St Paul's conversion at the centre of today's general audience in St Peter's Square. "Becoming a Christian is not a make-up job, which only changes your face". Francis' prayer for the migrants who died in a fire in a detention centre in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico.
Vatican City (AsiaNews) - "Becoming a Christian does not mean putting on a mask, which only changes your face, your appearance. If you are truly Christian it has changed your heart," Pope Francis said this morning addressing the faithful during the general audience in St. Peter's Square.
Continuing his cycle of catechesis on the theme of zeal in evangelisation, the pontiff began a series of reflections on some figures who have given exemplary witness to this dimension. The first name is certainly that of the Apostle Paul: before his conversion, the young Saul, as he was still called, "was already zealous," Francis observed, "but Christ converted his zeal: from the Law to the Gospel. What changed him was not a simple idea or conviction: it was the encounter with the risen Lord that transformed his whole being. Paul's humanity, his passion for God and his glory is not annihilated, but transformed, converted by the Holy Spirit'.
The Pontiff explained, "We serve the Lord with our humanity, with our prerogatives and our characteristics, but what changes everything is not an idea but real life, as Paul himself says: 'If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature' (2 Cor 5:17). If you are a Christian of outward appearance, this does not go,' he added moving from his scripted text, 'masquerading Christians, no, they will not do. The true change is of the heart."
In this sense,' he continued, 'passion for the Gospel is not a question of understanding or studies, which are useful but do not generate it; rather, it means going through that same experience of fall and resurrection that Saul/Paul lived and which is at the origin of the transfiguration of his apostolic drive'.
In this profound change in St Paul, the Pope also emphasises another aspect: "a kind of paradox occurs in him: as long as he considers himself righteous before God, then he feels authorised to persecute, to arrest, even to kill, as in the case of Stephen; but when, enlightened by the Risen Lord, he discovers that he has been 'a blasphemer and a violent man' (cf. 1 Tim 1:13), then he begins to be truly capable of loving".
Hence the question addressed to everyone today: "What does Jesus mean to me? Have I let Him into my heart," Francis asked, "or do I just keep Him at hand but not let Him come so much inside? Have I allowed myself to be changed by Him? Or is Jesus only an idea, a theology that goes forward... This is zeal: when one finds Jesus one feels the fire like Paul and must preach Jesus, must speak of Jesus, must help people, must do good things". Otherwise one remains only 'ideologues of Christianity' and this does not serve salvation.
"May the Lord help us to find Jesus, to meet Jesus," he concluded, "and may this Jesus from within change our lives and help us to help others.
In greetings to the Spanish-speaking faithful, Francis then invited prayers for the victims of 'a tragic fire' that broke out last night in Ciudad Juárez, inside a detention centre for migrants. At least 39 people died, mostly citizens of Guatemala. The Pope expressed his sorrow and invoked consolation for the families of the victims.
Finally, he addressed his usual thoughts to the 'tormented Ukraine', inviting people to persevere in prayer for peace.