Don’t be too rigid.
According to Vatican Radio, Pope Francis warned against this natural tendency, and reminded how God wishes for us to be good and merciful, during his homily today during his daily morning Mass at his residence Casa Santa Marta.
The Holy Father drew inspiration from today’s Gospel reading according to St. Matthew, which tells of when Jesus, who was teaching in the synagogue, healed a crippled woman and in doing so, ignited the anger of the righteous.
“It is not easy to keep to the path indicated by God’s Law,” Francis noted.
Jesus’ action, the Jesuit Pontiff pointed out, provoked the fury of the leader of the synagogue who was “indignant that he had cured the woman on the Sabbath” because Jesus violated God’s Law by doing so on the Sabbath day which is set aside for rest and worship. Francis also recalled how Jesus called the synagogue leaders ‘hypocrites,’ and how Jesus often referred to those who followed the Law too rigidly by this name.
To Make Us God’s Children
“The Law,” the Pope said, “was not drawn up to enslave us but to set us free, to make us God’s children.”
“Behind an attitude of rigidity, there is always something else in the life of a person,” the Holy Father said. “Rigidity is not a gift of God. Meekness is; goodness is; benevolence is; forgiveness is. But rigidity isn’t!”
Often, Francis added, rigidity conceals the leading of a double life, or it can have to do with something pathological.
Francis also commented on how those who are both rigid and sincere often are afflicted with difficulties and suffering, which is because they lack the freedom of God’s children.
“They do not know how to walk in the path indicated by God’s Law,” the Pope said, adding, “They appear good because they follow the Law; but they are concealing something else: either they are hypocritical or they are sick. And they suffer!”
Recalling the parable of the Prodigal Son in which the eldest son, who always behaved well, was indignant with his father because he rejoiced when the youngest son, after having led a life of debauchery, returns home repentant.
This attitude, the Pope explained, shows what is behind a certain type of goodness: “the pride of believing in one’s righteousness.”
“The elder son,” the Pontiff said, “was rigid and conducted his life following the Law, but saw his father only as a master. The other put rules aside, returned to his father in a time of darkness, and asked for forgiveness.”
“It is not easy to walk within the Law of the Lord without falling into rigidity,” he underscored.
Pope Francis concluded, praying for all those who think that by becoming rigid they are following the path of the Lord.
“May the Lord make them feel that He is our Father and that He loves mercy, tenderness, goodness, meekness, humility. And may He teach us all to walk in the path of the Lord with these attitudes.” Click here to read the original Zenit report
There surely has to be a path somewhere between “rigidity” and “false mercy”… In any case, seems to me that the Pope doesn’t understand the difference between being “rigid” about man-made or secondary rules, and adhering faithfully to God’s essential, natural moral law. And what about his narrow (if predictable) interpretation of the Parable of the Prodigal Son? Poor elder brother gets it in the neck again. No mercy for him! Nor is the Pope’s list complete of what “the Lord” loves: missing is fidelity, yet God loves fidelity – and, indeed, Christ teaches this in His Parable of the Prodigal Son… through the relationship of the elder son and the Father! Pope Francis missed that bit! Over to you – what does the Pope mean by not being too “rigid” – do we interpret the fasting laws more liberally (I mean, where to go with a “fast” that is only an hour long anyway?) or is he talking about one or other – or all – of the Ten Commandments?
And what’s this about “rigid” people possibly living a double life? Correct me if I’m wrong, folks, but, to date, all the scandalous reports of double living within the Church have involved “liberal” types, who could not be described, in a million years, as being “rigid” about keeping God’s moral law. I, for one, object to be characterised as a hypocrite, and suspected of living a double life, on the grounds that I believe the Ten Commandments are binding on us all. What about you?