Pope Francis warned priests at the Chrism Mass on Thursday about the temptation of “hidden idols” — the poison the devil uses to draw them away from Christ’s presence and love.
“There is something about idols that is personal,” the pope said in St. Peter’s Basilica on April 14. “When we fail to unmask them, when we do not let Jesus show us that in them we are wrongly and unnecessarily seeking ourselves, we make room for the Evil One.”
Around 2,500 people attended the Vatican’s Chrism Mass, during which the pope, as the Bishop of Rome, blessed the Oil of the Sick, the Oil of Catechumens, and the Chrism Oil, which will be used in the diocese during the coming year.
The live-streamed papal Mass was concelebrated by around 1,800 cardinals, bishops, and priests living in Rome, who renewed the promises they made at their priestly ordinations.
Pope Francis encouraged priests to set their temptations before Jesus, so that they can acknowledge them and reject them.
“As we can see, this requires knowing what is pleasing to the Lord and what it is that he is asking of us here and now, at this point in our lives,” he said. “And perhaps, if we meet his gracious gaze, he will also help us to show him our idols.”
Allowing the Lord to see our hidden idols takes away their power, Francis said. “The Lord’s gaze makes us see that, through them, we are really glorifying ourselves, for there, in those spaces we mark out as exclusively ours, the devil insinuates himself with his poison.”
Pope Francis described three forms of hidden idolatry that he said Satan uses to draw priests away from the “benevolent and loving presence of Jesus”: spiritual worldliness, a preoccupation with numbers and statistics, and functionalism.
Functionalism, he said, “can be alluring; many people ‘are more enthusiastic about the roadmap than about the road.’ The functionalist mindset has short shrift for mystery; it aims at efficiency. Little by little, this idol replaces the Father’s presence within us.”
“The priest with a functionalist mindset has his own nourishment, which is his ego,” he said, cautioning priests not to rely on a pragmatism that focuses overly on numbers.
“Those who cherish this hidden idol can be recognized by their love for statistics, numbers that can depersonalize every discussion and appeal to the majority as the definitive criterion for discernment.”
“In this fascination with numbers, we are really seeking ourselves, pleased with the control offered us by this way of thinking, unconcerned with individual faces and far from love,” he said.
Spiritual worldliness, Pope Francis went on to explain, is “triumphalism without the cross.”
“Jesus prayed that the Father would defend us against this culture of worldliness,” he said. “This temptation of glory without the cross runs contrary to the very person of the Lord, who humbled himself in the Incarnation and, as a sign of contradiction, is our sole remedy against every idol. Being poor with Christ who was poor and ‘chose to be poor’: this is the mindset of Love; nothing else.”
He went on: “Dear brothers, Jesus is the only ‘way’ to avoid being mistaken in knowing what we feel and where our heart is leading us. He is the only way that leads to proper discernment, as we measure ourselves against him each day.”
“It is as if, even now, he is seated in our parish church and tells us that today all we have heard is now fulfilled,” Pope Francis said.
“Jesus Christ, as a sign of contradiction — which is not always something harsh and painful, for mercy and, even more, tender love, are themselves signs of contradiction — Jesus Christ, I repeat, forces these idols to show themselves, so that we can see their presence, their roots and the ways they operate, and allow the Lord to destroy them.”
“We should keep these things in mind and be attentive, lest the weeds of these idols that we were able to hide in the folds of our hearts may spring up anew.”
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