By Vatican News staff writer
Welcoming pilgrims to the Paul VI Audience Hall at the Vatican for his weekly General Audience, Pope Francis continued his catechesis on the Letter of Saint Paul to the Galatians. In this latest chapter, he recalls how the apostle Paul challenges the first Christians of Galatia to look at where they have strayed from their faith and how they risk nullifying the grace they have experienced if they do not correct course.
The Pope described how the Apostle uses strong terms, like foolishness, to describe their behaviour, because they risked losing their faith in Christ, which they initially received with enthusiasm, and so Paul appealed to their memory of his first proclamation when he offered them the possibility of attaining a new, hitherto unhoped-for freedom in faith.
The love of Christ, the wellspring of salvation
The point is to shake up their consciences, the Pope explained, when Paul reminded the Galatians how the word he preached to them focused on God’s love, fully manifested in the death and resurrection of Jesus, and the grace they received from that. In summary, the Pope went on to say, Paul’s intention is to compel the Galatians to avoid falling into the trap of a religiosity based solely on the scrupulous observance of precepts, overlooking "the love of Christ, crucified and risen again," which should "remain at the centre of our daily life as the wellspring of salvation".
The Galatians understood what Paul was saying, the Pope pointed out, since they had experienced the action of the Holy Spirit in their communities, through charity and other charisms that manifested themselves among them, "the fruit of the newness of the Spirit." God was bringing them to faith, the Holy Spirit had been the agent of their experience, the Pope added, but the Galatians were putting that all in the background seeing their own works as the protagonists, which Paul described as foolishness.
The Pope added that throughout history, even today, similar situations can arise where some propose a rigid religiosity or an artificial asceticism, with an "inflexibility that takes away from us that freedom in the Spirit that Christ’s redemption gives us." We need to be aware of this reality, he noted, and this Letter to the Galatians speaks about it and encourages us to go forward "in the paschal vocation of Jesus".
Christ's love at the centre of our lives
In conclusion, the Pope said we also need to reflect on where our faith is, and how we live it; and to make sure that Christ's love remains at the centre of our lives, the way to our salvation. We must continually keep to this "precious treasure, to the beauty of the newness of Christ," rather than to externals, rather than "something that attracts us momentarily but then leaves us empty inside." He said we can be encouraged by the fact that, "even when we are tempted to turn away, God still continues to bestow His gifts... God does not abandon us but rather abides with us in His merciful love."
World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation
Before imparting his Apostolic Blessing, Pope Francis recalled that today marks the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation, and the beginning of the Season of Creation, which will conclude on October 4, the feast of St. Francis of Assisi. He said this year's theme is, "A Home for All? Renewing God's Oikos", and that a message for the occasion will be released soon together with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, and the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby. He concluded inviting everyone to "pray and work for our common home in these times of grave planetary crisis," together with our brothers and sisters of different Christian denominations.