Leave behind rigidity of law for Christ’s mercy, pope says

Pope Francis greets a child during his general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican May 3. (CNS photo/Paul Haring) See POPE-AUDIENCE-EGYPT May 3, 2017.

VATICAN CITY—Pray for rigid Christians, both those who are honestly zealous about following the law, but lack mercy and those who are hypocritical and hide their sinfulness, Pope Francis said.

Pray that those who are too rigid learn to follow the way of Christ and his meekness, the pope said May 5 during his early morning Mass in the chapel of his residence, the Domus Sanctae Marthae.

With the day’s first reading dedicated to the conversion of Saul — who went from fiercely persecuting Christians to patiently evangelizing all peoples — the pope used St. Paul’s life story as an example of an honest, idealistic person of faith, who had been “convinced” of the rigidity of the law.

Pope Francis said Saul’s early life reminds him of “many young people in the church today who have fallen into the temptation of rigidity. Some are honest, they are good and we must pray that the Lord help them grow along the path of meekness.”

Others, the pope said, use rigidity to cover up their weaknesses, sins and personality disorders and to assert themselves over others.

“They are the rigid with the double life. They show themselves as beautiful, honest, but when no one is looking, they do bad things,” he said.

Saul, on the other hand, was rigid, but honest, the pope said, and he let himself be led by the Lord, who spoke to him on the road to Damascus with “a language of meekness: ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?'”

Saul was called with “the force of the meekness of the Lord” to become Paul, preach the Gospel and suffer and die for the Lord, the pope said.

Saul’s conversion shows dialogue between condescending rigidity and meekness, a dialogue between “an honest man and Jesus who speaks with kindness.”

“This is the path of a Christian: going forward following Jesus’ footsteps,” which is “a trail of preaching, a trail of suffering, the trail of the cross” and resurrection, the pope said.

Pope Francis asked people to pray to Saul for those Christians who are rigid — “for the honest-rigid like him, who have zeal, but get it wrong, and for the hypocrite-rigid, those with a double life.”

By Carol Glatz / Catholic News Service

CNS/Paul Haring: Pope Francis greets a child during his general audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican May 3.