though if these are not put into practice, put to work, they are useless. We can recite the Creed theoretically, even without faith, and there are many people who do so – even the demons! The demons know very well what is said in the Creed and know that it is the Truth.”

The words of Pope Francis echo the assertion of St. James: “You believe that there is one God? You do well: the devils also believe, and tremble.” The difference , the Pope added, is that the demons do not “have faith” insofar as authentic faith, “is not [merely] to possess knowledge.” Rather, “[to have faith means] receiving the message of God,” brought by Christ. The Holy Father went on to say that, in the Gospel, there are two telltale signs of those, who, “know what is to be believed, but do not have faith.” The first sign is a tendency to “casuistry”, represented by those who asked Jesus if it was lawful to pay taxes, or which of the seven brothers of the husband would have to marry the widowed woman. The second sign is a commitment to “ideology”:

“Christians who think of faith as a system of ideas, ideologically: there were such as these even ing Jesus’ own day. The Apostle John says of them, that they were the antichrist, the ideologues of faith, of whatsoever [ideological] stamp they might have been. At that time there were the Gnostics, but there will [always] be many – and thus, those who fall into casuistry or those who fall into ideology are Christians who know the doctrine, but without faith, like demons. The difference is that the demons tremble, these Christians, no: they live peacefully.”

The Pope recalled how in the Gospels, there are also examples of “people who do not know the doctrine, but have so much faith.” He went on to mention the episode of the Canaanite woman, who, with her faith obtains healing for her daughter, who was the victim of possession, and the Samaritan woman who opens her heart because, he says, “she has not met with abstract truths,” but “Jesus Christ.” Then there is the blind man healed by Jesus, who then faces interrogation by the Pharisees and teachers of the law until he kneels with humility and adores the one who healed him. Three people, said Pope Francis, who show how faith and witness are inseparable:

“Faith is an encounter with Jesus Christ, with God, from which faith is born, and from there it brings you to witness. That is what the Apostle means: a faith without works , a faith that does not involve one’s [whole] self, that does not lead to witness, is not faith. It is words – and nothing more than words.”