· Mass at Santa Marta ·
If a Christian succumbs to the temptation of a “mirror spirituality”, he is not fueling his light with the “battery of prayer” and looks “only at himself”; without giving to others, he fails in his vocation and becomes like a lamp which does not illuminate and salt that has no flavor. Pope Francis stressed this point in the Mass he celebrated on Tuesday morning, 7 June, in the Chapel of Santa Marta, reflecting on the famous analogy in the liturgy’s Gospel, which emphasizes the effectiveness of the Jesus’ language, how he “always speaks with simple words” so that “everyone can understand his message”. The Pope highlighted that in the passage from Matthew (5:13-16) we find “a definition of a Christian: the Christian must be salt and light. Salt gives flavor, it preserves, and light illuminates”. It is an example that calls us to action, since “light is not meant to be hidden, because when it is hidden it is not even preserved: it is turned off”, and “neither is salt an object in a museum exhibit or a kitchen cabinet, because in the end it is ruined by moisture and loses its strength, its flavor”.
How then, “do we avoid that light and salt become weak?” the Pope asked. In other words, “how does the Christian avoid becoming less, becoming weak, weak in his own vocations?”. An answer is found in another parable, that of “the ten maidens (Matthew 25:2): five were foolish and five were wise”. The wisdom and foolishness, Pope Francis explained, come from the fact “that some had brought the oil, so as not to miss him”, while the others were “playing with the light” and “forgot”, and their lights dimmed out. Moreover, the Pope offered a concrete example: “even a light bulb, when it begins to weaken, tells us that we have to recharge the battery”.
The conclusion is nevertheless the same: “What is the oil of a Christian? What is the Christian’s battery that brings light? It is simply prayer”. The Pope elaborated on this point: “You can do so many things, so many works, even works of mercy, you can do many great things for the Church – a Catholic university, a college, a hospital... – and they might even build a monument to you as a benefactor of the Church”, but “if you do not pray” then none of this will bring light. “How many works”, the Pope said, “become dark due to a lack of light, a lack of prayer”. Prayer, the Pope explained, means “prayer of adoration to the Father, of praise to the Trinity, the prayer of thanksgiving, even prayer to ask things of the Lord”, but it must always be a “heartfelt prayer”. This is precisely “the oil, it is the battery which gives life to the light”.
Turning to the example of salt, Francis indicated “another Christian attitude”: in the same way that salt – so as not to become “something thrown away, stepped on, an object in a museum or forgotten in a closet” – needs to be used, so too Christians must “give” and “add flavor to the lives of others; add flavor to many things with the message of the Gospel”. The Christian ought not to “preserve himself” but instead “he is salt in order to give”. Jesus chooses his examples well, Pope Francis said: “both light and salt are for others, not for themselves”, in fact “light does not illuminate itself” and “salt does not flavor itself”. Someone might object, saying: “But if I give of myself, if I give my salt, and even my light, then it will end and I too will end up in the dark”. But there, the Pope clarified, “is where the power of God comes in, because a Christian is salt given by God in baptism: it is the salt of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit that comes into your soul; It is the light of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit that comes into your soul”.
This gift continues to give if you share it. “It never ends”. This is explained, for example, in the Scriptures with the scene that is narrated in the first reading (1 Kings 17:7-16) where Elijah tells the widow of Zarephath not to be afraid to finish the barley and oil: “Go and do as you have said”. He even asks, “first make a little cake of it and bring it to me, and afterward make for yourself and your son. For thus says the Lord God of Israel, ‘The jar of meal shall not be spent, and the pitcher of oil shall not fail, until the day that the Lord sends rain upon the Earth”. In this case too, the Pope explained, “it is the Lord who works this miracle”.
Therefore, the Pope concluded, addressing every Christian: “Light up with your light, but defend yourself from the temptation of illuminating yourself”. The “mirror spirituality” is “a horrible thing”. He added: “Defend yourself from the temptation of curing yourself. Be a light to illuminate, and be salt to flavor and preserve”. From your works, we read in Scripture, “they will see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in Heaven”. In other words, Pope Francis explained, you need to “return” to He “who gave you the light and the salt”, and ask for the Lord’s help so that “he will help us in this: to always care for the light, and not hide it, but put it into action; to care for the salt, to give it, in a way that is fair and necessary, but to give it”. If the salt is spread it “increases”, and that light “illuminates many people”: these are “good Christian works”.
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