The Christian life is to remain in God, following the Holy Spirit and not the spirit of the world, which leads to corruption, and does not distinguish good from evil.
Pope Francis resumed the morning celebration of Holy Mass at the Casa Santa Marta on Tuesday 7 January and in his homily commented on the passage from the first letter of St. John the Apostle, the first reading in the liturgy of the day, in which the evangelist takes up the advice of Jesus to his disciples: “Remain in God.”
For many Christians today the Holy Spirit is only a dove
One can “be in the most sinful cities, in the most atheistic societies, but if one’s heart remains in God,” stressed the Pope, this man and this woman bring salvation. He then recalled the episode narrated in the Acts of the Apostles, who arrive in a city and meet Christians baptised by John. They ask them: “Have you received the Holy Spirit?”, but they didn’t even know he was there. How many Christians, commented Pope Francis, even today identify the Holy Spirit only with a dove and do not know that “what makes you remain in the Lord is the guarantee, the strength to remain in the Lord.”
The spirit of the world makes you unconscious
The Pontiff then spoke of the spirit of the world, which is contrary to the Holy Spirit. “Jesus, at the Last Supper,” he recalled, “does not ask the Father to remove the disciples from the world,” because Christian life is in the world, “but to protect them from the spirit of the world, which is the opposite. He emphasised, that it is, ‘even worse than committing a sin. It is an atmosphere that renders you unconscious, leads you to a point that you do not know how to recognise good from evil.’”
The Holy Spirit: the guarantee of remaining in God
Instead, to remain in God, “we must ask for this gift” of the Holy Spirit, which is the guarantee. From this “we know that we remain in the Lord.” But how can we know, Pope Francis asked, if we have the Holy Spirit or the spirit of the world? Saint Paul, he explained, gives us this advice: “Do not sadden the Holy Spirit. When we go towards the spirit of the world we upset the Holy Spirit and ignore him, we cast him aside and our life goes another way.”
Those Christians who celebrate the New Year by wasting money
The spirit of the world, the Pope added, is forgetting, because “sin does not turn you away from God if you realise it and ask forgiveness, but the spirit of the world makes you forget what sin is” everything is permissible. Then he said, that in these days a priest showed him a film of Christians celebrating the New Year in a tourist city, in a Christian country.
“They celebrated the New Year with a terrible worldliness, wasting money and many things. The spirit of the world. ‘Is this a sin?’ – ‘No dear: this is corruption, worse than sin.’ The Holy Spirit leads you to God, and if you sin, the Holy Spirit protects you and helps you to rise up, but the spirit of the world leads you to corruption, to the point that you do not know what is good and what is evil: everything is the same,” he said.
Test the spirits, to see if they come from God
Pope Francis recalled an Argentinean song that says: “Go, go, go… everything is the same that down there in the oven we will meet.” The spirit of the world, he commented, leads you to the unconsciousness “of not distinguishing sin.” And how do I know, the Pontiff asked, if “I am on the road to worldliness, to the spirit of the world, or if am I following the Spirit of God?”
“The Apostle John gives us this advice: ‘Dear friends, do not give faith to every spirit (i.e. to every feeling, every inspiration, every idea), but test the spirits, to test whether they really come from God (or from the world).’ But what does it mean to test the Spirit? It is simply this: when you feel something, you feel like doing something, or you come up with an idea, a judgment of something, ask yourself: is this what I feel from the Spirit of God or from the spirit of the world?” he said.
Does what I hear come from the spirit of the world or from God?
And how do you do it? Pope Francis’ advice is to ask yourself “once, twice a day, or when you feel something that comes into your mind”: This thing that I feel, that I want to do, where does it come from? “From the spirit of the world or the Spirit of God? Will this make me good or will it throw me down the road of worldliness that is unconsciousness?”
So many Christians don’t know what goes on in their hearts
Many Christians, the Pope lamented, “live without knowing what goes on in their hearts.” That is why St. Paul and St. John say: ‘Do not lend faith to every spirit,’ to what you feel, but put it to the test. And so “we will know what happens in our hearts.” Because, concluded Pope Francis: “For many Christians their hearts are like a road and they do not know who comes and goes, who comes and goes, because they do not know how to examine what happens inside.”
“For this reason I recommend that you take some time every day before going to bed or at noon – when you want to – [and ask yourself]: what has happened in my heart today? What did I want to do, to think? What is the spirit that has moved in my heart? The Spirit of God, the gift of God, the Holy Spirit who always brings me forward to the encounter with the Lord or the spirit of the world who gently, slowly moves me away from the Lord; it is a slow, slow, slow slide,” he said.
A Heart that is not a road, but a meeting point with God
In a final piece of advice, the Pope said, “we ask this grace, ‘to remain in the Lord and we pray to the Holy Spirit, that He may make us remain in the Lord and give us the grace to distinguish spirits, that is, what moves within us. May our heart not be a road,’ may it be the meeting point between us and God.”
With thanks to Vatican News and Alessandro Di Bussolo, where this article originally appeared.