By Jim Fair

Pope Francis on May 15, 2020, opened his Mass at Casa Santa Marta in the Vatican with prayers for families. And during his homily, he returned to a frequent theme of the danger of “rigidity”.

“Today is the International Day of Families, the Holy Father said to begin the service. “Let us pray for families, that the Spirit of the Lord – the spirit of love, respect, and freedom – may grow in families.”

In his homily, the Pope referred to the first reading of the day (Acts 15:22-31), which presents a time of disturbance in the early Church. The disciples debated whether a pagan who wanted to become Christian must first become Jewish. The “Judaizing” faction had many arguments but were ideological and rigid in their thinking, Francis warned. He explained:

“Rigidity isn’t of the good Spirit, because it questions the gratuitousness of the Redemption, the gratuitousness of Christ’s Resurrection, and this has been repeated during the history of the Church. We think of the Pelagians, famous rigid ones. And in our times also we have seen some apostolic organizations that in fact seemed well organized, that worked well . . . but all were rigid, one and another were all the same, and then we learned of the corruption that was inside, also in the founders. Where there is rigidity the Spirit of God is not there, because the Spirit of God is freedom. And these people took away the freedom of the Spirit of God and the gratuitousness of the Redemption. But “justification is free. The Death and Resurrection of Christ is free, not paid for, not bought: it’s a gift.”

The Masses in Francis’ chapel normally welcome a small group of faithful, but due to recent measures’ taken by the Vatican, are now being kept private, without their participation. The Holy Week and Easter celebrations in the Vatican were also done without the presence of faithful, but were able to be watched via streaming.

The Masses at Santa Marta will stop being streamed as of Monday, May 18th.

It was announced at the start of the lockdowns in Italy that the Pope would have these Masses, in this period, be available to all the world’s faithful, via streaming on Vatican Media, on weekdays, at 7 am Rome time, along with his weekly Angelus and General Audiences.

On May 4th, the country entered its so-called ‘Phase 2′, where it will slowly relaxing some of the lockdown restrictions.

Public Masses in Italy with the faithful will resume on Monday, May 18th, according to a statement of the Italian Bishops’ Conference. There will continue to be various safety measures in place, in order to protect the faithful.

In Italy where more than 30,000 people have died from COVID19, public Masses are still prohibited. To date, in the Vatican, there have been twelve cases of coronavirus in the Vatican, confirmed a recent statement from the Director of the Holy See Press Office, Matteo Bruni.

The Vatican Museums are closed, along with the Vatican’s other similar museums. There have also been various guidelines implemented throughout the Vatican, to prevent the spread of the virus.

Here is Zenit’s Translation of the Text of the Holy Father’s Homily as Published in the Italian Page of Vatican News

“In the Book of the Acts of the Apostles we see that in the beginning there were times of peace in the Church,” but “there were also times of persecution” and “times of disturbance. And this is the argument of today’s First Reading: a time of disturbance.” It happened that the Christians that came from paganism “had believed in Jesus Christ and received Baptism and were happy: they had received the Holy Spirit. They went from paganism to Christianity without an intermediate stage.” However, there were “Judaizing” Christians who “thought this couldn’t be done. If one was a pagan, one had to become a Jew first, a good Jew, and then become Christian.” And the Christians that converted from paganism didn’t understand this. “How come, are we second class Christians? Can one not pass directly from paganism to Christianity?” They wondered whether or not Christ’s Resurrection had brought the ancient Law into a greater fullness. They were troubled and there were many discussions among them.

The “Judaizing” supported their thesis “with pastoral arguments, theological arguments, also some moral ones” and “this questioned the freedom of the Holy Spirit and also the gratuitousness of Christ’s Resurrection and of grace. They were methodical, and also rigid.” Jesus had already rebuked these Doctors of the Law making proselytes worse than them. “These people that were ideological” more than dogmatic, had “reduced the Law, the dogma to an ideology,” to “a religion of prescriptions and, with this, they took away the freedom of the Spirit. And their followers were ‘rigid people,’ who didn’t know the joy of the Gospel. The perfection of the way to follow Jesus was rigidity.” “These Doctors manipulated the faithful’s conscience, they made them become rigid or they left.”

The Pope reiterated: “Rigidity isn’t of the good Spirit, because it questions the gratuitousness of the Redemption, the gratuitousness of Christ’s Resurrection,” and “this has been repeated during the history of the Church. We think of the Pelagians, famous rigid ones. And in our times also we have seen some apostolic organizations that in fact seemed well organized, that worked well . . . but all were rigid, one and another were all the same, and then we learned of the corruption that was inside, also in the founders.” “Where there is rigidity the Spirit of God is not there, because the Spirit of God is freedom.” And these people took away “the freedom of the Spirit of God and the gratuitousness of the Redemption.” But “justification is free. The Death and Resurrection of Christ is free, not paid for, not bought: it’s a gift.”

“The Apostles gathered in this Council and at the end wrote a letter that begins thus: ‘It has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden,’ and they set these more moral obligations, of good sense: not to confuse Christianity with paganism” and “at the end, when these Christians who were troubled, gathered in assembly, they received the letter” and “rejoiced because of the encouragement it infused in them — from disturbance to joy. The spirit of rigidity always leads to disturbance: ‘But has he done this well? He hasn’t done it well?’ Scruples”. “Instead, the spirit of freedom leads one to joy, because it’s, in fact, this that Jesus brought with His Resurrection: joy.” The relationship with God, the relationship with Jesus, doesn’t make you say: “I do this and You give me that,” a commercial relationship: no! It’s free, as the relationship of Jesus with His disciples is free: ‘You are my friends. I do not call you servants; I call you friends. You did not choose Me; I chose you’: this is gratuitousness.”

“Let us ask the Lord to help us discern the fruits of evangelical gratuitousness from the fruits of non-evangelical rigidity, and that He free us from every disturbance of those that put the faith, the life of faith under case prescriptions, prescriptions that make no sense. I am referring to those prescriptions that make no sense, not to the Commandments. May He free us from this spirit of rigidity which takes away freedom.” Faith in Jesus gives joy and freedom; rigidity causes disturbance.

The Pope Invited the Faithful to Make a Spiritual Communion with this Prayer:

I prostrate myself at your feet, O my Jesus, and I offer You the repentance of my contrite heart, which abases itself in its nothingness in your holy Presence. I adore you in the Sacrament of your Love, the ineffable Eucharist. I desire to receive You in the poor abode that my heart offers You; while waiting for the happiness of Sacramental Communion, I want to possess You in spirit. Come to me, O my Jesus, that I may come to You. May your Love be able to inflame my whole being in life and in death. I believe in You, I hope in You, I love You. Amen.

Pope Francis ended the celebration with Eucharistic Adoration and Benediction. Before leaving the Chapel, dedicated to the Holy Spirit, the Marian antiphon “Regina Caeli” was intoned, sung in Eastertide.

Regina caeli laetare, alleluia.

Quia quem meruisti portare, alleluia.

Resurrexit sicut dixit, alleluia.

Ora pro nobis Deum, alleluia.

(Queen of Heaven, rejoice, alleluia.

Christ, whom you bore in your womb, alleluia,

Is Risen as He promised, alleluia.

Pray for us to the Lord, alleluia).

© Libreria Editrice Vatican

Translation by Virginia M. Forrester

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