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The logic of the before and after

· The Pope's Mass at Santa Marta ·

On Thursday, 24 October Pope Francis commented on the First Reading of the day taken from St Paul's Letter to the Romans (6:19-23), in which the Apostle tries to help us understand the mystery of our redemption. Pope Francis began by noting that Paul himself acknowledges the difficulty we have in understanding so great a mystery. He therefore employs what the Pope called “the logic of the before and after: before Jesus and after Jesus”. In the Gospel canticle for the day St Paul sums up this logic in this way: “I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as refuse, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him”(Phil 3:8).

Pope Francis noted that, for Paul, the only thing that counted was Christ. He left behind the man “of before”, Pope Francis said, and became a new man whose sole objective was “to gain Christ”.

What inspired Paul's passion? It was the fire of love with which Christ shed his blood in his Passion, and the desire he has to recreate us in his blood. “What Christ accomplished in us is a recreation. The blood of Christ has recreated us, it is a second creation. And if before our lives, our bodies, our souls and our habits followed the way of sin and iniquity, after this recreation, we must make every effort to walk on the way of justice and sanctification”.

At the moment of our baptism, the Holy Father said, “our parents made the act of faith on our behalf: I believe in Jesus Christ who has forgiven our sins. We must make this faith our own and carry it forward by our way of life. And living as a Christian means carrying forward this faith in Christ, this recreation. Carrying forward the works that are born of this faith... Here we are then: the first sanctification accomplished by Christ, the first sanctification we received in baptism, must grow, it must advance”.

However, he continued, in reality “we are weak and we often fall”. Does this mean that we are not on the road of sanctification? “Yes and no” Pope Francis replied.  “If you grow accustomed to a  life that is so-so, and you say: “I believe in Jesus Christ, but I live as I want”, then “this does not sanctify you, it is not all right, it is absurd”. However, the Pope continued, “if you say 'yes, I am a sinner; I am weak' and you continually turn to the Lord and say to him: 'Lord, you have the power, increase my faith; you can heal me', then through the sacrament of reconciliation even our imperfections are taken up into this way of sanctification”.

In short, he said, we need to enter into the “the logic of before and after” in order not to become “lukewarm” or “wishy-washy” Christians.

Leaving everything behind for Christ was Paul's passion, and it must be the passion of every Christian: “to suffer the loss of everything that draws us away from Christ, the Lord; to suffer the loss of all that draws us away from our act of faith in him, from our act of faith in the recreation he has accomplished by his blood. He makes all things new. Everything is made new in Christ. Everything is new”.

Is this goal possible? “Yes”, the Pope replied. “Paul did it. So many Christians have done it and are doing it. Not only the saints whom we know but also the anonymous saints, those who seriously live out their Christian lives. Perhaps the question we can ask ourselves today is: Do I want to live out my Christian life in a serious way? Do I believe that I have been recreated through the blood of Christ and do I want to pursue this recreation until that day when we shall see the new city, the new creation?”.

The Pope concluded: “Let us ask St Paul, who speaks to us today about the logic of the before and after, to grant us the grace to live seriously as Christians and to truly believe that we have been sanctified in the blood of Jesus Christ”.

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