(Vatican Radio) God always gives His grace and dignity to the hardened heart which choses to open itself with meekness to God’s Spirit. That was Pope Francis’ message during his Friday morning Mass at the Casa Santa Marta.
Listen to Devin Watkins’ report:
Pope Francis commented on the biblical passage of the day which recounts the conversion of St. Paul, saying zeal for holy things does not mean one’s heart is open to God.
Pope Francis gave the example of a man extreme in his fidelity to the principles of his faith, Paul of Tarsus, but whose heart was totally deaf to Christ, so much so that he even agreed to persecute Jesus’ followers who lived in Damascus.
Humility which opens the heart
All Paul’s plans and zeal take a sudden turn on the road to Damascus, the Pope affirmed, so that his story becomes “the story of a man who allows God to change his heart.” Paul is wrapped in a powerful light, hears a voice calling him, falls down, and is momentarily blinded.
“Saul the strong, the confident, was on the ground,” the Holy Father said. In that condition, “he understood his truth, that he was not the man whom God wanted him to be, because God has created all of us to stand on our feet, to hold our head high.” The voice from heaven not only asked him, ‘why are you persecuting me?’ but also invited Paul to rise.
“Get up and you will be told. You have yet much to learn,” the Pope said. “And when he started to get up, he was not able because he recognized his blindness. In that moment he lost his sight. ‘And he let himself be led.’ His heart, began to open itself. Thus, taking him by the hand, the men with him led him to Damascus and for three days he stayed there, blind, and took neither food nor drink. This man had hit his low-point but he realized immediately that he must accept this humiliation. And the true path towards opening one’s heart is humiliation. When the Lord sends us humiliations or allows them to visit us, it is exactly for this reason: that the heart be open, docile; that the heart convert itself to the Lord Jesus.”
Protagonist is the Holy Spirit
Paul’s heart is opened. In those days of loneliness and blindness, his interior vision is changed. Then God sends him Ananias, who lays his hands on Saul and his eyes are opened. But there is an aspect to this dynamic which, Pope Francis said, must be taken into consideration: the action of the Holy Spirit.
“We must remember that the protagonist in these stories is neither the doctors of the law, nor Stephen, nor Phillip, nor the eunuch, not even Saul… The real protagonist is the Holy Spirit. The protagonist of the Church is the Holy Spirit who guides the people of God. And immediately scales fell from his eyes and he recovered his sight. He got up and was baptized. The hardness of Paul’s heart becomes docility to the Holy Spirit.”
The Dignity to Rise
The Holy Father concluded his reflection, saying “It is beautiful to see how the Lord is capable of changing hearts, turning a hardened, stubborn heart into one docile to the Holy Spirit. All of us have a hardened heart. All of us. Let us ask the Lord that He make us see that hardness of heart leaves us on the ground. Let us ask Him to give us the grace and – if necessary – the humiliations not to remain on the ground but to rise, with the dignity with which God created us, that is, the grace of a heart open and docile to the Holy Spirit.”
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