Wednesday, 17 December 2014

What shall we bring him?

The heart is never too far away from Pope Francis's thoughts and as we journey to  Bethlehem this Advent we should pay heed to his words at Santa Marta yesterday.  The past few weeks, for me, as many others has been dominated by what to give people for Christmas.  And of course, the most important gift is what to give to the infant Jesus.  In the carol, 'In the bleak mid-winter',  the shepherd boy brings his heart, but this year Pope Francis suggests that we should bring a repentant heart.   God does not want a unrepentant heart, like the hearts of the chief priests and elders in Matthew (21) which was the Gospel reading on the 16th December.  As the report by Linda Bordoni notes, Francis stressed that:

Humility saves man in God’s eyes, while pride is a loser. The key lies in the heart. The heart of a humble person is open, it knows repentance, it accepts correction and trusts in God. The heart of the proud person is the exact opposite: it is arrogant, closed, knows no shame, it is impervious to God's voice. The reading from the Book of the prophet Zephaniah and from the Gospel of the day guide Pope Francis in a parallel reflection. Both texts, he notes, speak of a "judgment" upon which salvation and condemnation depend. The situation described by the prophet Zephaniah is that of a rebellious city in which, however, there is a group of people who repent of their sins: this group, the Pope said, is the "people of God" possesses the "three characteristics" of "humility, poverty, and trust in the Lord." But in the city there are also those, Francis says, who "do not accept correction, they do not trust in the Lord." 

"If your heart is not a repentant heart, if you do not listen to the Lord, if you don’t accept correction and you do not trust in Him, your heart is unrepentant. These hypocrites who were scandalized by what Jesus said about the tax collectors and the prostitutes, but then secretly approached them to vent their passion or to do business - but all in secrecy - were pure! The Lord does not want them. "

No matter how 'religious' you are, no matter how much good you do, God wants a heart that is utterly open.  You may feel that you have a pure heart, but  God wants us to have a humble heart.  We have to have the courage to open our heart: give the Lord a list of your sins, says Francis.  We have to be able to say :

 'Lord, these are my sins – they are not his or hers, they are mine… They are mine. Take them and I will be saved'

The three Kings brought their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. And we, what must we bring to the stable?  Francis suggests a humble repentant heart which has three characteristics :  it is  humble, poor in spirit, and trusts in the Lord.  So as we go through our Christmas list, we should be sure that, come the 25th December, we have another list to give the Lord, saying : ' Here  Lord, these are my sins. They are mine, all mine. Take them and I will be saved.'

Read the report here.

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