(La Stampa) At this morning’s mass in St. Martha’s House, Francis urged faithful not to turn to those “who can tell us exactly what message Our Lady will be sending at 4’o’clock this afternoon”, because “this identity is not Christian”. He urged against “watering down” the Christians identity so that is becomes a “soft” religion. He stressed that another risk which the testimony of those faithful to Jesus faces, is the worldliness of those who “broaden their minds” so much that they let everything in.
The Pope took the words of St. Paul to the Corinthian about the identity of Jesus’ disciples, as his cue for today’s homily. It is true, he said, that “in order to reach this Christian identity”, God “made us go on a long journey through history” before he sent his Son. “In our lives, we must also go on a long journey in order to make our Christian identity strong” and so that we may bear “witness” to it.
“It is true, there is sin” he said, “and sin makes us fall, but we have the strength of the Lord to get up and go forth with our identity. But I would also say that sin is part of our identity: we are sinners, but sinners with faith in Jesus Christ. And it is not just a faith of knowledge, no. It is a faith that is a gift of God and entered us through God. It is God himself who confirms us in Christ. And he has anointed us, he has placed the seal on us, he has given an earnest penny, the seal of the Holy Spirit in our hearts. It is God who give us this gift of identity.”
It is crucial “to remain faithful to this Christian identity and to let the Holy Spirit – which is a guarantee, a seal in our hearts – help us move forward in our lives.”
Christians are not he kind of people that follow “a philosophy”, he warned. We are “anointed” with “the seal of the Holy Spirit”. “It is a beautiful identity,” he underlined, “which can be seen through testimony. Hence Jesus speaks to us about testimony as the language of our Christian identity.” And this despite the fact that our Christian identity “is tempted due to the fact that we are sinners: temptations will always come our way” and our identity “can be weakened or lost”.
The Pope warned against taking certain dangerous paths: “Firstly, moving away from testimony and toward ideas, watering down our testimonies. ‘Yes, I am Christian. Christianity is a nice idea. I pray to God.” It is this way that we move away from Christ who is concrete – because Christian identity is concrete, we read this in the Beatitudes and this concreteness is also found in Matthew 25: Christian identity is concrete – to a religion that is a bit soft, along the same lines as Gnosticism. Scandal lies behind this. This Christian identity is scandalous. And the temptation is: ‘No, no, no scandal”.
“The cross is a scandal,” Francis explained, and so there are those who seek God “with these slightly ethereal Christian spiritualties”, modern gnostics”. Then, Francis warned, there are always those “who constantly need Christian identity to be renewed”, “forgetting that they were chosen, anointed,” that “they have the seal of the Holy Spirit” and they go in search of seers, asking: 'Where are the seers who can tell us exactly what message Our Lady will be sending at 4’o’clock this afternoon?' And their lives depend on this. This identity is not Christian. God’s final word is “Jesus” and nothing else.”
Another way to backtrack on our Christian identity, is worldliness: “Broadening our minds to fit everything in. ‘Yes, we are Christians, but this is ok…’Not only morally but also humanly. Worldliness is human. This is how salt loses its taste. And we see Christian communities and Christians call themselves Christians, when they are unable or do not know how to bear witness to Jesus Christ. And so they gradually lose their identity and this worldly nominalism we see everyday. In the history of salvation, God, with the Father’s patience, has brought us from ambiguity to certainty, to the concreteness of the incarnation and redeeming death of his Son. This is our identity.”
St. Paul, he concluded, praises the Son of God who “was made man and died out of obedience,” “this is identity and that is testimony”; it is a grace that “we must ask the Lord for: that he may always grant us this gift of an identity which does not try to adapt to things” to the point of “losing the taste of the salt”, becoming insipid.
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