In his morning Mass Thursday, Pope Francis insisted on God’s nearness to humanity, noting that it was an early Christian heresy that saw Him as far away and abstract, instead of the “God with us” of the visible, tangible Christ.
“One of the first heresies in Christianity was that of the Gnostic thought,” Francis said, which spoke of a “distant God” who was not concrete. The love of the Father, he said, “was active, sending his Son to save us, the Word made flesh.”
Pope Francis celebrated Mass at the chapel in the Santa Marta residence in the Vatican, and in his homily spoke of the need for a concrete, practical faith that reveals itself in real love.
The Pope said there are two ways to distinguish true love from false love. True love, he said is “more in deeds than in words.” Many, he said, confuse love with fantasies and romantic stories that “make the heart beat” but offer nothing more.
Love is shown “in hard facts,” he said.
Francis reminded his hearers of Jesus’ warning that it would not be those who say, “Lord! Lord!” who will enter the Kingdom of Heaven, but “those who do the will of my Father.”
“In other words,” he said, “true love is real, expressed in works, and constant. It is not simply enthusiasm.” In the Last Judgment, he said, everything is concrete. Jesus says, “I was hungry and you gave me to eat, and so on.”
Real love, he continued, is often “a painful love,” evoking the example of “Jesus carrying the cross.”
The second way to tell true love from false is that real love “communicates,” he said. “It does not remain isolated. Love gives itself and receives.”
“There is no love without communication,” he said, “and there is no isolated love.”
“True love cannot isolate itself. If it is isolated, it is not love. It is a spiritual form of selfishness, to remain closed in on oneself, seeking one’s own gain. It is selfishness,” he added.
The Pope said even though true love is hard to practice, it is worth it. For the Lord promises, “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete.”
And that joy, “no one can take away,” he said.
Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter @tdwilliamsrome.