When believers stop listening to God, Pope Francis said Thursday, their hearts become hardened and they risk becoming pagans in all but name.
When the faithful become voluntarily deaf to God’s word, Francis said in his morning homily at Mass, “we become Catholic infidels, Catholics pagans or, worst still, Catholic atheists, because we have no reference to the love of the living God,” he said.
Preaching in the chapel at his Santa Marta residence, the Pope reflected on the need to listen to God and to his word in order not to become hard-hearted. He even went so far as to suggest adding a “day of listening” to the list of annual holidays people celebrate.
Francis was reflecting on the day’s reading from the Book of the Prophet Jeremiah where God commands his people: “Listen to my voice; then I will be your God and you shall be my people.”
The Pope also underscored that there are many competing “voices” in the world, vying for our attention, but not all of them deserve our attention and some may even be harmful.
“If we don’t listen to the Lord’s voice,” he said, “we end up listening to other voices. Or sometimes we just shut our ears altogether and we become deaf, deaf to the word of God.”
If we are honest, Francis continued, and we look into our own hearts, we will see “how many times we have closed our ears and how many times we have become deaf.”
And when a Christian community closes its ears and becomes deaf to the word of God, he repeated, “it looks for other voices, other lords and finishes with idols, the idols of the world, of mundanity.”
But there are even more serious consequences to this voluntary deafness to God, he said. In their efforts to fill their interior emptiness, people become confused and no longer know where God is and where he isn’t. In these cases, it can even happen that “God is mistaken for the devil,” he said.
The Pope related this phenomenon to the story recounted in the gospel where Jesus is mistaken for a child of the devil and his miracles attributed to the power of Beelzebul, the prince of demons.
“This,” Francis said, “is blasphemy. Blasphemy is the final step on this path that starts with not listening, then hardens the heart, brings confusion, makes you forget about loyalty and, ultimately, leads to blasphemy.”
The Pope ended by inviting all to a serious examination of conscience to determine whether they have started down this path that leads to ruin.
“Today is a day to listen,” he said. Let us ask for this grace: the grace to listen so that our hearts do not grow hard.”
Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter Follow @tdwilliamsrome.