Pope Francis advised Sunday that we be open to the good, regardless of whether it comes from someone outside our own “circle”.
The pope reflected Sept. 30 on the day’s Gospel, in which Christ taught his disciples humility and to avoid scandal. He was delivering the Angelus address in St. Peter’s Square.
When the disciples objected to someone outside their group casting out a demon, Pope Francis said they “demonstrate a closed attitude before an event that does not fit into their schemes, in this case the action, though good, of a person ‘external’ to the circle of followers.”
“Instead Jesus appears very free, fully open to the freedom of the Spirit of God, who in his action is not limited by any boundary and by any enclosure. Jesus wants to educate his disciples, even today, to this interior freedom.”
Pope Francis commended an examination of conscience in relation to this episode, saying, “the attitude of the disciples of Jesus is very human, very common, and we can find it in the Christian communities of all time, probably also in ourselves.”
“In good faith, indeed, with zeal, one would like to protect the authenticity of a certain experience, protecting the founder or the leader from false imitators,” he said. “But at the same time there is the fear of ‘competition’ – and this is bad: the fear of competition – that someone can steal new followers, and then you can not appreciate the good that others do: not good because ‘it’s not ours’, they say. It is a form of self-referentiality.”
He said this is “the root of proselytism”, and that the Church “does not grow by proselytism, it grows by attraction, that is, it grows by the testimony given to others by the power of the Holy Spirit.”
Christ “calls us not to think according to the categories of ‘friend / enemy’, ‘us / them’, ‘who is inside / who is outside’, ‘mine / yours’, but to go further, to open the heart to recognize his presence and the action of God even in unusual and unpredictable areas and in people who are not part of our circle,” Pope Francis said.
“It is a matter of being more attentive to the genuineness of the good, the beautiful and the true that is accomplished, than to the name and provenance of those who do it.”
Rather than judging others, the pope said, “we must examine ourselves, and ‘cut’ without compromise everything that can scandalize the weaker people in the faith.”
Francis concluded, saying the Virgin Mary, “model of docile reception of the surprises of God, helps us to recognize the signs of the presence of the Lord in our midst, discovering him wherever he manifests himself, even in the most unthinkable and unusual situations.”
“May she teach us to love our community without jealousy and closures, always open to the vast horizon of the action of the Holy Spirit.”