The devil uses envy to try to thwart the proclamation of the Gospel, Pope Francis said at his morning Mass Saturday.
In his homily in the chapel at Casa Santa Marta, May 9, the pope reflected on the day’s first reading, Acts 13:44-52, in which the Jewish community at Antioch rejects St. Paul’s preaching about Jesus.
He said: “On the one hand there is the Lord, there is the Holy Spirit who makes the Church grow, and it grows ever more: this is true. But on the other hand, there is the evil spirit that seeks to destroy the Church.”
After citing other examples in the Acts of the Apostles where the apostles faced rejection, the pope asked: “And what is the devil's instrument to destroy the Gospel proclamation? Envy. The Book of Wisdom [2:24] says it clearly: ‘Through the devil's envy sin has entered the world’ -- envy, jealousy, here. Always this bitter, bitter feeling.”
Reflecting on this enduring struggle, Pope Francis quoted St. Augustine of Hippo, who wrote in “The City of God” that “the Church progresses on her pilgrimage amidst this world's persecutions and God's consolations.”
“A Church that has no difficulty lacks something,” he said. “The devil is too calm. And if the devil is calm, things are not going well. Always the difficulty, the temptation, the struggle... the jealousy that destroys. The Holy Spirit creates the harmony of the Church, and the evil spirit destroys. Until today.”
The pope noted that in the first reading the community at Antioch turned the leading women and men of the city against the apostles. He observed that temporal powers are often an instrument through which envy is stirred up against Christians.
He said: “Let us be careful with the preaching of the Gospel: never to fall, to put our trust in temporal powers and money. The trust of Christians is Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit that He sent, and it is precisely the Holy Spirit who is the leaven, it is the strength that makes the Church grow.”
“Yes, the Church goes ahead, in peace, with resignation, joyful: between ‘the consolations of God and the persecutions of the world.’”
The pope led those watching via livestream in an act of spiritual communion, composed by St. Alphonsus Liguori, founder of the Redemptorists.
He prayed: “My Jesus, I believe that you are present in the most Blessed Sacrament. I love You above all things and I desire to receive You into my soul. Since I cannot now receive You sacramentally, come at least spiritually into my heart. I embrace You as if You were already there, and unite myself wholly to You. Never permit me to be separated from You.”
The pope ended the celebration with adoration and benediction of the Blessed Sacrament. The congregation then sang the Easter Marian antiphon “Regina caeli.”
At the start of Mass, the pope noted that May 9 is the feast day of St. Louise de Marillac, the French founder of the Daughters of Charity. Her feast normally falls on March 15 but was transferred this year because it fell on a Sunday in Lent. A painting of the 17th-century saint was brought to the pope’s chapel to mark the occasion.
The Daughters of Charity belong to the Vincentian family. Vincentian nuns live at the Casa Santa Marta, the pope’s residence, and run a pediatric dispensary at the Vatican.
At the start of Mass, the pope said: “Today is the commemoration of St. Louise de Marillac: let us pray for the Vincentian sisters who have run this clinic, this hospital, for almost 100 years and have worked here, in Santa Marta, for this hospital. May the Lord bless the sisters.”