Pope Francis has given Catholics some recommendations for how to reignite their spiritual life after falling out of practice.
“If we lose the thread of the spiritual life, if a thousand problems and thoughts assail us, let us heed Paul’s advice,” he said at his general audience on Wednesday.
“Let us place ourselves in front of Christ Crucified, let us begin again from Him. Let us take the Crucifix in our hands, holding it close to our heart. Or we can even take some time in adoration before the Eucharist, where Jesus is Bread broken for us, Crucified, Risen, the power of God who pours out his love into our hearts,” he said.
Pope Francis’ live-streamed address in the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall Oct. 27 emphasized that Christ’s death and resurrection is “the center of the salvation and faith.
Speaking to a packed hall of pilgrims, the pope continued his cycle of catechesis on St. Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians.
He explained that “today, there are many 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.”
“This is the temptation of the new fundamentalists, isn’t it?” he continued. “Of those who seem to be afraid to make progress, and who regress because they feel more secure: they seek the security of God and not the God of our security… This is why Paul asks the Galatians to return to what is essential – to return to God.”
He underlined that meeting the crucified Jesus in our prayers gives us life. The Holy Spirit flows forth from Jesus’ passion, death, and resurrection to that “the action of the Holy Spirit in us” can change our hearts, not anything that we do.
The Holy Spirit nourishes our lives so we can continue to engage in our spiritual battle, he said, another important teaching in St. Paul’s Letter to the Galatians.
In his letter, “the apostle presents two opposing fronts: on the one side, the ‘works of the flesh,’ and on the other, the ‘fruit of the Spirit,’” Pope Francis said.
He noted that in Galatians 5, “Paul lists the works of the flesh which refer to the selfish use of sexuality, to magical practices connected with idolatry and to all that undermines interpersonal relationships such as ‘enmity, jealousy, dissension, divisions, factions, envy…’”
“The fruit of the Spirit, instead,” he explained, “is ‘love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control,’ as Paul says.”
This is how Christians are called to live, he stated, recommending the spiritual exercise of reading St. Paul’s list of fruits and meditating on whether our own life and behavior corresponds.
He said we should ask ourselves: “These fruits of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control: does my life bear these fruits?”
This teaching also has a message for the Church, he said, because sometimes people “who approach the Church get the impression that they are dealing with a dense mass of rules and regulations: but no, this is not the Church.”
“In reality, 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,” he stated.
The pope also criticized the practice by some priests and bishops of requiring people to deal with a lot of bureaucracy to access the sacraments.
“The life of the Spirit, expressed in the sacraments, cannot be suffocated by a bureaucracy that prevents access to the grace of the Spirit, the initiator of conversion of heart,” he said.
“We therefore have the huge responsibility of proclaiming Christ crucified and risen, enlivened by the breath of the Spirit of love,” he added. “For it is this Love alone that possesses the power to attract and change the human heart.”