Pope Francis has once again warned against a type of Catholicism obsessed with formalities and rituals, saying that the Christian faith is a journey and not armor to protect oneself.
He made his remarks on Thursday as he celebrated Mass with some 1,500 people who gathered in St. Peter’s Basilica for the feast of Epiphany.
“Where did the pilgrimage of the Magi to meet Jesus begin? What prompted these men from the East to set out?” asked the pope.
“They had excellent reasons not to go. They were sages and astrologers, famous and wealthy,” he said, noting that, nevertheless, the Magi yearn for something greater – “to see the light”.
“Where are we in our journey of faith? »
Francis then drew a parallel between the situation of those whom tradition calls “the Magi” and that of believers today.
He pointed out that obstacles to faith today include “consumerism”, “dull and dreary faith” and “fear of getting involved and serving others and the common good”.
“Where are we in our journey of faith? he asked his fellow worshippers.
“Have we been stuck too long, nestled in a conventional, outward, formal religiosity that no longer warms our hearts and changes our lives? he wondered.
“Do our words and our liturgies kindle in the hearts of people the desire to go to God, or are they a ‘dead language’ which speaks only of itself and to itself?”
“It’s sad… to fall into clerical functionalism”
The 85-year-old pope then returned to the theme of travel.
“Faith is not an armor that envelops us; rather it is a fascinating journey, a constant and restless movement, always in search of God”, he insisted, stressing the importance of having a “desire” to know God.
“To desire means to fuel the fire that burns within us; it pushes us to look beyond what is immediate and visible,” he continued.
“It’s sad when a priest has closed the door of desire, sad to fall into clerical functionalism, very sad,” the Jesuit pope lamented.
Instead, he said believers need to take into account “the explosive and unsettling joy of the Gospel.”
“Brothers and sisters, let us dream, seek and adore,” Francis said.
He encouraged his fellow Catholics “to walk together and listen to one another, so that the Spirit can suggest new paths to us.”
“It is also one of the tasks of the synod,” he insisted, referring to the synodal process launched in October to prepare for the next gathering of the synod of bishops in Rome in 2023.
The pope said it is a method to find “ways and paths to bring the Gospel to the hearts of those who are distant, indifferent or without hope, but who continue to seek what the Magi found: a great joy”.
“Today we can follow this advice: gaze at the star and walk,” Francis said later during his noon Angelus reflections.
“Never stop walking,” he told the several thousand people who gathered in St. Peter’s Square in a light rain. “Never stop looking at the star.”