One of my new favorite daily spiritual exercises is to read and ponder the words of Pope Francis, particularly the homilies he gives at the daily Mass at St. Marta residence inside the Vatican. His homilies are relatively short, but do pack a powerful papal punch.
Case in point would be his July 2 homily. The daily Mass readings for that day, along with the pontiff’s message, were quite poignant given the recent attacks on marriage, the family and the Church in the world. Recent developments like the disappointing decisions from the Supreme Court on DOMA and Proposition 8, the challenges from the upcoming HHS mandate or the brutal physical attacks on Christians around the globe — especially in Syria and other parts of the Middle East — might make some of us long for a different time. We might even think about crawling back into our own little comfort zone and becoming a lukewarm Christian.
The first reading for July 2 was from the Book of Genesis where we see Lot taking his time leaving the condemned lands of Sodom and Gomorrah. Pope Francis likened Lot’s slowness in leaving with our own inability at times to detach ourselves from evil and sin along with our unwillingness to let go of the past.
“It is so hard to cut ties with a sinful situation. It is hard. Even in a temptation, it’s hard,” the pontiff said. “But the voice of God tells us this word: Escape! You cannot fight there because the fire, the sulfur will kill you. Escape! St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus taught us that sometimes in some temptations, the only solution is to escape and not be ashamed to escape and to recognize that we are weak and we have to escape.”
The pope then reminded all of us to not look back. Great advice, as how often do so many of us do just that? Maybe like me, you were away from the Church for a long time and then had a powerful reversion experience. Sometimes when we look back at our lives B.C. — before Christ or before Church — the old way seems easier.
Let’s face it. It is a lot easier to go along to get along; to keep one’s head in the sand or to just conform in comparison to standing up for truth in a world that doesn’t have any idea of what truth is or means. But as Pope Francis points out, we are wasting our precious time painting some pretty inaccurate images of the way the situation in our lives used to be.
“Think of the people of God in the desert. They had everything, promises, everything. And yet they were nostalgic for the onions of Egypt and this longing made them forget that they ate those onions on the table of slavery,” he said.
The pope used the Gospel passage that day from Matthew 8:23-27, where Jesus calms the storm on the Sea of Galilee, to remind us to not look back or always focus on the troubles around us, but to look to Jesus.
“We must not be naïve or lukewarm Christians. But brave and courageous. We are weak but we must be courageous in our weakness. And often our courage must be expressed in escaping without looking back, so as not to fall into the trap of wicked nostalgia. Do not be afraid and always look to the Lord.”
So, the next time you find those spiritual hunger pangs calling, head to News.va, the Vatican Radio website (www.radiovaticana.va) or another Catholic site and feast on the words of Pope Francis. He puts an awful lot of meat into a relatively short homily. Just a few minutes with the teachings of our vicar of Christ will leave you feeling well-nourished and satisfied in the heavenly sense, and hopefully have you walking strongly and peacefully through the days ahead.
Teresa Tomeo is the host of “Catholic Connection,” produced by Ave Maria Radio and heard daily on EWTN Global Catholic Radio and Sirius Channel 130.