09/01/2021, 00.00
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Pope urges the faithful to follow the Spirit, not the foolishness of formalism

In his Wednesday general audience, the pontiff appealed on World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation to work together for our shared home. He also announced a coming joint message on the environmental crisis with Patriarch Bartholomew and Anglican Primate Welby.


Vatican City (AsiaNews) – Pope Francis held his weekly general audience in the Paul VI Hall today, focusing on his catechesis on the Apostle Paul's Letter to the Galatians.

In his address, the pontiff asked: “How do we live our faith? Are we attached to the precious treasure, to the beauty of the newness of Christ, or do we prefer something that attracts us momentarily but then leaves us empty inside?”

His reflection centred on the reproach the apostle addressed to the community (Gal 3:1-3), going so far as to call them “foolish”. For him, “This is not something new, this explanation, it is something mine: what we are studying is what Saint Paul says in a very serious conflict.”

The apostle uses this word not because “they are not intelligent, but because, almost without realising it, they risk losing the faith in Christ that they have received with so much enthusiasm. They are foolish because they are unaware that the danger is that of losing the valuable treasure, the beauty, of the newness of Christ.”

Saint Paul’s goal is “to compel Christians to realise what is at stake, so they do not allow themselves to be enchanted by the voice of the sirens who want to lead them to a religiosity based solely on the scrupulous observance of precepts.”

Formalism is a danger that is always present in the life of the Church; hence, the question: “how do we live our faith? Does the love of Christ, crucified and risen again, remain at the centre of our daily life as the wellspring of salvation, or are we content with a few religious formalities to salve our consciences?”

“Even today,” Francis notes, “people come and harangue us, saying, ‘No, holiness is in these precepts, in these things, you must do this and that,’ and propose an inflexible religiosity, the inflexibility that takes away from us that freedom in the Spirit that Christ’s redemption gives us. Beware of the rigidity they propose to you: be careful. Because behind every inflexibility there is something bad, which is not the Spirit of God.”

The Letter to the Galatians helps to be on guard against “somewhat fundamentalist proposals that set us back in our spiritual life, and will help us go ahead in the paschal vocation of Jesus.”

At the end of the catechesis, Francis mentioned that today is the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation, and announced a forthcoming joint message on this theme with the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby. 

“Together with our brothers and sisters of different Christian denominations, let us pray and work for our common home in these times of grave crisis for the planet,” he said.

In his greetings to French pilgrims, the Pope dedicated a special thought to those who are going back to school or work after summer holidays. 

“I invoke upon each one of you the Spirit of Wisdom so that, amid your toil and difficulties, God's merciful love may accompany you, always.”

Finally, in greeting the elderly, the sick and newlyweds, as he does every week, he invoked upon them “the outpouring of God's grace”. This is “the lord's ineffable gift and the redemptive force that comforts and sustains on the journey of life.”

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