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Obedience is a listening that sets us free

· The Pope celebrates Mass at Santa Marta ·

God is non-negotiable. And the faith leaves no room for categories like “lukewarm” or “bad or good”. It does not seek a “double life”  in order to negotiate a status vivendi with the world. Pope Francis said this in his homily at the Mass, celebrated on Thursday morning, 11 April, in the Chapel of the Domus Sanctae Marthae. Present at the Mass were  administrators and  editorial staff of L'Osservatore Romano , including journalists of the Italian daily and members of the foreign language editions.

Among the con-celebrants were Cardinal Telesphore Placidus Toppo, Archbishop of Ranchi, India; Archbishop Mario Aurelio Poli, Bergoglio's successor as pastor of the Archdiocese of Buenos Aires; Fr Indunil Janakaratne Kodithuwakku Kankanamalage, Undersecretary of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue; Mons. Robinson Edward Wijesinghe, Office Head of the Pontifical Council for Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People; Fr Sergio Pellini, Director-General of the Vatican Printing Press and L’Osservatore Romano , and Jesuits: Fr Władisław Gryzło, head of the monthly Polish edition, and Fr Konrad Grech, as well as the Conventual Franciscan Giuseppe Samid. Also present was the President and Secretary General of the Foundation Centesimus Annus - Pro Pontifice , Domingo Sugranyes Bickel and Massimo Gattamelata.

In the readings, the Pope explained, “the word 'obey' appears three times: obedience is spoken of. The first time is when Peter responds: 'We must obey God rather than men'” in front of the Sanhedrin, as  in the Acts of the Apostles (5:27-33).

What does “obeying God” mean?, the Pontiff asked. “Does it mean that we must be like slaves, in bondage? No, the one who obeys God is free, he is not a slave! And how can this be? I obey, I do not follow my own will, how am I free? It seems like a contradiction. It is not a contradiction”. In fact, the word “'obey' comes from Latin, it means to listen, to hear others. Obeying God is listening to God, having an open heart to follow the path that God points out to us. Obedience to God is listening to God and it sets us free”.

Commenting on the Acts of the Apostles, the Pope said that Peter, “in front of these scribes, priests even the high priest, and the Pharisees”,  was called “to make a decision”. Peter “heard what the Pharisees and priests said and he listened to what Jesus was saying in his heart: 'what should I do?'. He said: 'I will do what Jesus tells me and not what you want me to do'. And he went ahead like this”.

“In our lives”, Pope Francis said, “we often are proposed things which do not come from Jesus, which do not come from God. It is clear that at times our weaknesses take us down the wrong road. Or even a more dangerous road. We make a pact, a little little of God and a little of you. We make this pact and we go forward in life with a double life: a little bit of the life that Jesus tells us about and a little of the life that the world, the forces of the world and many others tell us about”. This is a system that's no good. In fact “in the book of Revelation, the Lord says: this is not good because you are neither good nor evil. You are lukewarm. I condemn you”.

The Pope warned precisely against this temptation. “If Peter had said to these priests: 'let's speak like friends and let's find a status vivendi ', perhaps everything would have worked out”. But it would not have been a decision “of love which comes when we listen to Jesus”. It is a decision which has consequences. The Holy Father continued: “what happens when we hear Jesus? At times those who make the other proposal get angry and the road finishes with persecution. In this moment, as I said, we have many brothers and sisters that who obey, hear, listen what Jesus asks them under persecution. We must always remember these brothers and sisters who placed themselves in the fire and they tell us with their lives: 'I want to obey and to follow the path that Jesus tells me”.

In today's liturgy “the Church invites us to take Jesus' path” and “not to listen to the world's proposals, the so-so proposals, the half and half proposals”. They are, he said, a way of living “that is not right” and  they  “wont' make us happy”.

In choosing to obey God and not the world, in  giving no way to compromise, the Christian is not alone. “Where can we find help in finding the way to listening to Jesus?”, the Pope asked. “In the Holy Spirit. We ourselves are witnesses to this. God gives the Holy Spirit to those who obey him”. Thus he said: “it is the Holy Spirit inside of us who gives us the strength to go forward”. The Gospel of John (cf. 3:31-36), proclaimed at the celebration, includes this beautiful passage of assurance: “'He whom God sent utters the words of God, for it is not by measure that he gives the Spirit'. Our Father gives us the Spirit without measure to listen to Jesus, to hear Jesus and to follow the the path of Jesus”.

Pope Francis finished the homily with an invitation to take courage in the different situations that life confronts us with: “Let us ask for the grace of courage. We will always sin; we are all sinners”. But we must have “the courage to say: 'Lord I am a sinner, sometimes I obey mundane things but I want to obey you, I want follow your path”. Let us ask for this grace, to always follow on Jesus' path. And when we do not, let us ask for forgiveness: the Lord forgives us, because he is so good”.

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