Doubts crop up when God shows new way and devil interferes, pope says

| Carol Glatz | December 15, 2016 | 2 Comments

When God starts pointing out a new path to follow, doubts over whether it is orthodox or heretical can creep in, Pope Francis said at his morning Mass.

“The devil is at work here, and some friends also help, right?” the pope said Dec. 15 during the Mass in the chapel of the Domus Sanctae Marthae.

The pope’s homily centered on St. John the Baptist and the day’s reading from the Gospel of Luke (7:24-30), in which Jesus asked the crowds why they had gone to see the prophet in the desert.

Everyone went to hear John speak, the pope said. But the Pharisees and the scholars of the law only went to judge him, not be baptized.

Jesus asked if the people went to see “someone dressed in fine garments?” the pope said, adding that “those who dress luxuriously and live sumptuously are found in royal palaces,” not in the desert preaching.

Jesus recognized that the people had gone to see a prophet, a truly great prophet, the pope said, because he was faithful to what the Lord asked him.

But John preached harshly, “he said terrible things to the Pharisees, to the doctors of the law, to the priests. He didn’t say, ‘Well, my dears, behave nicely.’ No. He simply told them, ‘You brood of vipers,’ just like that. He didn’t beat around the bush,” the pope said.

John was critical because they only came to “monitor” and check on him, the pope said, without ever having an open heart to what was being said.

The pope said John the Baptist spoke the truth, even if it cost him his life like when he confronted Herod and told him “to his face” he was an adulterer.

“Well, for sure if a parish priest today were to say in his Sunday homily, ‘There are some among you who are a brood of vipers and there are many adulterers,’ for sure the bishop would receive letters of concern, ‘Oh, send away this priest who insults us.'”

But John insulted Herod and the Pharisees because he was “faithful to his vocation and the truth,” the pope said.

However, John was much more understanding toward the people, he said, telling “public sinners” like the tax collectors and soldiers who approached him for guidance to “stop collecting more than what is prescribed” and don’t extort or falsely accuse and be content with their wages.

John baptized these sinners, asking them to take at least a “minimal step forward because he knew that with this step the Lord would then do the rest” and they would convert, he said.

“He is a pastor who understood the people’s situation and helped them go forward with the Lord,” Pope Francis said.

But even a great and willful prophet like John the Baptist had “moments of darkness” and doubts, like when he wasn’t sure Jesus really was the Messiah because he wasn’t what he had imagined him to be, the pope said.

“The great ones can afford to doubt and this is wonderful. They are confident in their vocation but every time the Lord shows them a new road along the journey, they begin to doubt. ‘But this isn’t orthodox, this is heretical. This isn’t the Messiah I was expecting.'”

But lurking behind this kind of doubt is the devil and the promptings of certain friends, he added.

The pope ended his homily emphasizing the importance of saying what is true and of recognizing what tiny first steps people are able to take. “God will do the rest.”

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  • Charles C.

    What???? OK, I admit that I am not only ignorant, but I am also stupid. The inclusion of this story baffles me and I’m asking, humbly, for someone to explain it to me. Is it a roundabout way of discussing Amoris Laetitia and The Four Cardinals? May I offer some of my points of confusion?

    Is the Pope comparing himself to John the Baptist in that they both don’t live in royal palaces and wear fancy robes? But later in the sermon the Pope points out that John preached harshly, calling people sinners and evil, and demanding that they stop their sinning. Is that a ground for comparing the Pope and St. John?

    “John said to the crowds coming out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance.” (Luke 3: 7-8)

    And what does His Holiness mean when he talks of a parish’s outrage over being told that some of them are adulterers and a brood of vipers? Who would be surprised or outraged at that? He has declared that the Eucharist is medicine for sick people, why would parishioners be offended to hear that some of them are sick? Now, if some priests and bishops (of whatever degree) were told that some of them were adulterers and a brood of vipers, could they admit the truth of it? Or would they be outraged and react in anger?

    And would someone explain the Pope’s meaning when he said that baptism was a “minimal step forward” and AFTER people were baptized God would do the rest and then they would convert?

  • Francis

    Ok. I’m confused. Who is the Pope speaking about as the present day brood of vipers? Who is this present day John the Baptist? Or is this just a general way to call all to repentance in this Advent season? If the Pope was subtlety calling his critics a brood of vipers then is he calling himself the modern day St. John? Fill me in.