In his homily on Thursday, Pope Francis said no one has the strength to be a Christian without the Holy Spirit, and encouraged attendees to imitate St. Paul in praying with praise and adoration. “This is a mystical experience of Paul and it teaches us the prayer of praise and the prayer of adoration…he says to the Father: ‘thank you, because you are able to do what we do not dare to think.’ It is a beautiful prayer, a beautiful prayer,” the Pope told those present in the Vatican’s St. Martha house on Oct. 23. The Roman Pontiff continued to reflect on the third chapter of St. Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians, the source of the liturgy’s first readings for the past few days. In his letter, Paul describes an encounter with Jesus that “led him to leave everything behind (because) he was in love with Christ,” the Pope observed, calling this a true “act of adoration.” First St. Paul adores by kneeling in front of God the Father who is able to accomplish anything. St. Paul also uses “limitless language” describing God, who “is like a sea without beaches, without limitations, an immense ocean,” the Pope said. St. Paul then prays for all to be strengthened in the Spirit, the pontiff noted, because we are too weak to go forward on our own. “We cannot be Christians without the grace of the Spirit. It’s the Spirit who changes hearts, who keeps us moving forward in virtue, to fulfill the commandments.” Pope Francis then observed how the apostle made another request to the Lord by asking for the presence of Christ to help all grow in charity. The love of Christ which goes beyond our comprehension, the pope said, can only be understood through the adoration of such great immensity. This mystical prayer of St. Paul teaches us to pray in praise and adoration, the Pope continued, saying that in front of “our pettiness, our many, selfish interests, Paul bursts out in praise, in this act of worship and asks the Father to send us the Holy Spirit to give us strength and to be able to move forward.” In his prayer, Paul helps us to truly understand the love of Christ who “consolidates us in love” by thanking God the Father for his ability to do what we would never imagine is possible. The Bishop of Rome concluded his homily by noting how, with an inner spiritual life, it is easy to understand why St. Paul gave up everything he had and considered the world “rubbish” in comparison with what he gained by finding and following Jesus. “It does us good to praise God, to enter this world of amplitude, of grandeur, generosity and love,” he said, and it also does us good “because then we can move forward in the great commandment – the only commandment, which is the basis of all others – love; love God and love your neighbor.”
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