In his daily homily Pope Francis warned of those who reduce the faith to moralism and ambition, stating that people in Jesus' time followed him because he spoke the truth in a way they understood. “This is why the people followed Jesus, because He was the Good Shepherd. He wasn’t a moralistic, quibbling Pharisee, or a Sadducee who made political deals with the powerful, or a guerrilla who sought the political liberation of his people,” the Pope explained in his June 26 daily Mass. “He was a pastor! A pastor who spoke the language of His people, who understood, who spoke the truth, the things of God.” Addressing those present in the Vatican’s Saint Martha guesthouse, the Roman Pontiff drew attention to the scene in the day’s Gospel from Matthew in which the people were astonished by the teachings of Jesus. The Pope said so many followed Jesus because “they were astonished by His teaching,” and his words “brought wonder to their hearts, the wonder of finding something good, great.” Pope Francis noted there were four specific groups who also spoke out at the same time as Jesus, but were unable to reach the people. The first such group were the Pharisees who reduced “the faith in the Living God” to a type of “casuistry” and bickering by burdening their people with “more than three hundred” commandments to follow, and subjecting them to “contradictions of the cruelest kind of moralistic quibbling.” Giving an example, the Pope stated “You have to obey the fourth commandment!” to which the people respond “Yes, yes, yes!” or “You have to feed your elderly father, your elderly mother!” to which they also say “Yes, yes, yes! But you know, I can’t because I gave my money to the temple!’” “You don’t do that? And your parents starve to death!” he went on. “The people respect (the Pharisees), because the people are respectful. They respected them, but they didn’t listen to them! They went about their business,” the pontiff observed. The second group, the Sadducees, “did not have the faith, they had lost the faith,” because they “made it their religious work to make deals with the powers: political powers, economic powers. They were men of power,” the Pope said. Another group was the “revolutionaries,” or the zealots, who “wanted to cause a revolution to free the people of Israel from the Roman occupation,” he noted. However the people “had good sense, and knew to distinguish when the fruit was ripe and when it was not! And they didn’t follow them.” The last group was the Essenes, the Pope observed, saying that they were “good people” but that even though they were monks who had consecrated their lives to God, they were still “far from the people, and the people couldn’t follow them.” Pope Francis went on to describe that these “were the voices that reached the people, and none of these voices had the power to warm the hearts of the people.” “But Jesus did! The crowds were amazed: They heard Jesus and their hearts were warmed. The message of Jesus reached to the heart.” Recalling how Jesus “approached the people,” healed their hearts and was “not ashamed to speak with sinners” but rather “went out to find them,” the pontiff explained that Christ “understood their difficulties” and “felt joy, He was happy to be with His people.” “And this is why the people followed Jesus, because He was the Good Shepherd” who “spoke in such a way that the people loved the things of God. That’s why they followed Him.” The Roman Pontiff then invited the audience to question themselves: “Whom do I like to follow? Those who talk to me about abstract things or quibbling morals? Those who talk about the people of God but have no faith and negotiate with political, economic powers?” “Those who always want to do strange things, destructive things, so-called wars of liberation, but which in the end are not the paths of the Lord? Or a faraway contemplative? Whom do I like to follow?” Pope Francis concluded by praying for these questions to “bring us to prayer, and to ask God the Father, who brings us close to Jesus, to follow Jesus, to be amazed at the things Jesus tells us.”
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