Pope: Jesus, a shepherd who reached the people and warmed their heart
Vatican City (AsiaNews) - Four "influential groups" spoke to the people in Jesus' time, but were not heard; Jesus was. Crowds followed Jesus because "they were astonished by His teaching," His words "brought wonder to their hearts, the wonder of finding something good, great," said Pope Francis in today's homily at Domus Sanctae Martahe.
The crowds, the pontiff explained, followed Jesus because "they were astonished by His teaching," His words "brought wonder to their hearts, the wonder of finding something good, great." Other people "talked, but they did not reach the people." They were the Pharisees, the Sadducees, the Zealots and the Essenes.
The first of these groups was the Pharisees, who "made religion and the worship of God into a chain of commandments, turning the Ten Commandments into "more than three hundred," loading "this weight" on the backs of the people. They, the Pope said, reduced "the faith in the Living God" to a kind of "casuistry" full of "contradictions of the cruellest kind, moralistic quibbling".
"'You have to obey the fourth commandment!' 'Yes, yes, yes!' 'You have to feed your elderly father, your elderly mother!' 'Yes, yes, yes!' 'But you know, I can't because I gave my money to the temple!'; 'You don't do that? And your parents starve to death!' So: contradictions of the cruellest kind, moralistic quibbling. People respected them [the Pharisees] because people were respectful. They respected them, but they did not listen to them! They went about their business".
The Sadducees, Pope Francis said, "did not have the faith, they had lost the faith! They made it their religious work to make deals with those in power, those who held political power, economic power. They were men of power."
The "revolutionaries", the Zealots, "wanted to cause a revolution to free the people of Israel from Roman occupation. The people though had good sense, and knew when the fruit was ripe and when it was not! And they didn't follow them."
The fourth group, "good people", was that of the Essenes; "monks who consecrated their lives to God," but, he warned, "they were far from the people, and the people couldn't follow them."
These "were the voices that reached the people, but none of these voices had the power to warm the hearts of the people. But Jesus did! The crowds were amazed: They heard Jesus and their hearts were warmed. The message of Jesus went to the heart."
Jesus, Pope Francis noted, "came up to the people." He "healed the heart of the people," He "understood their difficulties." Jesus, he added, "was not ashamed to speak with sinners, He went out to find them." Jesus "felt joy; He was happy to be with His people." This is why Jesus is "the Good Shepherd;" the sheep heard His voice and followed Him.
"This is why the people followed Jesus, because He was the Good Shepherd. He wasn't a moralistic, quibbling Pharisee, or a Sadducee who made political deals with the powerful, or a guerrilla who sought the political liberation of his people, or a contemplative in a monastery. He was a pastor! A pastor who spoke the language of His people, who understood, who spoke the truth, the things of God. He never trafficked in God's things! He spoke in such a way that the people loved God's things. And that is why they followed Him."
"Jesus was never far from the people, was never far from His Father." Jesus "was so connected to the Father; He was one with the Father!" And thus was "so very close to the people." He "had this authority, which is why the people followed Him." When we contemplate Jesus, the Good Shepherd, the Pope said, it would be good for us to think about whom we would like to follow.
"Whom would I like to follow? Those who talk to me about abstract things and quibbling morals? Those who talk about the people of God but have no faith and negotiate with those with political [and] economic power? Those who always want to do strange things, destructive things, so-called wars of liberation, but which in the end are not the paths of the Lord? Or a faraway contemplative? Whom would I like to follow?"