It is important for Catholics to remember the whole of salvation history, and our belonging to the people of God’s covenant with Abraham, Pope Francis said at Mass Thursday.
During daily Mass in the chapel of his Vatican residence, the Casa Santa Marta, Pope Francis reflected on an aspect of the day’s first reading from the Acts of the Apostles, when St. Paul is invited to speak in the synagogue in Antioch.
Instead of speaking directly about Jesus, the apostle begins by telling the history of salvation, the pope noted May 7.
“What is behind Jesus? There is a story. A story of grace, a story of election, a story of promise. The Lord chose Abraham and went with his people,” he said.
“There is a story of God with his people. And for this reason, when Paul is asked to explain the reason for faith in Jesus Christ, he does not start from Jesus Christ: he begins from history.”
The pope pointed to the first part of the entrance antiphon recited at the start of that Mass: “O God, when you went forth before your people, marching with them and living among them...”
He urged Catholics to remember to “pass down the history of our salvation,” and to ask the Lord to help them have the awareness of being children of Abraham, as the Virgin Mary says in the Magnificat and Zechariah in his Benedictus, canticles which are recited or sung in the Liturgy of the Hours.
Christianity, the pope said, is belonging to the people with whom the Lord made his covenant.
Pope Francis also spoke in his homily about what he thinks Christianity is not.
“Christianity is a doctrine, yes, but not only,” he stated. “Christianity is not just an ethic. Yes, indeed, it has moral principles,” but it is not just having an ethical viewpoint.
Francis went on to say that Christianity is also more than an exclusionary vision of an “‘elite’ of people chosen for the truth.” He criticized when this attitude comes into the Church as a belief in the damnation of others.
It is good to be a moral people, he said, but “Christianity is belonging to a people, to a people freely chosen by God.”
“If we do not have this awareness of belonging to a people we would be ideological Christians,” he said.
The pope explained that this is why, in order to speak about Jesus, St. Paul starts by explaining “from the beginning, from belonging to a people.”
He warned that when Christians lose the sense of belonging to the people of God’s covenant, they often fall into “partialities,” whether dogmatic, moral, or elitist.
Francis called this “the most dangerous deviation” Christians can fall into today.
Before Mass, Pope Francis noted that he had received a letter from a group of artists, thanking him for remembering them in prayer in April.
He added that he “would like to ask the Lord to bless them because artists make us understand what beauty is and without beauty the Gospel cannot be understood.”
“Let’s pray for artists again,” he urged.
After Mass, the pope concluded the livestream with Eucharistic adoration, benediction, and the Marian antiphon “Regina coeli.”