By Christopher Wells
Saint Paul reminds the Galatians – and us – that the centre of salvation and faith is the death and resurrection of the Lord, Pope Francis said at Wednesday’s General Audience.
The Pope warned that there are many people today “who still seek religious security rather than the living and true God, focusing on rituals and precepts instead of embracing God’s love with their whole being.”
Return to what is essential
So, he said, St Paul asks the Galatians “to return to what is essential, to the God who gives us life in Christ crucified.” Pope Francis encourages us to “place ourselves in front of Christ crucified,” including in Adoration of the Eucharist, when we feel we are losing the thread in our spiritual life.
This leads to a further step, he continued: When we meet Christ crucified, Jesus changes our hearts, which leads us to understand that “the Gospel is meant for everyone, not just for a privileged few.” Thus, the Pope said, “the life of the community is regenerated” and through the Spirit, our lives as Christians are renewed, and we are able to continue “to engage in our spiritual battle.”
Works of the flesh v. fruit of the Spirit
Here Saint Paul presents a dichotomy between the “works of the flesh” and the “fruit of the Spirit.” Pope Francis explained that the works of the flesh are “behaviours that are contrary to the Spirit of God. St Paul does not intend to say that the flesh is evil in itself, but uses the term to indicate the condition of being turned in on oneself, “closing the door to the spirit” and reminding us that the things of the world grow old and pass away, “while the Spirit gives life.”
Christians are called to live out our baptismal calling, which leads to the fruits of the Spirit: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.” Pope Francis invited Christians to read Saint Paul and reflect on our own behaviour to see if we are bearing those fruits.
A challenge for our communities
“The Apostle’s teaching poses quite a challenge for our communities, too,” Pope Francis said. He explained, “the beauty of faith in Jesus Christ cannot be grasped on the basis of so many commandments or of a moral vision developed in many layers which can make us forget the original fruitfulness of love nourished by prayer from which peace and joyful witness flow.”
Nor, he said, can “the life of the Spirit … be suffocated by a bureaucracy that prevents access to the grace of the Spirit, the initiator of conversion of the heart.”
Proclaiming Christ crucified
Therefore, Pope Francis said in conclusion, “we have the huge responsibility of proclaiming Christ crucified and risen, enlivened by the breath of the Spirit of love. For it is this Love alone that possesses the power to attract and change the human heart.”